Twenty One Pilots help ‘break in’ Dickies Arena with frenetic, theatrical performance

Update: Ed Bass did, in fact, attend the show and watched the entire concert from one of the suites.

A few songs into Twenty One Pilots’ show Friday night at Dickies Arena, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph stopped his frantic pace for a moment.

“They say this is the first show in this arena,” he said. “Let’s break it in right, OK?”

The nearly sold-out crowd of just under 14,000 roared back, and for the next two hours, they faithfully sang along and danced to the two-man band’s hybrid sound that combines rock and rap. One moment Joseph’s atmospheric piano dirges filled the arena with sadness. But in a flash, the sadness turned into joy behind expansive, goose bump-causing anthems and Josh Dun’s rumbling drums.

The band is finishing up their Bandito Tour behind their album “Trench,” which was released in October 2018. The tour was set to end Saturday night at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This final leg began Oct. 9 in Tampa, Florida.

If the road has been long for them, it sure didn’t show. Joseph and Dun played for just over two hours, cramming 22 songs into their set with high energy and a serious connection with their devoted fans, some of whom started lining up and camping near Dickies Arena on Tuesday. Why the need to line up? The floor seating was general admission, so the best views in the house were up against the barrier, right in front of the stage.

In truth, however, there really isn’t a bad seat at Dickies Arena. The upper level isn’t too high up. The building was pretty much filled, except for a few empty corporate suites. (Guess Ed Bass isn’t into the band.) The sound in the arena was smooth and sharp, even during the band’s noisiest moments. That should help attract other performing artists down the road, but the venue is doing well already.

K-pop supergroup SuperM plays Monday night, The Black Keys play Thursday and country legend George Strait plays Nov. 22-23, which should really give the new home of the Fort Worth rodeo its appropriate twang.

The audience was split about evenly between male and female, with a good cross-section of ages. Dads with their teenage daughters, moms with young sons and a large contingent of college-age attendees.

They were all singing along, whether prompted by Joseph or not.

That included Mariana Pena, of Wylie, who was the first person to arrive in line at 10 a.m. Tuesday. She and friend Sam Ortega camped overnight at Trinity Park. There were eventually more than 700 fans in the line. They all finally entered the arena at 7 p.m. Friday. Opener MisterWives took the stage at about 8 p.m., and later joined Twenty One Pilots on stage to help perform “Cut My Lip.”

Joseph and Dun arrived on stage wearing masks on top of a burned-out car that rose from the middle of the stage floor. Two other sections of the stage lifted Dun and his drum set and Joseph and his piano on either side of the stage at various moments during the show.

Just as their musical style takes cues from different genres, so does their live show. Large flames and fire were used often to underscore songs. Lasers of multiple colors ricocheted all around the arena. A smoke machine shot plumes of white smoke 20 yards into the air, and confetti cannons sent confetti into the GA area several times.

The band also utilized a B-stage in the middle of the floor to give those at the other end of the arena a better look. One of the cooler moments was Joseph and Dun each taking turns — and then once together near the end of the show — performing in the audience. Fans held up platforms near the front of the stage, while the two musicians performed a song. Now that is getting close to your fans.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.