Twenty One Pilots & Bear Hands
The Prudential Center
June 5, 2019
Twenty One Pilots and Bear Hands brought the current leg of the Banditos Tour to Newark on a cool New Jersey evening delighting the multi-generational crowd which was composed by a cross-section of Tweens, Millennials, Gen-Xers and the occasional Baby Boomer.
The crowd filled the sold-out Prudential Center (according to staff at the venue, fans, in an effort to obtain prime General Admission spots on the floor, began camping-out “a good week before the show.” These campers arrived with tents, sleeping bags and other equipment to allow them to brave the weather. They slept outdoors, used the bathrooms at the fast-food venues located around the venue and generally had a blast while lined-up and waiting for the venue to open its doors at 6pm on the night of the show.
The concert featured many fans decked out in their finest Twenty One Pilots themed clothing. The fans were there to see Twenty One Pilots perform songs from the rock opera album, Trench (WEA/Fueled by Ramen) as well as earlier works. Twenty One Pilots fans are extremely dedicated; their loyalty borders on devotion. The opening act, Bear Hands, famous for its hit songs “Giants and ‘2AM” had some fans in the crowd, but its performance was almost a happy afterthought.
The evening began when Bear Hands hit the stage. Bear Hands (Dylan Rau -- vocals and guitar, Val Loper -- bass, Ted Feldman -- guitar and TJ Orscher – drums), hail from nearby Brooklyn, NY. The show was a sort of homecoming. Bear Hands delivered a short but strong set 9-song set that opened with “Back Seat Driver (Spirit Guide)” from the recently released Fake Tunes (Spensive Sounds, 2019) and closed with the band’s signature songs, “Giants” and “2AM” sandwiched around the new song “Blue Lips” (which featured and appearance by Ursula Rose). Though their set was short and the banter was kept to a minimum, Bear hands turned in a strong performance that definitely won over new fans.
After Bear Hands finished its set, the roadies began to assemble Twenty One Pilots stage which featured risers and a number of surprised that were hidden behind a large curtain placed at the front of the platform. When the band took the stage and the curtain fell, the bright lights and lasers took over. The band members (Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun) appeared decked out in costumes and masks. This matched the outfits that many of the band’s fans, were wearing -- Banditos-themed clothing (featuring the color yellow and lots of duck tape). Dun arrived carrying a torch. A burning car rose from a pit at the rear of the stage, and Joseph could be seen crouching on its roof. As the car rose the audience gasped and then cheered when Joseph jumped, landed and was handed his bass guitar.
The band delivered an opening five-song combination that for other bands could have served as a fantastic closing volley. Judging by the cheers, whistles and shrieks, the audience was clearly knocked out. These first five songs were a masterful mixture old and new: “Jumpsuit, “Levitate,” “Fairly Local,” “Stressed Out” and “Heathens.” While these songs were playing the audience members, in the General Admission area as well as the majority of those seated around the venue were on their feet, dancing, singing, and bopping to the beat as they were drenched in confetti.
The band didn’t just play its music. It created a spectacle. In the middle of the arena, it had set-up a B-Stage. Joseph and Dun took a stroll on a specially constructed bridge to the second stage on which their piano and a drum-kit were waiting. There, they performed “Smithereens,” “Neon Gravestones,” “Bandito” and “Pet Cheetah.”
Returning to the main stage for “Holding On To You,” “Ride,” “Cut My Lip,” “My Blood, “Morph” and the fan favorite/main set closer “Car Radio,” Twenty One Pilots were performing at the height of its powers. The concert ended with a three song encore—“Chlorine,” “Leave The City” and the group’s traditional concert closer, “Trees” during which the crowd members sang and acted out the song lyrics, supplying virtually all of the vocals.
As they filed out of the arena, the fans were spent—almost as exhausted as the band—but happy. The older fans were astonished by what they had just seen. The younger fans were singing songs from the 23-tune extravaganza that they had just heard. Fans of all ages formed long lines at the merchandise stands stretching from the end of one stall/booth to the beginning of the next.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon