Atlanta Music Scene

Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta’s vibrant and evolving music scene. From hot new artists to Music Midtown to shows at the Tabernacle, she’s got you covered.

Concert review: Twenty One Pilots adrenalized sold-out Atlanta crowd


Don’t forget the yellow tape.

That is, if you want to be part of the Twenty One Pilots tribe, a giddy group of primarily tweens and teens who don their camo, lemon-hued hats and yes, tape, to pledge their allegiance to Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun.

The dynamic duo kicked off their sold-out State Farm Arena concert Friday night as they have every show of this two-week old “Bandito” tour. Dun, his face covered by a gold bandanna, carried a torch across the stage before slipping behind his drum kit and pumping his kick drum to open “Jumpsuit.” Joseph, ski mask intact, crouched atop a car spewing flames and hopped down to center stage before the major plumes of pyro spewed.

»»PHOTOS: See more of our photos from the sold-out Twenty One Pilots show

The pair makes a big sound for two guys (and some major tracking) and this ambitious tour finds them escalating the visuals to match their kinetic songs.

Dun’s drum riser ascended – appropriately – during “Levitate” as Joseph nimbly rapped alongside the skittering high hat; and stay focused during “Fairly Local,” which includes a nifty now-you-see-him magic trick.

Clearly, Twenty One Pilots has confidence in their catalog and career, as the band unspooled its two biggest hits – the Grammy-winning “Stressed Out” and “Heathens” – during the first 15 minutes of the concert. By now, the twosome was unmasked and grinning, as Joseph donned his familiar red knit cap for a reshaped “Stressed Out” (think reggae lilt and handclaps) and a moody “Heathens,” which began with a quiet piano intro before bursting into a kaleidoscope of pink and green lighting and booming sound.

It’s been two years since Dun and Joseph visited Atlanta – including a headlining set at Music Midtown – and while there was much to appreciate about new songs from the “Trench” album, including “Neon Gravestones” and “Bandito,” both performed on a B-stage at the back of the venue, the guys didn’t neglect their history.

“We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,” “The Judge” and “Lane Boy,” all from their 2015 breakthrough, “Blurryface,” were especially caffeinated. Dun showcased his snare drum rudiments leading into “…TV,” which was given a fun ukulele touch from Joseph. The bizarre “Lane Boy,” sung by Joseph with his shirt covering his head, basked in its idiosyncratic-ness when two masked men ran on stage to shower the crowd with smoke.

While Twenty One Pilots conquers the alt-rock charts with its anthems, there is something very delicate and introspective about their music as well – no doubt the reason they engage so well with a young audience.

Their B-stage segment – dedicated to the duo’s fathers, who requested a point in the show for sitting – spotlighted the heartfelt and simple “Taxi Cab,” from Twenty One Pilots’ 2009 debut. A sheath of netting (which doubled as a surface for video and cool lighting) enclosed Dun and Joseph for “Neon Gravestones” and a robust singalong of “Bandito,” which built to a dance-pop climax.

The guys are kind enough to salute their crew during their show and also savvy enough to churn out well-chosen covers of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (with openers Awolnation and Max Frost).

To the casual viewer, it might look like a lot of young man nonsense with the tape and the ski masks and the color schemes. But there is real depth and originality with Twenty One Pilots – and their fans sense it.

Before Joseph and Dun hit the stage, California rockers Awolnation, led by quirky singer Aaron Bruno, blitzed through a 45-minute set that included the throbbing “Run” and the sing-song guitar riff of “Kill Your Heroes.”

Bruno yips as much as he sings, yet he was still fun to watch with his breakdancing moves and sideways hopping during the adrenaline-inducer, “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf).”

“It feels amazing to be alive tonight, don’t you think?” he asked the crowd, which roared approvingly. 

The band ended its set with its biggest hit, 2011’s crunh-rocker, “Sail.”

Prior to Awolnation, Austin-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Max Frost played a 25-minute set that demonstrated his skill at being a one-man band.

Ed Sheeran has popularized a new generation of musician – the DIY approach – and Frost excels at it. 

He played electric guitar (literally) on top of his acoustic guitar during “White Lies,” hit the keyboards and drums for the ballad “Sometimes” and plucked out the bassline for “Money Problems,” all while utilizing looping techniques to keep the layers rolling behind him.

Frost also possesses a strong soul-pop voice to complement his musical skills, which he exhibited on his bluesy single, “Good Morning.”

Color us impressed.  

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About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.