Tyler Joseph, wearing black lace-up boots, a camouflage jacket and a full-face balaclava, is standing on Spark Arena's main stage, playing piano with a black sheet draped over him.

At the end of Fairly Local, an epic synth-rocker pummelling a stadium rammed with kids who'd dragged their mums and dads out for the night, Joseph collapses to the ground as the sheet billows on to the floor.

In the blink of an eye he reappears 100m away in the middle of the arena's upper deck, a spotlight shining directly in his eyes as he rips off his balaclava for the big reveal.

It's a magic trick, and a very good one. Twenty One Pilots, the genre-mashing Ohio duo featuring Joseph and the muscular drumming talents of Josh Dun, obviously think it's good too - they did exactly the same thing when they were last here.


That wasn't the only thing that seemed eerily familiar to anyone who saw them play the same venue 18 months ago: They covered the same Elvis Presley song, Can't Help Falling in Love; they ended their main set and encore with the same songs, Car Radio and Trees; and they repeated many of the same tricks , including Joseph's performance on a rising platform at the other end of the stadium, and Dun hitting the skins while balanced precariously on a platform being held up by the front rows.

For anyone seeing Twenty One Pilots for the first time, they won't have gone home unhappy. Joseph and Dun are seasoned stadium performers, and from the get-go, their show is something to behold.

During the first two songs, newbies Jumpsuit and Levitate, a burnt out car caught fire, smoke billowed around the stage, flames licked into the air, an intricate cage lit up behind them, and there was more glitter, pyro, dystopian visuals and scissor kicks than many acts manage during an entire show.

But there might be a reason the duo haven't mucked about with their set for their current tour: their new album Trench is a much darker, more brooding follow-up, one that landed with an apocalyptic concept and buried messages. The lack of pop hooks that helped their 2015 effort Blurryface crossover means Trench has struggled to compete.

That meant many of the night's highlights came from Blurryface, like the soaring hooks of Ride, the genre-bending ska-rock of Lane Boy, the rap smarts of Stressed Out, and the crunching metal kick of Heathens, their excellent contribution to the Suicide Squad soundtrack. The Judge, the night's clear highlight, is an incredible accomplishment: a song seemingly comprised of just football chants, one so catchy it could easily be three times as long without getting old.

Twenty One Pilots are great. Their fans are great. Their songs are great, and the night was great. Their young fans clearly loved it, and many of their parents did too. There were certainly only smiles to be seen vacating the building after the frenetic closing of Trees.

It wasn't a bad show, it's just that it was the same show as the last one. Let's hope Twenty One Pilots have a few new tricks to pull out of the bag next time they visit, or all those mums and dads might think twice about making the trip - and being charged $110 for a hoodie.

Twenty One Pilots
Where: Spark Arena, Auckland
When: Friday, December 21