When the opportunity to write a review of the Twenty One Pilots show at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall came up, I jumped on the chance to do it. I asked our Editor Pamela Dollak to request a plus-one so I could bring my 14-year-old son John with me. John recently started playing the ukulele after being inspired by Pilots’ frontman Tyler Joseph. He showed me the YouTube video of Joseph playing a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The viral video, with over 124 million views, shows Joseph’s passion for the music, as well as the amazed reactions of his fans. Ever since, John and I have been asking Alexa to play music from the Pilots’ new album “Trench,” and John started learning to play more Twenty One Pilots songs.
The show was scheduled for Saturday, June 8, but fans started to arrive on Wednesday, June 5, to secure a place in line for General Admission. I had walked by the tents they'd set up on Florida Avenue and talked to fans that were in town from places such as Seattle, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and, of course, New Jersey. It was a very mellow group made up of mostly teenage girls.
The day of the show fans were given permission to start lining up on the Boardwalk at 6 a.m., so they began to break down their tents and get dressed for the show in apparel consisting of mostly dark clothes with yellow stripes made with bright yellow duct tape, kimonos, yellow bandanas and Dr. Marten boots. When doors opened at 5:30, the line was stretched 300 yards from Boardwalk Hall all the way to California Avenue. My brother-in-law Jason and his 8-year-old drummer son Luke, who was sporting a red knit cap and “tattoos” like Joseph, joined us for the show.
The opening band Bear Hands took the stage at about 7:20 to warm up the crowd. Fans were still streaming into the venue and the merch tables had a 15-minute wait to get the latest Twenty One Pilots shirts, sweatshirts and posters. After a well-received nine-song set, the fans were anxious for the main event to begin. A dark green curtain descended to cover the stage. At about 8:30 the curtain lifted and drummer Josh Dun came out with a flaming torch as a rusty all-American sedan rose out from the floor with frontman Joseph on the roof. He leaped off just as the car burst into flames and fireworks popped on stage. The two began busting out into the hit song “Jumpsuit” from their latest album. Fans in the pit came alive as the duo followed with “Levitate” while Duns’ drum kit levitated on stage.
I was happy to hear them go into a song that was more familiar to me, “Fairly Local,” from the band's breakthrough album “Blurryface,” during which Joseph performed a magic trick of sorts. He fell into the stage and disappeared, but immediately reappeared on the top of the third tier of the set to sing the last verse.
They continued to perform a perfect mix of old and new material, engaging the crowd as they finished the first set with “Nico and the Niners” with Joseph walking across a bridge that lowered from the barrel roof of Boardwalk Hall to another stage in the center of the floor. From center stage Joseph began to play on an upright piano and instructed the audience to sit down and rest their legs for a more intimate part of the show. He introduced the ballad “Smithereens,” telling fans he wrote the song for his wife.
Another highlight was when Dun took his drum kit from center stage and banged out “Seven Nation Army” while fans held him up over the crowd on the floor. Everyone in the arena sang along to “Truce” and the duo finished the show with “Trees” as confetti fell from the sky.
At times, Joseph talked about his family during the show. He has relatives here in New Jersey and used to visit them throughout his childhood. He said he looks forward to returning someday soon. We hope to see them back soon.