30 Seconds To Mars

Duncan Bradley 04/02/2008

Not only are 30 Seconds To Mars from America, they are from Hollywood. Not only are 30 Seconds To Mars from Hollywood, they are actors and as much as I do hate to be stereotypical and to pigeonhole artists using what little information I do have about them to make certain judgements, it happens.

Pre-show, I have visions of the Jared Leto that was killed by the infamous Patrick Bateman coming on stage to show off his new business card. I am afraid of a heroin addict fronting the band, sharing with the audience the grounding of his deepest psychological battles. Silly, I know. But I wasn't far wrong.

The band have not even set foot on stage and already we are being overloaded with synthetic loops and melodramatic pyrotechnics. The band's first song turns out to be a lighting show. I strongly disagree with the ethics that surround a show reliant on lighting and innumerable other technologies rather than the music itself but several songs into the set it becomes clear that behind these distractions is undeniable musical talent.

Most prominent are the drums of Shannon Leto. Southampton Guildhall is victim to some of the most unfortunate acoustic reflections in the land but from beginning to end, Shannon's powerful and persistent rhythm holds together various wandering strands of guitar and bass that might otherwise have met somewhere at the back of the hall to find that they do not know one another.

Jared Leto's voice is similarly spectacular and his ability to use his voice as an instrument rather than simply to offer narrative has clearly had a huge impact on the band's song writing. The group's larger than life choruses are in their element when set in front of several hundred very vocal teenagers. The dynamic structure of these songs is perfectly suited to a live show and is complimented excruciatingly well by the band's theatrics.

Recent singles "The Kill" and "From Yesterday" are received well not only by the die-hard sweethearts of Jared Leto's at the front, but also by the parents of these sweethearts who are stood conservatively at the venue's bar - arms folded into one another, waiting to chauffer their kids home. It might be a little unfair to suggest that this has something to do with the 'SOLDOUT' stickers that cover the promotional posters outside the venue, but one does wonder.

Ultimately, 30 Seconds To Mars put on a very impressive show - a display of ability and talent. But with so much of the show dependant on lighting, backing tracks and general electronic synthesis, it is difficult to measure the extent to which the show could be stripped down and if it were to be stripped down how much of this ability and talent would remain quite so apparent. Devoid of such a budget, I've no doubt that 30 Seconds To Mars would be a very different band playing to a very different audience.