Columnist reviews Twenty One Pilots’ last show of European tour

By: Colleen McDaniel – Flyer Radio Correspondent

“Peace will win and fear will lose.”

Put into words by Twenty One Pilots, this is a phrase that much of the earth’s population need to hear right now.  The morning after the Paris attacks, these words were tweeted again by Tyler Joseph, Twenty One Pilots lead performer, as he announced that they were canceling the rest of their European tour, including three cities in Germany.  On Nov. 12, before the attacks on Paris, Josh and Joseph Dun played a show in Antwerp, Belgium—now the last show of their tour.  I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

Note that this article is not about the horrible, terrible happenings of the world.  No.  This post is in celebration of a universal appreciation for good music.

Set the scene: A small venue in Antwerp comparable to Bogarts in Cincinnati or the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus.  A friend of mine from high school, her companion and myself were standing in a sea of Belgian youth awaiting our favorite hometown artists. The show opens with Jeremy Loop, a South African beard-bun-combo with a man attached. He plays guitar and harmonica and is upbeat and incredibly fun.  Once he finishes, the three of us push toward the front and anticipate the show’s beginning.

Describing a Twenty One Pilots concert to anyone who hasn’t been to one is nearly pointless. It all sounds too far-fetched to be understood unless you have actually experienced it.   I’m from a suburb of Columbus and when you’re from Columbus, it’s just necessary that you see Twenty One Pilots, so don’t think I’m just being cocky when I say I’ve seen Twenty One Pilots in concert seven times: three of which have been hometown shows.  Hometown shows are unlike anything.

Again…explaining would be pointless.  OK, here’s where it’s going to sound like I’m bragging and being pretentious—which if you’ve read my other reviews you should have gathered by now is not too far off from my music persona—but I promise this time I have a point to what I’m saying, so just go with it.

The first time I saw Twenty One Pilots, they played a small show in Cincinnati where Joseph was still using a laptop to control the music.  Cut-to seeing them play for thousands of people at Bonnaroo this past summer.  It’s been a long ride (cough, cough song reference).  Twenty One Pilots has blown up in just the past year, so much so that their latest hometown show was performed in the Schottenstein Center, the Ohio State University basketball arena. But, I had little-to-no appreciation for how huge they actually are until recently.  I mean, everyone in Columbus loves them, so of course they’re popular.  The extent of their popularity did not hit me until I was surrounded by a few hundred Belgians singing along to “Car Radio,” a song off of their album “Regional At Best,” and re-recorded on their first hit album, “Vessel.”

However, in all honesty, it was not the same as a hometown show. Joseph did not talk nearly as much.  They had not changed the show to include different ways to involve the audience.  A new album means a new tour, and the critic in me—while I love the traditions of standing in the audience—wanted something new.  Granted, I’ve seen them so many times that I know what wild thing they’re going to do before they do it.  I still would have liked to see them get creative and add something new into the show.

A few things hit me about the concert.  First, it was incredible that their lyrics were so universal.  I was in a sea of young people across the ocean who connected with lyrics written by a guy from small Columbus, Ohio.  If that doesn’t show the universality of the human experience, I don’t know what does.  The second was that I was in Belgium surrounded by young people who were fans of a guy from Columbus, Ohio.  Redundant as it might sound, that’s insane.  I mean if I was unsure of the extent of their popularity before, I definitely had an awakening when I was surrounded by the sound of off-key Flemish accents distorting the words of the songs.  I mean that in the most loving way possible.  My fellow fans could speak and understand my language to such an extent that they connected with the deeper meanings of the lyrics.  The final idea that struck me was that this was likely the last time that I’ll be able to enjoy Twenty One Pilots in a small venue.  Their fame is soaring and I’m so proud of them for that, but there is admittedly a small part of me that wishes I could continue to experience them in the intimate setting of a smaller venue.  Smaller concerts are just more personal, and I can hardly be expected to fully accept losing that part of the experience.

All-in-all, I could not be more grateful that I had the chance to see them in this setting, especially right before they canceled their tour.  I look forward to future tours and I hope they continue to grow, while still remaining the hometown boys they are at heart.

Photo of fan sign at Twenty One Pilots’ final show of European tour by Colleen McDaniel.