Thirty Seconds to Mars @ Odyssey Arena, Belfast

With You Me At Six
26th November 2013
Review by by Jonathan Traynor

Belfast’s Odyssey Arena is a cavernous ice hockey stadium, which demands a big presence on stage as well as an impressive stage set; all of which Jared Leto provided in this tour closing gig.

I admit a certain amount of scepticism as to whether the actor turned singer could ‘pull it off’ in terms of being a frontman, who could so easily be pulled into complacency by the adulation of the fans – especially the female fans who outnumbered the males present by about two to one.

However, before being put to the test the gathering audience were subjected to an endless stream of 30 Seconds to Mars advertising on the giant screens – from merchandise to jewellery to VIP packages all paraded as if fans had not already parted with enough cash.

Weirdly, the giant screen then had two 30 Seconds to Mars extended music videos played, Leto as director of both under the penname Bartholomew Cubbins. Fans reacted predictably, but many observers – myself included – found this pointless as the comparison between a music video and a live performance should be worlds apart.

Openers You Me At Six offered a ‘nice enough’ vanilla rock taster. Enthusiastic and energetic they somehow sounded a little flat despite the couple of hundred devotees down the front. While musically they delivered with enough confidence perhaps it being the last date on the tour the band members were content to just run through the numbers.

That saying vocalist Josh Franceschi did a competent enough job both in trying to generate an atmosphere through the tried and tested shtick of getting everyone to hold lighters and phones in the air to ‘light this place up’.

you me at six
Stand-out tracks amidst the bland were Liquid Confidence and Underdog. Engagingly lead guitarist Chris Miller was presented a birthday cake and serenaded by the couple of thousand fans who had made their way in by that stage. More were, however, present when then stage was invaded by roadies, acrobats and we suspect a masked Jared and Shannon Leto.

With You Me At 6 off stage a giant curtain descended while road crew erected the finer elements of the 30 Seconds to Mars and the by now crowd of around 9,000 were again treated to advertising and two of the band’s music videos.

Leto, standing aloft on a lighting gantry opened as the curtain dropped with Birth and Night of the Hunter an impressive opening duo of tracks.
Stage attire saw Leto in leggings, an Axl Rose style tartan ‘skirt’ and a sleeveless Black Sabbath t-shirt; which left me wondering what sort of message the man was trying to convey, given that his every move as an actor, director and frontman seem so carefully choreographed.

That aside, what Leto did prove is that he is a charismatic jester on stage. Tried and tested the stageshow items may be (confetti cannons, giant balloons falling from the rafters) and tried and tested may be the ‘right side vs left’ side routine, but he pulled it off with relative aplomb as the set raced through a balanced set.

Do or Die, Conquistador and City of Angels stood out, with the crowd obviously familiar with each and every word. Which made it all the more mystifying why the backdrop for Search and Destroy spelled out all the lyrics…

Given the complexity of the stage set and the fine tuned choreography of the band’s performance one can always forgive short interludes, but it is mystifying why we had to watch two acrobatic performances. The acrobats were themselves vastly talented, but it almost felt like a ‘jump the shark’ moment. Iron Maiden suffered a similar moment when their star, briefly, waned and they had a magician narrating.

That aside this was a consummate example of a band on top of their proverbial game, precise musicianship and well-rehearsed routines.
Shannon Leto’s drumming was a particular highlight, delivering a real sense of drama to songs that at times veered towards conservative rock phrasing. Indeed, once or twice Jared Leto’s voice was uncannily like Bono, before he reverted into a more rocked out version of himself.

Tomo Miličević is obviously a talented guitarist and synth man, but his past statements about influences such as Zeppelin, Slayer and Deep Purple were little in evidence. Sometimes his lead work was lost in the layers of effects piled on each song to make it ‘atmospheric’.

Overall 30 Seconds to Mars are now a cohesive band. While Jared Leto remains the focus of many fans adulation, the three-piece perform with a studied grace on stage. Yes, at times it is closer to performance art than a rock show, but Leto, his brother and Miličević would no doubt argue that all concerts in their genre veer closer to that.

However, that being said, I would rather have seen them stripped down a little more, using the music to tell the tales and the performance to deliver. Perhaps that is no longer enough to shift tickets in this age driven by Youtube and social media hype.

You Me At Six – Setlist:

Little Death
Liquid Confidence
The Dilemma
Lived a Lie
Stay With Me
Bite My Tongue

30 Seconds to Mars – Setlist:
Night of the hunter
Search & destroy
Do or die
Depuis le debut
End of all days
City of angels
Pyres of Varanasi
Vox populi
Closer to the edge
Kings & queens
Bright lights
Up in the air