Twenty One Pilots Take Over Chicago: A Double Feature

by Noelle Matonis

Twenty One Pilots, an alternative band from Columbus, Ohio and consisting of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, is known for their spectacular live shows and dedicated fanbase. On October 13th, they played a show at House of Blues in Chicago, which Zach Belles and I (huge Twenty One Pilots fans) were very grateful to have attended. Lately, due to their increasing popularity, the band had been playing larger venues such as the United Center. But in conjunction with the release of their new album, Scaled And Icy, they’re embarking on their Takeover Tour, in which they are performing multiple shows in each city, starting at small venues and making their way up to arenas.

I was so excited when I heard that they would be playing smaller venues, because naturally, as a huge fan, I wanted to get as close as possible. I’d seen them before at Lollapalooza and The Aragon Ballroom in 2019; this venue was even smaller than the Aragon.

This was my first time being at House of Blues, so when I arrived, I was shocked to see how small it truly was. The floor was already almost completely packed, so I had to squeeze my way through the crowd to get closer. I found Zach on the far right side, and throughout the show, I got closer to the front as the people in front of me moved up. I ended up getting a great view, minus all the times people’s heads were in the way.

The first opening band was Arrested Youth. I’d actually seen them before when they performed a super small show (about 15 people) at the Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College. They were great then, and someone at that show even mentioned that they reminded them of Twenty One Pilots. They replied happily that they like that band. And years later, they’re opening for them! This time, they were even better than when I last saw them. They sounded kind of pop-punk and similar to Twenty One Pilots. They put on a great show, even though it was only for about 15 minutes since they were first. The next opening band was Half Alive. I’d only heard one of their songs before. Their performance included graffitiing a banner that was difficult to read, and a few interpretive-dancers, which was a questionable choice, but entertaining.

Around an hour later came the moment we were all waiting for: Twenty One Pilots. The whole show was amazing, and I could go on and on about it. But since that would make this very long, I’ll focus on the highlights (even though the whole show was a highlight).

I was very much looking forward to seeing “No Chances,” one of my favorite songs from their new album, live. So I was so excited when two characters from the Twenty One Pilots lore, Dan and Sally, showed up on the screen in the back of the stage and started saying their cryptic and eerie lines that they said in the band’s livestream experience last spring and the intro began. Then came the ominous chorus of deep voices featured in the song, chanting, “We come for you, no chances.” The whole crowd went absolutely crazy, jumping up and down and chanting along.

During “The Outside,” another one of my favorite songs from the new album that I was looking forward to witnessing live, I was nodding my head up and down along with the lyrics, “Heads are moving up and down, they’re nodding,” as one should.

A new feature of their shows on the Takeover Tour is the added backing-band members. A guitar/keyboard player, bass player, trumpet player, and another guitar player. Tyler Joseph has mentioned in recent interviews that he believes that they (he and Josh) have now proven themselves to people that they’re able to put on an amazing show just as a duo. Now that they’ve done that, they believe they can try some new things such as adding musicians to their live show.

Another feature of their new show is “Campfire Medleys” in which Tyler, Josh, and the backing band gather around a campfire (the one at this show was fake since they weren’t allowed to have fire onstage) and perform acoustic mash-ups of their songs and covers. During this, Tyler put his hands over the fake fire and commented, “Toasty,” which made me laugh.

And of course, I must mention two of my favorite Twenty One Pilots songs they performed that make me go absolutely feral: “Jumpsuit” and “Heavydirtysoul.” Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the crowd was jumping up and down and singing/screaming along to the frenzied lights and palpable energy of the songs.

To introduce the song Saturday, Tyler asked everyone what day it was. It was Wednesday, but Tyler jokingly wanted us to just pretend it was Saturday. Of course, during their show at the United Center that I attended a few days later, it was actually Saturday, so I was very excited about that.

I was glad that even at the United Center show, where I was higher up in the seats, everyone was standing up and singing along enthusiastically. For some other bands I’ve seen at the United Center, that wasn’t the case. For example, at The Black Keys concert I went to a couple years ago, most people in the seats were sitting down and I felt kind of awkward and worried the people behind me were mad at me for blocking their view. In my opinion, if you’re going to go to a concert, you should be enthusiastic, because otherwise, what is the point? Therefore, I’m glad basically everyone at the Twenty One Pilots shows were singing along and getting into it.

The United Center show was also more of a spectacle than the House of Blues show because they were able to use pyrotechnics, had a B-stage that rose up out of the ground at one point, and larger screens. During “Lane Boy,” another one of my favorites, they had people dressed in gas masks and white jumpsuits come on stage, jump around, and spray the crowd with this cryo-smoke stuff. They weren’t able to have that at the smaller show since the stage was smaller. I actually don’t think they had that at any of their previous shows I’ve attended, so I was excited I finally got to witness that little part.

The last song they played is the one they always end with, “Trees,” from their album Vessel. This finale is always one of my favorites, because for the last part of the song, they bring drum platforms into the crowd which the audience holds up, and both Tyler and Josh drum as confetti falls everywhere. It’s such an exciting part of the performance, and always leaves me feeling so happy. When Tyler and Josh got back on the stage, they took a bow and smiled widely as Tyler thanked the crowd for coming and said, “We’re Twenty One Pilots and so are you. We’ll see you next time!” I love how this band really appreciates and cares about their fans and always wants to include them in everything they do.

Overall, the two concerts were very different experiences, but equally great performances. I think I prefer being in the pit at a smaller show because of how close I’m able to get to them, and because it’s harder to hear yourself so it’s less awkward to sing along (or scream along, in my case).