Thirty Seconds To Mars

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author LL date 21/04/18 venue TAP1, Copenhagen, DEN

Only once in my life have I been at a show in the old TAP1 venue and thus it only occurs to me late on this very day that I'm finding my way out to a not very convenient spot at Amager tonight instead of the more centrally placed Carlsberg-byen where it was previously located. This new TAP1 instantly turns out to be not one bit better at hosting shows, though, with a long room filled with columns that block the view to the incredibly low stage so that nobody in the room can see anything apart from the first ten rows or so. From what I hear, the band has a beautiful setup with a 360-degree stage and rotating screens set up for this tour but for smaller stops which Denmark definitely is, they are back to just a stage with a catwalk connected to it for Jared Leto to jump back and forth on. The miserable conditions are remedied slightly by two big screens to either side of the stage but a lot of the time, they revert to showing just a still of the band's logo and when the lighting seems to focus more on the crowd than the band during longer passages of time, the filming of a Leto silhouette just isn't very helpful. The main point here, then, is that the venue itself becomes a major obstacle to a successful show.

All pictures by Stefan Frank Thor Straten

Thirty Seconds To Mars

Even before any band members show up on stage, a droney soundscape builds up the tension, getting us psyched and resulting in the audience actively clapping the band on stage. The dramatic and bombastic instrumental track "Monolith" then kicks off the set as drummer Shannon Leto enters solo at first. It's obvious that a great amount of premediated planning goes into this band's shows as about 10 flags immediately shoot up more or less evenly spaced out among the front part of the audience when front man Jared Leto joins his brother on stage to excited cheers. Dressed in golden sneakers, glittery gloves (wannabe Michael Jackson move?) and a big colourful poncho-like thing and, of course, sunglasses, he comes off as somewhat arrogant and definitely theatrical. During the first song "Up in the Air" he manages to command us to both clap along and "jump, jump, jump!", as well as using the old get low and jump up again trick. It sets the tone of the evening as more of a party session than a concert, much in line with my image of the band to be honest. Especially with the release of their most recent record "AMERICA", the music has become blatant electronic pop and since the trio's guitarist isn't with them on this tour due to personal reasons, even the more decidedly guitar-heavy songs don't come across as such.

If I'm not mistaken, most of the older songs seem to have gotten a layer of extra danceable bass to them as well and with a constant focus on gimmicks like confetti guns, balloons, and extensive time spent getting fans on stage at various points, the focus of the evening is definitely set. All the partying doesn't mean that the show can't be good, of course, even as the venue has at the same time turned out to be utterly hopeless. From the very start, though, the singing Leto is constantly behind on the beat to a disastrous degree and as if that wasn't enough, his focus on getting the crowd riled up also means that he holds out the microphone for us to sing along instead of letting us hear his own voice just a little too often. The way their songs are written, of course, there is already a lot of crowd singing as real enough parts of the tunes but it would be way cooler if he would sing with us instead of having us replace him. On top of this, when he does sing, it's like he just doesn't care about really impressing with the very best he can do and the result is bland and disappointing, to say the least. However, I guess it's understandable, as there is no obvious need for him to perform differently: the crowd is loving it anyway.

Luckily, the beat problem improves during the set, and he does manage a few more impressive sections, notably for the last part of "Kings and Queens" as well as the choruses of crowd favorite "This Is War". When he finally loses the sunglasses after six songs and an acapella ending of "Dangerous Night", he becomes a bit more approachable and it marks a slow turning point for the quality of the show as well. First, however, we are dragged through too many minutes of crowd interaction that includes getting certain fans on stage, getting a left side/right side competition going among the rest of us and a lot of talking about the qualities of Danish things. With the appearance of the oldest song tonight, "The Kill (Bury Me)", Leto's vocal performance fittingly gets a little edgier and he ends it in a longer scream before whipping out a pretty boring cover of the Rihanna ballad "Stay" that does however still have the quality of giving him space for the first time tonight so that the finer parts of his singing can actually unfold. The downplayed eerie and cold song "Hurricane" then makes the best impression of the set so far and provides a good break in the stadium-sounding songs.

But it's the new single "Rescue Me" with its catchy guitar riff that finally lifts the show completely, tonight fittingly dedicated to the troubled Swedish producer and DJ Avicii who has been announced dead just the day before, with lyrics like "Rescue me from the demons in my mind" really resonating in the venue tonight. For this track, the party seems magical as it manages to encompass the whole crowd and not just the front rows, and Leto's belting manages to have some great nuances in it. This could have been topped by one of my personal favorites "Night of the Hunter" but while the tight instrumental side of it makes it obvious just how simplistic their newer music is, Leto again doesn't lift the track with the desperation that shines through in his performance on the album, except for the bridge where he totally nails it, honestly just making it even more frustrating that he doesn't the rest of the time. The final encore of the rumbling "Walk on Water" and the euphoric "Closer to the Edge" with fans crowding the stage for a final bolt of party energy sound even more massive and louder than what has gone before. Even as they finish strong, it's not enough at all to lift the show as a whole even though the last third or so does save the evening from disaster.

5

Setlist:

  • 1. Monolith
  • 2. Up in the Air
  • 3. Kings and Queens
  • 4. Search and Destroy
  • 5. This Is War
  • 6. Dangerous Night
  • 7. Do or Die
  • 8. Pyres of Varanasi
  • 9. The Kill (Bury Me)
  • 10. Stay (Rihanna cover)
  • 11. Hurricane
  • 12. City of Angels
  • 13. Rescue Me
  • 14. Night of the Hunter
  • 15. Rider

- Encore

  • 16. Walk on Water
  • 17. Closer to the Edge

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