21 Pilots freezes PPG Paints Arena with The Icy Tour

Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

Snow? In August? Inside a building? Impossible for any band unless you’re Twenty One Pilots, who took fans to the snowy world of their latest album, “Scaled and Icy,” at PPG Paints Arena on August 31. 

Twenty One Pilots are a pop-rock duo that rose to popularity in 2015 with their hit song, “Stressed Out.” This hit song was only the beginning for the band as they continued to put out albums and even had their song “Heathens” featured on the soundtrack to the 2016 DC comics movie “Suicide Squad.” 

Now the band are back to playing arena shows to support their album “Scaled and Icy,” an album with even more pop influences than their earlier work and with less rap-flow lyrics. If you’ve ever seen a show from Twenty One Pilots, you know you’re in for a treat. The band uses a number of technological features at every concert, making use of the huge arena space by having B-stages, and even interacting with the audience from the nosebleeds seats to the pit. Needless to say, The Icy Tour may be their best use of these elements so far. 

I feel like it’s important to note before I get into the content of the concert, this was my fourth time seeing Twenty One Pilots live. However, this was my first time being in the general admission pit for one of their shows, which led to me having a completely different experience than before. 

This tour features opener Peter McPoland, best known for his TikTok hit, “Romeo & Juliet.” While much of the audience doesn’t seem to know any other of McPoland’s songs, he does a great job of matching Twenty One Pilots’ energy, running all over the stage and even repeatedly punching a cymbal towards the end of his set. He did a great job of hyping up the audience for the show to come and keeping the attention of the arena on him. 

After McPoland’s set, it takes some time to set up the stage before all the lights in the arena go out and the huge screens on either side of the stage pop on. The scene laid before the audience on the screens features singer Tyler Joseph, and drummer Josh Dunn, exploring a frozen, snowy world till they find a blue door. The screens then shut off and a blue door opens from the ground of center stage where the two emerge in front of the audience in person. The whole scene feels unreal as snow blows up through the door, raining down on Twenty One Pilots and the audience in the pit. It isn’t long till the two musicians take their places, Dunn on drums, Joseph on his piano, and the show begins with “Good Day” off their newest album. 

The energy at a Twenty One Pilots show is unmatched. There’s an arena of people jumping from floor to stands and it’s definitely one of the louder concerts I’ve been to. The best part about this energy is that it never stops due to the light show that takes over the arena and the endless snow coming down on the pit. 

While it may seem like the tour caters to the aesthetic of the album “Scaled and Icy,” the band is sure to provide hints of past eras throughout the concert. After playing some newer songs, the band throws the audience back to their album “Blurryface” with the song “Message Man.” At the beginning of this song, a bowl is ominously brought onto center stage. Towards the end of the song, Joseph returns to the bowl, staring into it as he indulges his hands in the bowl. His hands return into view, covered in black paint, an ode to the “Blurryface” album era which he then flicked onto the audience in front. That’s part of what makes a Twenty One Pilots show worth it, no matter what era of fan you are, there’s going to be something in the show for everyone. 

This point is only further proven once Joseph disappears to a b-stage in the back of the arena with a piano sitting on top, leaving Dunn to the main stage. At this stage Joseph performs a mashup featuring a song from each of the band’s six albums. From “Addict With a Pen” off their first self-titled album all the way to “Choker” off their latest album, the audience sings along almost louder than Joseph himself. It’s a touching moment for many fans as they get to hear the songs that got them into Twenty One Pilots and go through the adventure of their time as fans.

This isn’t the only mashup of the night though, as Joseph returns to Dunn on the main stage, a real campfire lights up center stage and the duo go into an acoustic sing-along mashup of their favorite songs on ukulele. It’s a slower point of the show due to the acoustic aspect but strangely enough the energy never falters. In fact, the audience is singing even louder than before. After the campfire session the show transfers to the second half with bigger theatrics than before including pyrotechnics, more snow, crazy lasers that fall down on the stage, and of course the band’s tradition of drum surfing over the crowd to their closer song, “Trees.” 

It’s hard to cram two, outstanding hours of a set into just a short article and it’s even more difficult to put a Twenty One Pilots concert experience into words. It’s one of those shows that you just have to experience for yourself to understand the amazement that fans are put into. Luckily, it seems the band is getting back into a regular release of music on top of regular touring, so if you missed this tour stop, it’s likely you’ll have the chance to experience holding Joseph and Dunn up at the end of “Trees” for yourself.