Intense. Electrifying. Heart-pounding. Enthralling. Sensational. Inspirational. Magical. And……incredibly personal and intimate. This was a special kind of thrill ride. This was the 30 Seconds to Mars live show at the Hollywood Bowl on October 12, 2013.
Simulcast on VyRT, a new platform developed by front man, artist and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Jared Leto, allows the artist to bring their show to everyone worldwide, through high quality HD virtual feed, where participants can also chat in a social theater throughout the show if they choose. It allowed far more than the thousands of us in attendance to enjoy and participate in a magical night.
The Hollywood Bowl is an iconic venue and showcases some of the world’s greatest musicians and performers. The Los Angeles outdoor amphitheater is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that frames the stage, affording an acoustically balanced sound as it travels up the hillsides where concertgoers are seated. It is evident that a show at this historic venue, in their hometown, would be an emotional, unforgettable one for Jared Leto, Shannon Leto and Tomo Miličević. To fill this legendary arena is a dream-come-true for any musician, and a testament to the fact that 30 Seconds to Mars has achieved their pinnacle of success.
As the show opened with Birth, lead song from their current album “Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” the Tubano Drums resounded in my ears, and my excitement couldn’t be contained as my heart’s rhythm pounded simultaneously with the beats. Birth is one of my favorite songs from the new album, which moves through me revving up my soul from the initial drum beats to the addition of the horns and staccato strings, to the precise timing of Jared’s voice entering – his own vocal instrument overshadowing the other instruments – to the crescendo of more strings, gang chants, percussion and electronic synthesizers. This song soars and actually lifts you off your seat to your feet, with the promise of more to follow. It is easy to see why it was chosen as their album and concert opener. As Jared made his grand entrance onto the stage, the crowd’s deafening cheers only intensified the experience, and through Birth’s haunting melody and lyrics, Jared seemed to draw his Echelon (the loving synonym for the band’s ardent followers) gathering unto him. We were now at his mercy, happily contained in the palm of this brilliant performer’s hands for the next couple of hours.
Birth segued immediately into Night of the Hunter, a high-energy song from Mars’ third studio album “This Is War”, which lyrics (in my interpretation) touch upon the Leto brothers’ early life of strife and the strength they possessed in overcoming it to achieve their dreams. With Jared’s performance, he proved once again why we love Mars so much. Dancing over every inch of the stage, never allowing the audience to sit down or direct their attention elsewhere, Jared’s synergy with us was intoxicating. As we danced and jumped right along with him, we were all one body of believers, allowing the music to pulsate through our veins, infiltrate our souls and be absorbed into our very essence.
As Night of the Hunter came to an end, we were all directed by Jared to “get your hands up,” and clap to the rhythm of Search and Destroy, another Mars third album rock piece. And “get your hands up” is exactly what everyone did. Who wouldn’t do exactly what this man tells you to? Ever the consummate director infused with graciousness, Jared is the man that men want to be best friends with and women, well…just want. However, there is always that one defiant person in the crowd, and Jared is the man who will find that person and demand their compliance. While directing everyone to “jump motherfuckers,” Jared halted the song and had the lights turned up so that he could “see these crazy motherfuckers.” Cheers ensued to this off-handed comment which would normally offend most people, but with Jared, his family of followers know it is an implied endearment.” He continued his onslaught saying, “I think I know half the people in the audience tonight, therefore I think I deserve to beat the living shit out of you! I’m not gonna stop until I see all of you having the craziest night of your lives. We are gonna jump so high we touch that fucking moon out there.” The audience’s cheers again were vociferous and as the song started up once more the gathering jumped up and down with unabashed exuberance. Jared praised them with, “You guys are amazing.” In this craziness, however, he had found the one guy that had decided he was too cool to celebrate and Jared pointed him out declaring, “Guy in the white shirt, get your hand out of your pocket.” Brilliant. Not many front men would actually care if a fan was having a good time, let alone point him out and embarrass him for his refusal to have fun. Jared does not allow “spectators” at his show; you must take part in the whole experience…..and, most of all, enjoy yourself.
The high level of energy didn’t subside as Jared continued with the intro to another third album anthem, This is War, demanding the crowd to “get your fists up in the air” while chanting “this is war” repeatedly. Always the concerned maestro, Jared asked, “You guys having fun yet?” I have always been drawn to the fact that Mars’ music and live shows are on the surface about unifying and having fun while the undercurrent runs with a strong, positive message. This is War is about fighting for what’s right, about standing up for yourself and what you believe in. It is the essence of “hope” expertly wrapped up in pitch-perfect tones, hand-crafted prose and flawless progression of the music. Jared danced into the audience during this song, and while balloons were bounding from one person to the next, he too bounded along among his family of believers, singing with them as one. The ultimate party was experienced in sweeping cinematic views and up close and personal film cameos.
My favorite balls-out rock song to date, Conquistador, followed in succession and this is where I would like to showcase Shannon and Tomo’s expert musicianship. All I could think about as Shannon was attacking and conquering the drums with unbridled fervor was ‘they don’t call him “Shanimal” for nothing.’ Watching Tomo ping-ponging up and down and effortlessly flowing from keyboards to guitar to drums, one can’t help but appreciate his classical music background applied to the diversity and uniqueness of the band’s modern day symphonic sound. If the old-school reminiscent guitar riff in this hard rocker of a song didn’t get your juices flowing, then there truly is no hope for you to enjoy heart-thumping kick-ass rock at its best. Jared’s pitch-perfect rock screams alone are hands down infamously THE BEST, and what was so amazing about those screams tonight was that he made it look effortless and the delivery was superb – all the while dealing with a horrendous cold. Absolute proof that miracles do occur with this band.
Prior to the song Do or Die, Jared took a few moments to talk to everyone about dreams; specifically their dreams. He proclaimed that this was a dream come true for them, and went on to say that he didn’t think his brother and him ever thought in a million years that they’d be standing on that stage playing in front of everyone. He graciously attributed their success to everyone there by stating, “You guys have given us everything, you’ve given us our entire lives, and we can’t thank you enough for that. Let’s remind each other why we’re here….to remind us of what’s possible, not impossible.” Very eloquently and humbly stated.
Then came the opening chords of Do or Die, a current song with a gang-chanted catchy chorus and positive message that I liken to Mars’ previous hit, Closer to the Edge. Jared stopped to ask if anyone wanted to come on stage. (Have I mentioned how much I love this band?) Fervent screams and shouts abounded as each fan clamored for the enviable position to stand onstage right next to their hero. Jared reiterated that he wanted the craziest person in the place. He then hand-picked two young fans – an enthusiastic female and a man with a mohawk (both of whom had traveled far distances to be with their idols) – to come up on stage with him to introduce the song. (Without a doubt, a night these kids will remember and cherish their entire lives.) When the music started up once more, Jared appeared with a jumbo white flag and further encouraged the audience by dancing around with it as if performing a Native American rain dance. The flag was not only used as a prop, but as a conductor’s baton, guiding the audience to sing when pointed at, and controlling the volume of their singing with the raising or lowering of it. Again, brilliant.
Depuis Le Début, a largely instrumental medley from Mars’ current album, was utilized next as a transitional piece presenting a very talented masked man in a sphere, displaying his skills as he braced himself inside the ring, twirling and rotating it in every direction, including upside down.
In my opinion, however, I think the transition only heightened the drama for the next song, End of All Days, notably the most sensual, powerful work of art on Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams…..and Jared owned it. He made a grand entrance back onto the stage, commanding all eyes on him by taking off his fur coat and displaying nothing less than theatrical superiority. He seduced us all by weaving the silky lyrics into our ears while our eyes absorbed his fluid bodily movements as the music moved through him and into us. We were but metal shavings being pulled toward our magnet, our messiah. Our souls were indeed “punished with pleasure – and pleasured with pain.”
I wasn’t going to comment on the small portion of the show that occurred next because it’s not a critique of music; however, it was significant enough that it deserves a nod. Jared announced to everyone that he was going to be in an upcoming film (called “The Dallas Buyers Club”) where he plays a transgendered person dying of AIDS. He expressed how much he loved the character, and that in celebration of helping other people, he was going to pass buckets around before the next song to take up a collection for AIDS Project L.A. (Bravo, Jared!)
Jared continued on by acknowledging the next song as a very special song, “It’s so special to sing it in the city it was written about.” He expressed that it was from their new album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams…..and then he made an unprecedented announcement. He affirmed that the band would be available after the show to sign each and every CD like they used to do at the Roxy, and he asked everyone to stop out and say hello to them after the show. (Have I mentioned how much I love this band?!) Then in true Jared Leto fashion, he humorously and sincerely quipped, “So take out your cell phone, your iPad, your maxi pad…..hold it up in the air, and hold it up high…..I want to dedicate this song to all the dreamers out there….all the people who came to this city to do something special with their lives.” I believe I shed a tear or two along with Jared just then as the opening chords to City of Angels began. This song is the most personal for the band, and I can honestly say that it has grown on me to become one of my favorite songs from their new album, if not one of my favorites of all of their albums. There is a distinct overall tone to this song, an outpouring of vulnerability and honesty that resonates directly from Jared’s heart when he sings it. The raw lyrics coupled with Jared’s pure, poignant voice as he caresses the notes achieve a rare exquisiteness that pierces the heart and goes straight to the core. It is an extraordinary gift that Jared possesses. He is an artist that can actually move you to “feel” his emotion as if it’s your own, and I believe this is accomplished beautifully in City of Angels.
A musical interlude was then inserted with Pyres of Varanasi featuring two daring acrobats on a see-saw apparatus, performing feats of balance, high jumps and flips while a triad light show elucidated them from behind.
One of my favorite parts of the show occurred next when Jared showed up in the middle of the audience in the back of the venue on the lawn with only his guitar, to take requests and play an acoustic set. He apologized for being “sick as a fucking dog” and told everyone, “I’m gonna sing my fucking head off, and if it it’s not good enough, then you can all do as my good friend Irving Azoff said and blow me!” (This of course earned shouts of praise and laughter from everyone.) He then endeared himself to us by announcing, “If I choke on this cough drop, will someone please come and resuscitate me?” (Ummmmm……let me think about that for a nanosecond, Jared) He further secured our allegiance by placing his hand over his heart when he sang, “Do you really want me?” in the acoustic version of Hurricane (my personal all-time favorite song, enough so it’s tattooed on my right foot).
Rounding out the acoustic set, Jared sang in a crisp, pitch-perfect voice as if he had no ailment whatsoever. His superbly executed notes were held incredibly long, and his enviable range showed no restraints. He made a quip about the people in the back being a lot more fun than the boring people in the front…..specifically referencing the VIP section. (I love that this man doesn’t cater to the VIP’s.) He went on to explain that they were broadcasting this show through a brand new social media platform called VyRT – and had the camera do a panoramic sweep mentioning that there were people all the way up in the trees. He joked around with the crowd and expertly handled a drunk young man who had jumped up beside him. He gave a warning to the crowd that if he jumped down there, to not pull his fuckin’ penis off during his performance of The Kill. Jared sang The Kill while making his way through the crowd back up to the stage, where the band then performed their latest venture…..they covered the Rihanna song, Stay – in my opinion, an amazing spine-chilling rendition where Jared’s range is showcased in its purest form.
Ever the commander and director of the show, Jared then declared that he wanted everyone to get their fists up in the air and raise them high to the chants of “No – No – No – No!” He continued, “I wanna see you dance, I wanna hear you scream, let’s have a fucking night you’ll never forget! Jump and touch the stars California!” Ecstatic cheers led into Closer to the Edge, Mars’ well known high-energy rocker from This Is War – a crowd pleaser and spirit-lifter, complete with fist pumping, chanting, confetti, and crowd jumping throughout. Kings and Queens, another third album crowd pleaser immediately followed, and I had to take note that at this point in the show, Jared’s voice was miraculously flawless and his energy level remained as high as the opening of the show, apparent as he danced and spun around with his guitar throughout the song encouraging the Echelon to scream as loud as we could. Kings and Queens ended with an image I won’t soon forget….Jared swaying to the final notes as we all participated in group singing “Oh – Oh – Ohhhhhhh’s” with his hands up in the air making the triad sign illuminated from behind. He spoke softly and sincerely when he said, “All of you guys…..Thank you so much.”
I knew at some point this perfect night would have to end (after all, we didn’t want to be so selfish as to push Jared’s voice into a state of laryngitis), but I didn’t expect to be shocked that it had been an hour and a half since the show had begun. A testament to the age-old adage “time flies when you’re having fun.” Honestly, Mars could have played all night long and it would have seemed as though the show had just started. Jared walked out onto the stage, donning his fur coat once again, and told everybody to scream loud if they had fun. The noise level was deafening, of course. He thanked everyone for coming out and told us that they never imagined they’d be playing here. He said they were going to play something for us that no one else in the entire world had seen yet. That it wasn’t a music video; it was a piece of art. We were then introduced to the short film that was inspired by City of Angels. This was another expertly crafted documentary-type short film by Mr. Leto, which featured well-known famous people such as Kanye West, Shawn White and Lindsey Lohan, who spoke candidly about fame and Hollywood – about its attraction, its addiction, its highs and lows. It also featured not-so-well-known artists who had come to L.A. to pursue their dreams – who were fame hounds impersonating their idols – whether it was Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Superman. I think the Superman impersonator said it best when he summed up the premise of the film and the city with, “Hollywood is the land of dreams – and the land of broken dreams.”
The film faded to black and Jared walked onto the stage coughing, still wearing his fur coat – and thanked everyone. The time had finally come for the encore, Up In The Air. Before the final song of the night, Jared took a picture of him, Shannon and Tomo standing in front of their Echelon family. This was a show that will definitely go down in the books as one of their more memorable, outstanding performances – and the photo memento was the finishing touch. Jared then directed that the lights be turned up and the spotlight killed, and he asked if anyone wanted to come up on stage with them. A casting call for the craziest people, of course. After Jared had hand-picked the people to come up onstage, he directed everyone to “jump, jump, jump” after first lowering themselves to the ground, with special instructions to the crowd to “reach down and grab your neighbor by the testicles and pull them down if they are still standing.” (Brilliant!) During the performance of Up In The Air, he went out into the crowd one last time to sing personally to his Echelon. Up In The Air is a fun, dance-infused rock song featuring more modern electronic synths, which propels you to get up and move. At the close of the song and the show, Jared reminded everyone to come out and say hi at their CD signing, and he proclaimed one final time, “I love you! I’ll never forget it!”
As for 30 Seconds to Mars, what can I say that I haven’t already said? Their music is truly transcendent, and tonight’s show was no exception to their outstanding work ethic and high-energy performances. As for front man, Jared Leto…..he possesses the unique ability to balance and blend the director, actor and musician that he is into the perfect “rock star.” His tenacity is endless, his energy is boundless, and his love for his Echelon family is never ending. I am proud to be a 30 Seconds to Mars Echelon family member and believer.