Live Review: Twenty One Pilots - O2 Brixton Academy, London 12/09/2018
When Twenty One Pilots announced a one-off, single headline show in Brixton O2 Academy, entitled ‘A Complete Diversion’, excitement cast itself across fans. Their first show in over a year and having not played London for two years, expectations were high. Ahead of their album launch on 5th October and their arena tour next March, to some it can seem almost unbelievable that the band have chosen to play this venue, tiny in comparison to Wembley arena where they will be playing next spring, but London "feels like home" to them and is always a place they want to test new music, said vocalist Tyler Joseph during the show.
For many, this is the first and potentially last time they will see the band in a venue of this size. In ‘Blurryface’’s ‘Message Man’, Tyler says, “These lyrics aren't for everyone only few understand" but when this few rapidly turns into a few million, its understandable that Tyler now raps about “pressures of a new place" and this show feels a lot like them trying to grapple between the small venues they have always cherished and now selling out two Wembley arena dates in a matter of hours. This is one of the only bands I will ever say suit a larger venue over a smaller one as they have so much energy between the two of them and basslines to rupture your bones; their old tracks were definitely written for basement-sized venues but these new tracks and the energy the band possess and entice from the crowd are fit for an arena tour.
The set opened with ‘Jumpsuit’ and I was impressed, but not surprised, to hear Tyler Joseph perform the screams in the track at full force, followed by the rap throughout ‘Levitate’. A car chassis was ablaze on the stage during most of their set, homage to the ‘Heavydirtysoul’ and ‘Jumpsuit’ music videos and adding a new element to the stage setup of the band, whilst their piano and drum kit remain in the same place as they have been for the past tours.
Albums for this band are more than just albums, each album is an era and a new beginning, with ‘Blurryface’ and ‘Vessel’ being the previous albums and eras and ‘Trench’ being the upcoming album and era. These previous eras were present throughout the show; the balaclavas of the ‘Vessel’ era came back for Levitate, to be ripped off at the end of the song and the lighting included a lot of red, a colour that was conceptually heavy through the band’s release and tour of ‘Blurryface’ and is beginning to be overtaken by yellow. The show really did seem like a thumbs up to the fans who have followed the band through their career and Tyler Joseph recently told press of how important the long-supporting fans’ reaction to the new music is.
A punchy performance of ‘Heathens’ led onto a short speech to the crowd, recognising drummer, Joshua Dun, as if anyone in the venue wasn't already looking at him. ‘Nico and the Niners’ saw the return of the infamous handshake to the stage, brought to life for fans in the ‘Stressed Out’ music video. Josh Dun came out from behind his drum kit to perform the backflip in ‘Holding On To You’, a staple of their live performances, and this got me thinking about how it is such an important time for a band like this, with mental health beginning to be destigmatized and finally be spoken about in mainstream media.
Tyler Joseph and his ways of performing have always intrigued me and whilst he used to writhe against any kind of beat and perform awkward hand and head gestures throughout shows, these elements are only hinted at and present in short snippets. Nowadays, he seems to prefer jumping from the top of his piano and clambering across the stage to higher platforms, appearing on the balcony of the venue during ‘Car Radio’, another hint to how the band are moving forward.
They announce that their next tour will be filled with a lot of things never seen before, and whilst this show is full of tracks from ‘Vessel’ and ‘Blurryface’ and each era making an appearance through their outfits and staging choices, one can’t help but wonder whether this is the last time a Twenty One Pilots show will ever look like this. The Brixton show showed me one thing; not their new music or new era coming to the forefront but an ode and goodbye to the old eras of the band. It was a goodbye and hello to the past and the future, looking at where the band have been and where they are heading next.
The set closed with ‘Trees’, as Tyler Joseph took to a single drum riser held up by the crowd in a shower of yellow confetti and two spotlights forming a cross above the crowd, clearly a big hello to ‘Trench’.
‘A Complete Diversion’ was a truly exhilarating show that leaves me excited and thrilled for what the band will deliver next year. The band love the city of London so much that they will be back in March to perform three dates in Wembley's SSE Arena. A third date was announced by Tyler during the show.
Words by Max Herridge