It's rare when you attend a rock or pop concert in the 21st century where the band or singer is simply standing on stage singing. It has to be a spectacle. Lights, costumes and multimedia screens projecting images. On Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl, 30 Seconds To Mars was able to fuse both a visually stimulating show and the simple act of singing a song with an acoustic guitar.
With a seat capacity of over 17,000 – the amphitheater was close to being filled with an eclectic crowd: from a twenty-something guy with a pink mohawk and tattoos to the middle aged mom. The opening band seemed to set the theme for the night: Say whatever you want. Panic At The Disco!'s lead singer Brendon Urie stood at his keyboard criticizing his "stupid ass glasses" and welcoming the audience to "f%^k my brain." After a short set he ended with a sing along to the band's biggest hit, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies."
It is very clear who the star of 30 Seconds To Mars is: Jared Leto. After all, he was Jordan Catalano on "My So Called Life" and the ultimate 90's heartthrob. Give him a guitar and a leather jacket and the ladies swoon for the entire 1 hour and 45 minute set. Throughout the entire night, Shannon Leto (drums, percussion) and Tomo Milicevic (lead guitar, bass, strings, keyboards) were barely seen, playing on the sides of the stage. As their act began, the lights shone bright and the stage was filled with rows of percussionists donning black masks. The stage cleared and there stood Jared Leto with his long hair and 90's get-up; shirt wrapped around his waist, sleeveless shirt, leather jacket, black jeans and sneakers. A large screen flashed primary colors beaming out into the audience. As Leto sung such hits as "Birth," "City of Angels," "Conquistador" and "Up In The Air," enormous bouncy balls in blue, red and green were being tossed around the entire theater. At one point, a large Snoopy balloon head floated above the audience.
Leto is a positive individual, one who connects with his fans. He brought two audience members up on stage to introduce a song and even took a break to take iPhone photos with another adoring fan. In between songs, he spewed messages such as, "I believe in you California and you believe in me" and "Let's remember what's possible, not what's impossible." If 30 Seconds To Mars were to tweak their show in anyway, my advice is to ixnay the circus attempted acts. Two men jumping and flipping on a see-saw and someone twirling inside a human sized hoolahoop looked more like a practice session than a professional performance.
What we really wanted to see, we got. Halfway through the set, Leto showed up in the middle of the amphitheater with his acoustic guitar. Although he insisted the audience forgive him for having a cold, he beautifully serenaded the crowd with softer versions of "End of All Days," "Hurricane," "The Kill/Bury Me" and a (perhaps better than the original) cover of Rihanna's "Stay."
30 Seconds To Mars have come a long way since they formed in 1998. It was clear at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night that they have reached a high note of success. As Leto said and sang, "Thank you — All we need is faith."
By Pamela Price