Concert review: Twenty One Pilots wow PPL crowd

Twenty One Pilots — the two-man Ohio sensation of rock-meets-hip-hop- meets electro pop — returned to the Lehigh Valley last week for a sold-out show at the PPL Center with a powerful setlist.

Still soaring from their 2015 breakout success, frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun performed at PPL last fall, but Joseph told the estimated crowd of 10,000 that their Jan. 24 show bore special significance. The date marked the four-year anniversary of when the three-Grammy nominees first played in the city. The difference, Joseph joked, was that the 2013 show took place at a small venue down Hamilton Street where the 28-year-old vocalist could jump and touch the ceiling before a very small group of fans.

As he noted, times have changed.

Indeed, they have.

Joseph credited the loyal fan base with helping them skyrocket into success with their “Stressed Out” single from the LP “Blurryface,” sending the single into number one and earning 2015’s song of the year.

Before they opened at 9, the show opened with New York rapper Jon Bellion, who is enjoying success with his single, “All Time Low.” And earlier, Nashville’s Judah and the Lion — riding the waves with single “Take It All Back” — performed a 30-minute set. During TOP’s performance, both Bellion and Judah and the Lion joined Joseph and Dun on stage for few songs.

But the majority of the audience clearly came for Twenty One Pilots, which opened with an intro of “Fairly Local,” leading them into recent single,  “Heavydirtysoul.” The duo donned red suit coats, ties and their traditional black ski masks.

The 19-song setlist included a medley of older works as well as covers.  Even those who weren’t ardent fans could connect with the show that featured two stages, artistic videos, and audience interaction that included hoisting a third drumset into the pit where Dun performed atop a throng of strong-armed fans who held the the drummer, his set, and his stool. It was towards the middle of the set when Joseph brought out his opening acts to cover some older songs: Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumpin’,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love” and last but not least House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” prompting the crowd to do so.

During the set’s third song “Hometown,” Joseph disappeared under a black sheet and quickly reappeared on the second level of the arena to finish the “Blurryface” release.

For the show’s second half, the band moved to the B-stage to offer more intimate songs such as “Addict with a Pen,” during which which fans held up phone flashlights, creating a starry effect in the arena.

The pair wound down the show with some of their biggest hits: “Ride” (featuring Dun’s crowd-surfing drumset). “Stressed out” featured an ending with literal bang as Joseph lept from his piano — a common site as he used the stage throughout the show..

TOP concluded with “Trees” — just Joseph and his piano before the pair went into the pit — again along with the drumset. To wrap up a night of hazmat suits, creative lighting, a hamster ball, videos of the pair from early years, and an incredible drum-off between Dun and a video of him performing, confetti sprayed into the crowd, which went wild. Indeed, they have come a long way in a short time.

Reporting by Hunter Gerhardt.

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