This past weekend saw 30 Seconds To Mars take to South African stages for the third time. Now I know some of you are of the opinion that it serves me right and I should have known better. Then there are those, who, after every concert surface with the opinion that they’ve just attended the most amazing showcase they’ve ever witnessed. Note: these are the people that will say that exact same thing after Foo Fighters play Cape Town Stadium next month and basically after any international act graces our shores – these people need to calm down, because it’s pretty obvious that SA has made it onto the international tour map and attending a concert is no longer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Then, on the complete opposite end of that clearly segregated spectrum, are the 30STM groupies, so devoted to their cause that they’ve given themselves a name “The Echelon”…. cute.
None-the-less, there I stood, in the Golden Circle, an Echelon breeding ground so rife that even guys were screaming, “marry me” as Jared Leto took to the stage with Tomo Milicevic and not Shanon Leto in tow (the real Shannon Leto never made it to SA as he was ill). “Up in the Air” – the first single off their latest album boomed through the arena. His vocals were impressively consistent despite jumping up and down and running from side to side. He has a good voice. A great voice actually. Two or three tracks in, one thing is obvious, these songs are written to entertain arenas such as this – and so they would have done had he kept singing. He talked to the crowd between each song, often yelling, “STOP!” in the middle of a song to instruct the audience to jump up and down, to mount each others shoulders or to squeeze closer to the stage. Which suited me somewhat because I got a better view when the crowd moved forward. Imagine my surprise when Jesus Christ Superstar kept popping up on the stage! Long hair to the middle of his back, a strategically styled beard, golden tiara for a crown, white robes and something that depicted a loincloth (which he mockingly lifted from time to time) – the only thing missing was two holes in the palm of his hands. The cult-leader: “Jared Jesus Leto” – a misnomer so blatant that if you had any doubt, he wasted no time removing it with inappropriate sexual references and self-glorification.
Jared Leto is probably the only man to transform himself more times than Madonna whilst considering himself more God than Bono. That aside, he actually treated the crowd to some 30STM tracks between all the jibber-jabber. The highlight track from the latest album being the show opener, while the U2-esque “City of Angels” may sound like a big track, but really it lacks substance. He passed the true test on vocal delivery with acoustic renditions of “Alibi”, “The Kill” and “This is War”. I was surprised that he opted to play two of the band’s biggest tracks on acoustic guitar – then I remembered that this was Jared’s show – he could do whatever he wanted and the crowd would still eat out of his hand. He further engaged fans by telling them how much he loves Cape Town, “his home away from home”. So much so that he stopped “Kings and Queens” 5 seconds in to advise that the track was actually written right here in the Mother City. Fans swooned. The encore of “Closer to the Edge” saw him selecting a number of fans from all over the arena to join him on stage, to dance, or jump or whatever.
Thing is, Jared Leto works hard to engage his audience – sometimes too hard to the point that it becomes confusing. People paid to see the band perform, not the Oscar winning actor. He could have let the music do the pleasing. It’s one thing when an arena of fans jump up and down because that’s the way the music takes them – but it says a whole lot when the front man continuously stops mid-track to demand it.
Overall, I’d rate this concert a 5/10. JL needs to put some of that self-glorification on the shelf next to his Jesus complex and hopefully retry this all again sometime in the distant future! I was a huge fan of the their first three albums, I came hoping to see a band I once admired, I left certain that I no longer do! In a nutshell, he talked too much, sang too little and exposed one too many delusions of grandeur.
Images by Warren Talmarkes. Go here to view more of his awesome work!