Last night The 1975 couldn’t have been more open, more welcoming, more in love with the occasion. Twenty One Pilots aren’t so certain. See, Twenty One Pilots don’t trust strangers. As underdogs and outsiders, they’ve built their clique with trust. Their Bandito Tour has already seen them lap the world once and was a marvel of surprise, storytelling and intimacy. Like ‘Trench’, it was for the people who found themselves in the music of TOP.
Tonight though, The Biggest Cult Band On The Planet headline Reading Festival and it’s a brave new world for the group. Sure, they’ve done festivals before but they were always out to turn heads. At the top of the bill, all eyes are already on them. Reading isn’t so wild about newcomers either. As every light dies, Josh walks out, torch in hand, and asks the crowd to follow them.
‘Jumpsuit’ sees them coming out the gate with a snarl while ‘Heathens’ quivers and shakes, a toe-in-the-water to see how much pace the festival can handle. ‘The Hype’ sees Tyler finally crack a smile, betrayed by the camera lens and he’s off the stage for ‘Holding On To You’, using his friends in the front row to lift him up to get a closer look at what’s out there. He must like what he sees. A snippet of P. Diddy’s ‘Bad Boy For Life’ sees them declare, “We ain’t going nowhere, we can’t be stopped now.” Threat or promise, that’s left undecided.
From here on out, Twenty One Pilots start to play. ‘Stressed Out’ is delivered with the same urgency and excitement that helped it define a generation. “We have such a deep respect for your festival culture over here. It really means a lot to us for you to let us be a part of that,” starts Tyler. “So this next one I dedicate to you as a thank you note,” he continues before a heartfelt and surprisingly beautiful cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’.
Those who live every lyric of Twenty One Pilots and those who think they recognise that one from the radio suddenly have a common ground. Singing together, they’re all friends now.
Now the fun can really begin.
“How’s my hair? My wife trimmed it right before I came onstage. She did a good job, it’s looking fresh, right?” Tyler asks with a smirk, a subtle dedication to the person who inspired the heartburst of ‘My Blood’ before things open up further. Twenty One Pilots want to see dancing, so they get security guards in the front row to show the festival their moves. Turns out dad dancing is always funny and good at removing inhibitions.
“This is your festival. This is your show. You can do whatever you want,” starts Tyler. It’s a promise that continues through the lion’s pride anthem of ‘Cut My Lip’, the clique proudly displayed on the huge video screens before a track by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike lets the whole place get goofy with a hopping, primary school dance routine.
Tyler and Josh are popstars who shine in the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be silly with it.
As ‘Trees’ brings things to a close, Josh and Tyler are once again on the crowd as confetti rains down and fireworks light up the joy. Scrambling back to the stage as the festival carries the refrain, the pair can’t quite believe it. Even from the back, you can see the loss for words.
Friends or strangers, it doesn’t matter how things started. “We’re Twenty One Pilots. And so are you,” Tyler manages. Right on cue, another sky full of fireworks takes off, shifting the spotlight but there’s no hiding anymore. They’re one of us and Reading belongs to them.