Twenty One Pilots & Bear Hands @ Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI
Review & photography by Rebekah Witt
On May 31st, Twenty One Pilots hit Grand Rapids, MI on the Bandito tour. Fans were camped out in front of the Van Andel Arena as early as 5 days before the show, eager to be up front to watch their favorite band. Doors opened a bit early and fans burst into the arena, dressed up in the ‘bandito’ gear of yellow, green, and camouflage colors.
Bear Hands, a rock band based out of New York, were opening the show during this leg. Many fans were unfamiliar with them prior to the tour. Twenty One Pilots are known for often bringing fairly unknown artists/bands on the road, helping them to build a fanbase with their own passionate fans. Just last month, Bear Hands released their latest album Fake Tunes, and half their set list was made up of songs off of it, including ‘Blue Lips,’ ‘Reptilians,’ and ‘Friends in High Places.’ They have a fun, experimental rock sound, reminiscent of bands previously associated with Twenty One Pilots, so the crowd was excited to watch them perform.
Before Twenty One Pilots’ set, a dull hum of music was heard throughout the venue, slowly getting louder. A torch in the middle of the stage suddenly lit up, being held by drummer Josh Dun. Lead singer Tyler Joseph joined him shortly after, lifted up on top of a car that was being raised up from under the stage. The duo took their respective positions behind the drum set and microphone as the music transitioned into Jumpsuit, the opening track and lead single to their latest album Trench. Immediately, the thousands of fans start screaming along to every word and filled the venue with nonstop energy. Anyone who has ever been to a Twenty One Pilots show has seen how much effort and detail they put into their performance, and the Bandito tour is no different. The set is complete with intense visuals and lighting, themed outfit changes, and remixed or slowed down versions of the songs. They performed all fourteen songs off Trench, as well as some older songs from albums Blurryface and Vessel. Fans were excited to hear new songs that hadn’t yet been performed on a US tour, including ‘Legend,’ ‘The Hype,’ and ‘Chlorine.’ Classic favorites were also appreciated, such as ‘We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,’ and ‘Car Radio.’
A huge part of Twenty One Pilots’ live show is their interaction with the fans and the crowd. During the bridge of ‘Morph,’ a drum set on a platform is put into the crowd and Dun drummed on top of fans, who were more than happy to hold him up. Joseph jumped into the crowd as ‘Holding On To You’ began, only being supported by those under and around him. For the performance of ‘Car Radio,’ Joseph ran to the back of the venue to climb up to a platform and get a look at the audience in the far back, making everyone feel more involved. Halfway through the set, a long, narrow bridge was lowered down, connecting the main stage to the B stage in back of the venue. After the band arrived at the second stage, they performed a few slow songs (‘Smithereens,’ ‘Neon Gravestones,’ ‘Bandito’) before jumping into fast paced ‘Pet Cheetah’ and running across the bridge back to the main stage. As their second-to-last song, Twenty One Pilots played the emotional closing track to Trench, ‘Leave The City,’ and fans were seen throughout the crowd in tears. They closed the show with classic ‘Trees,’ both members bringing drums into the crowd and performing on top of the audience. As the song concluded, bursts of yellow and green confetti exploded into the air to signal the end. Joseph and Dun took a bow in the midst of the deafening applause and walked off the stage, just after Joseph stated “We are Twenty One Pilots, and so are you.”
Much more could’ve been said about this show, but it truly needs to be seen in person to understand just how special it is. Twenty One Pilots put on a live performance unlike any other, and you need to experience it at least once in your lifetime. The Bandito tour will continue in the U.S. through the month of June, as well as Europe later this year. Find tickets here and listen to Trench here.