Fans have defended Twenty One Pilots after a Northern Irish political party called their stage imagery “inappropriate”.
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The band performed at Belfast’s SSE Arena on Saturday (March 2) as part of their Bandito tour. During the show, band members Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun wore balaclavas and performed in front of a burning car prop.
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister called the imagery “inappropriate”. “Balaclavas are the stock-in-trade images of terrorism in this part of the world,” he said. “So to don them at this sort of event inevitably has the consequence of sanitising or glamorising that with which they are associated in this part of the world, namely terrorism.”
He continued: “Whatever they thought they were doing, this is hardly the sort of imagery that Belfast needs. Balaclavas still speak loudly in Northern Ireland of the evils of terrorism, with many still struggling to cope with the devastation and murder wrought by balaclava-clad killers.
“I would be very surprised if nobody associated with this operation has any knowledge of the Troubles, which has been beamed around the world for decades.”
A 19-year-old fan who attended the gig, however, told Belfast Telegraph that they “didn’t think of terrorism when I saw the flaming car or balaclava.”
“I thought it was amazing,” she added. “I could see how some people would be upset but I don’t think it was in a malicious way.”
Others present at the gig have also spoken out, pointing out the band’s choice of head wear as “a symbol of how they battle [their] inner demons.” “The band want people to feel comfortable so that they feel empowered to drop their own mask,” Genevieve Pinkerton said. “They helped so many young people and even my own children.”
Fans have also reacted to Allister’s comments on social media, with one writing: “I’d say given the age profile of those attending it’s maybe time our older politicians stopped harking back to the past. It obviously didn’t offend or glamorise terrorism to those young people who attended and wasn’t specifically aimed at NI. Time to move on!”
I’d say given the age profile of those attending it’s maybe time our older politicians stopped harking back to the past. It obviously didn’t offend or glamorise terrorism to those young people who attended and wasn’t specifically aimed at NI. Time to move on!
— 123pmcb (@mcbeee80) March 5, 2019
Others pointed out that Twenty One Pilots refer to the balaclavas as ski masks and wear them at all of their shows.
you realise this isn’t just in belfast they done this they’ve been doing this for their entire world tour ….they’re not glamourising anything y’all just reaching
— leanne (@covermejumpsuit) March 5, 2019
Yes, the musicians are glamorising terrorism. Unlike the countless murals of men in balaclavas which can be found across the entire hellscape that is Northern Ireland. Those don't glamorise terrorism at all, right @JimAllister? So, no need to condemn those.
— Mik Duffy (@Mik_Duffy) March 5, 2019
In a statement, a spokesperson for the SSE Arena said: “The Bandito Tour performed at The SSE Arena, Belfast, by Twenty One Pilots on Saturday evening featured the same content across their world tour. As a venue, the arena does not have input into the format and content of world tour performances.”
Meanwhile, the duo recently shared details of their next album with NME. “There’s definitely an end-game,” Joseph said of what will be the band’s sixth album. “There’s a story. I think I was very specific that there’s a reason why the [fifth] record ends with [the song] ‘Leave The City’ and the song itself is a kind of cliff-hanger. I mean, the whole thing was it’s setting up for what’s next and it’d be silly to not at least resolve what we’ve already started.”
He added that the next album would feature a character that hasn’t been talked about “on any record yet that plays a huge role in the narrative.”