The venue dims, the giant screens on either side of the stage illuminate, and the blinding white light is momentarily disorienting. Your eyes adjust to see two masked figures on screen trekking through a blizzard when suddenly, an ice blue door appears in front of them. And just as they consider the door, it transports them to the real life stage in Phoenix’s Footprint Center, where they rise from the bellows to the roar of 10,000 screaming fans—and bring the “snow” with them. Soft flakes coated the front rows and the stage as the duo launched into “Good Day”, “No Chances”, and “Guns for Hands”.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, better known as twenty one pilots, have always been detail-oriented performers like this, using whatever materials available to entertain their audiences. And on their Icy Tour that’s hitting arenas across the country, the possibilities are nearly endless. Some highlights, though nothing can top making it snow in September: Joseph’s ride through the crowd on a branded air mattress (during “Ride,” no less), the full campfire on stage that added to the ambience of the acoustic mini set, and the trumpet solo that preceded the Halo theme. Even the crowd got involved in the production, instructed to raise their phones one section at a time during “Mulberry Street.” The effect was breathtaking, a moment when it felt like the entire audience had a singular focus.
Although this tour is technically promoting last year’s Scaled and Icy, the duo happily digs into their catalog all the way back to 2011’s Regional at Best and, of course, their beloved Vessel. Their setlist is peppered with medleys to fit it all in, and if the cheers were any indication, the fans were not at all upset to hear shortened versions of their favorite songs. And all the while, Joseph and Dun kept fans on their toes with costume changes and stage antics, from backflips off the piano (Dun) to diving from the B-stage platform onto the aforementioned air mattress (Joseph) to a no-holds-barred drum solo played on top of the pit crowd (Dun again). In essence? The duo has masterfully adapted to bigger spaces with each tour without sacrificing the fan connections that typically characterize small shows.
As is tradition, twenty one pilots closed out their set with the swelling “Trees,” as the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. But it wasn’t a goodbye — “We’ll be back,” Joseph promised, “no matter how many times you rename this arena.”
Check out all the photos from the show!
Story and photos by Taylor Knauf