The curtain falls. A masked man stands with his fist raised on the edge of the stage. A large, neon yellow X perches on his chest. In his hand he holds a burning torch. He steps solemnly back a few steps, hands the burning staff to an anonymous third person, sits down to the drums. Next to him, a car drives off the ground. On the roof of the vehicle is a second person. She is wearing a bass guitar around her neck. The masked man steps forward in the direction of the microphone. Let the games begin. A short time later, the first chords of “Jumpsuit” sound through the arena. Behind the two protagonists the car burns meanwhile. The crowd is loud, the music is energetic.
The two people who make the huge stage their own are called Twenty One Pilots. They have been making music together for eight years now. However, with their latest album, the group’s popularity increased rapidly – the hit “Stressed Out” probably contributes a lot to it. The song’s music video now has over 1.5 billion views. In February 2016, on her last visit to Cologne, the duo played even before the sold out Palladium. Again, you appear in front of a full house. The number of visitors has almost quadrupled. Today it is the sold out Lanxess Arena, the country’s largest multipurpose arena. The occasion: “Trench”, the fifth studio album of the two musicians released last October. The concept album takes the listener on an escape from the drab reality full of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts. The band designs its own little dystopia, from which the protagonist tries to escape. This world bears the name “Dema” and embodies its own mental illness.
Back to Cologne. It’s just after nine o’clock. The band is already on stage for a few minutes. She is playing her song “Fairly Local”. Suddenly singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph throws himself into a hole in the stage floor. A few seconds pass, the spotlight is thrown on the bleachers. There the singer is already standing, the song is continued. The man who plunged into the hole was a double. The simple trick succeeds. The fans are out of control. Such special effects have the Twenty One Pilots today many times in the luggage. Sometimes the two band members stand on two lifts, which they tow several meters over the audience, sometimes they stand on the almost obligatory B-stage, perform there balladeskere songs, while above them light peaks cut through the huge hall. Of course, they also have confetti in their luggage. Hydrogen guns as well. The light show is perfectly matched. You often do not know where to look – so much happens on and off the stage. Your own songs will be stretched at will, paused or looped to switch from the main stage through the audience to the B stage.
The concept is right. Even if the band does not wear the album story one-to-one in their performance, the 110-minute show clearly shows the penchant for the concept. After some recent songs at the beginning of the set, a one-player shows the striking bright red cap, which had accompanied the campaign to the previous album “Blurryface”. It is solemnly introduced and finally lowered from the hall ceiling. When the duo plays songs on this album, Tyler Joseph almost always wears this accessory. Their most successful pieces – “Heathens” and the already mentioned “Stressed Out” – are presented to his fans in the first third of the performance. Before the individual songs is just the concept. To “Nico and the Niners” Joseph suddenly appears in a bright yellow jacket to the microphone. There are some songs from “Trench” announcing.
Also on the day of the concert and already the day before, you can always see neongelbe sweaters, shoes, gloves in Cologne Deutz. The fans of the Americans follow the cosmopolitan ideology of the band at every turn, feel understood in the grim contents. They want to be part of the community supporting the band. The evening before, more than 50 fans are in front of the hall to be close to their role models during the concert. Such a cult around an act was last with the emo legends My Chemical Romance. There are some parallels between the two artists: the stringent concept, the pronounced fan cult, the bluntly emotional music. However, Twenty One Pilots adapt their sound to the zeitgeist – not distorted guitars and theatrical shrieks dominate, but electronic beats, chanting. The My Chemical Romance of Generation Z.
Then to “Chlorine” hops Suddenly the cute monster from the accompanying video on the screens. Drummer Joshua Dun wears the bucket hat, which also graces his head in the music video. This variety of motifs from the lyrics and the album campaigns appear again and again. At the end, the two musicians stand side by side on the stage. Dun on the drums, Joseph on the keyboard. The stage is connected by white light. You play the reduced intro of “Trees”. Then suddenly the car comes out of the ground, it starts to burn, the duo is – one right, one left – on two platforms above the first rows, drumming on big drums. Confetti shoots out of the stage trench into the hall. The reduced intimacy has given way to planned chaos. Hardly anything could describe the appearance of the Twenty One Pilots better.
You can buy the album “Trench” here.
Photo of Jonas Horn.
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