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Twenty One Pilots touch a nerve

Honda Center, Anaheim, Cal., February 15, 2017

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

It's difficult to figure out Twenty One Pilots. This duo appears to be reaching for some kind of art house rock. At least that's what can be gathered from the pair's bank robber ski mask stage attire and skulls and deathly imagery displayed on backdrops during the group's concert. However, the audience filling this hockey arena were young - pre-teen young - and not the kind of fans that usually go for the arty stuff.

The act is extremely popular, due to hits like "Ride" and "Stressed Out," which were saved until the concert's end, and "Heathens," a monster single from the "Suicide Squad" action film that was played early. However, it's also tough to categorize what Twenty One Pilots play. They can sound like a white reggae unit one moment, and legitimate rappers the next. Tyler Joseph plays multiple instruments, including bass, keyboards and even ukulele, while Josh Dun plays drums. It also appears as though much of the music accompanying these two musicians was pre-recorded. Therefore, it might be a stretch to call TOP a 'band.'

After playing much of the hit album "Blurryface," the guys brought back members of openers Judah & the Lion and Jon Bellion for a pre-encore of rock/pop favorite covers, including "Jump Around" and "Tubthumping." It was the most fun these 'stressed out' musicians looked all night.

Twenty One Pilots were preceded by New York rapper Jon Bellion. Bellion may rap a lot, but he also sings with a sweet voice. His genre-blurring music made him an appropriate opening act for Twenty One Pilots. His songs were also fairly serious, especially the hit "All Time Low," which sounded more like an '90s alt.rock song - lyrically - than much of the fluffy pop found on the radio today. Judah & the Lion's folk-ish touches fit right in with the other two musical misfits on the bill.

All the extremely young music fans singing along with these many times dead serious songs left one with the impression these pre-millennials may be more serious than we first figured. Much like their peer group, Twenty One Pilots were likely raised as much on hip-hop, as more traditional rock and roll. Thus, they're a bit of a hybrid. It's challenging to put a label on the act, but whatever you want to call them, they're certainly touched a nerve.

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