When: Sat., Jan. 28, 7 p.m. 2017
Last year Rolling Stone called Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots “one of the hardest-to-categorize hit acts in years,” which more or less explains their appeal: they make music for audiences that would probably avoid the influences on which their sound is built. Twenty One Pilots make pop music for rockists, guitar rippers for poptimists who think rock is obsolete, dance music for people with two left feet, reggae for folks with no sense of rhythm, rap for highfalutin listeners who don’t think hip-hop is music, baroque melodies for those who like their songs rough around the edges, Jock Jams for 98-pound weaklings, and Hawaiian-inflected strummings for mainlanders whose impression of the Aloha State consists of, well, aloha shirts. It’s no easy task to make sense of these divergent ideas, and Twenty One Pilots sometimes stumble on their way to channeling everything into a coherent, economical song. On “Lane Boy,” off 2015’s chart-topping Blurryface (Fueled by Ramen), front man Tyler Joseph sings about his desire to change tempos in the band’s music, which is about as exciting a topic for a pop tune as the actual description of watching paint dry, but a swarming drum ’n’ bass breakdown keeps things from completely falling apart. Blurryface went platinum last year, and its vinyl version beat out Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool to become the top-selling LP of 2016, though I suspect some of that success is due to the nonalbum single “Heathens.” Inoffensive yet sinister, the song finds the meeting place between nu-metal and Coldplay, hitting all the right notes of dread and delight. It became omnipresent, an unexpected success that came out on the soundtrack for the disastrous Suicide Squad. (Maybe the executives who mangled the film wanted to replicate the mood of “Heathens”?) Even with their success Twenty One Pilots still look and feel as though they exist out of step with the mainstream. Then again, we’re living in a time when a wealthy white man from New York City stumbled into the White House by positing himself as an outsider, so perhaps Twenty One Pilots are today’s definitive rock band.