I was first exposed to 30 Seconds to Mars through their newest CD A Beautiful Lie. After just one listen, I was looking forward to their appearance at Headliners in Toledo on March 31. A converted warehouse, the venue is large, open, and a nearly perfect atmosphere for the loud and hard sound of this group.
There were three opening bands. The first was a local small-time band with a huge sound. They were intense, loud, and had an energetic stage presence. Maybe it was because I was unfamiliar with their music, but I couldn’t really connect to them and their set wasn’t over soon enough for me.
The second band, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, announced they had just signed with Virgin and would have a CD coming out in two months. Of the same genre, they had high energy, punk pop sound and the crowd responded well. I enjoyed the performance, but wished I had heard some songs prior to the show. It can be hard to discern this type of music for the first time live — especially with my ear right up against a speaker — and I found myself concentrating too hard to really just enjoy it. Since Friday’s show, I’ve checked out some MP3s at their Myspace profile and am kicking myself for not doing it before the show.[ADBLOCKHERE]Aiden was the third opening act and another band whose sound I was unfamiliar with before Friday night. Though I was not in the middle, the people around me were saying the mosh pit was going to expand out to the sides and it was going to get rough. I ducked out to the edge of the crowd, not really wanting to be involved in the pushing, shoving, and crowd surfing. I was glad that I did, but not only because I wanted out of the action. Being on the fringes I got an interesting perspective of how the band interacted with the crowd and visa versa. Aiden has a tremendous energy on stage and really works at interacting with the crowd and giving the fans a great show that goes beyond the music.
For 30 Seconds to Mars I had a photo pass, which meant for the first three songs I was allowed up between the stage and the barrier that held the crowd back. Aside from getting another unique perspective, I was able to see and appreciate just how much this band reacts with the crowd as well.
30 Seconds to Mars has the most unique lighting system I have ever seen. It consists of a series of white lights, spaced around the entire stage. Mixed in with the lights are mirrors which rotate causing the lights to bounce back and forth resulting in a strobe effect. In the moments before they took the stage, it was flooded with smoke and then there was complete darkness before the rotating and blinking white light assaulted the stage.
They opened with “A Beautiful Lie” from the new album of the same name. The song is intense and full of life, and took the already enthused crowd to an even higher level. The next song, “Capricorn (A Brand New Name)” has a lot of digital and synthesized effects on the album and I was curious to see how it would translate live. It worked very well. Even with all the digital effects on the album the songs still have a raw feel to them, and they were just as sharp live. Lead singer and guitarist, Jared Leto, continued to pace the entire stage, reaching out into the crowd trying to make it personal to the crowd and masterfully achieving his goal of drawing them in.
It wasn’t only Jared who was firing the crowd up with his high-energy performance, but bassist Tomo Milicevic, guitarist Matt Wachter and drummer Shannon Leto also gave all out performances. Tomo and Matt never stood still for a moment. They continually crossed the stage and rocked out to the heavy tunes. Shannon pounded away with a powerful driving beat that fueled and drove those around him.
In an unusual move Jared gave a bit of insight to the lyrics while introducing “The Kill.” He typically likes to leave his metaphoric lyrics open to the listeners interpretation but to paraphrase said, “Most believe this song is about a relationship that is ending … when it’s really about self-destructive feelings.” Midway through this song Jared tossed himself directly over my head and the wall into the ecstatic and accepting crowd. The fans methodically surfed him back up to the front where anther photographer and I had to assist the security guard in getting him back over the wall and to the stage.
A few songs later he took it even a step further and climbed to the top of the large speaker set on the left side of the stage. As can be seen in the picture he was closer to the ceiling of this large open-air warehouse then the ground. Midway through the song, he took a running leap landing again in the middle of the crowd. Aside from being a show-stealing acrobatic stunt, it demonstrated the love and respect that exists between the band and those Leto referred to as family instead of fans more then once.
30 Seconds to Mars has dubbed their large and loyal fan base Echelon. Aside from being a song on the self-titled debut album it is a Latin metaphor that has a literal meaning of “launch forth into the deep” or “reach for the heights.” Jared is fond of metaphors and introspective meanings that one has to translate for themselves, the popular symbols that adorn their album covers and merchandise are pictured left on the drums. All that is really known is they are ancient hieroglyphics. They are thought to represent the bands name. In exactly what way is not known though there are two popular theories (One explained here.), no one in the band is confirming which, if either, is accurate.
Late in the show Jared took a moment to speak of not only his influences, but those of the rest of the band, citing such legendary groups as Iron Maiden, Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd. He promised their Echelon 30 Seconds to Mars would continue to deliver their style of music in the tradition of these great bands for a long time to come.
The last two songs of the night were both stand-out tracks from A Beautiful Lie. First the slower and moody “Was it a Dream”. A throaty and dark ballad that also speaks of the internal battles of an inevitable end, it softened the atmosphere slightly before they broke into the high-powered and mega-popular lead single “Attack” to close the show. With its intense and powerful lyrics the song is also incredibly melodic and not only demonstrates the intense talent of 30 Seconds to Mars, but fired the crowd back up to the same excitement level they had found them at in the beginning of the night. The video to this song uses a labor intensive animation technique of scratching the negative to produce an incredibly artistic and popular video which can be seen here.
In the end 30 Seconds to Mars not only put on a show to entertain their fans, they connected with a group of people they consider family. For an hour the band drew them into the deep and intensely personal world of their music.
Before the show, Tomo Milicevic and Matt Wachter sat down and gave me an interview. We were joined for a few minutes by Jared. Come back next week for that interview.