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30 Seconds to Mars: Concert Review.

Being a devoted member of the Echelon means a plethora of things to an assortment of people. There is no tried and true definition, only what you want it to be. To me it simply means to let the music move you and inspire you in a way that propels you to follow your dreams. It’s only for those who understand and those who don’t are truly missing out.

For those who do not know, The Echelon is the fan base for contemporary Alternative Rock-Pop band Thirty Seconds to Mars (MARS). It’s likely you know them for their charming guy-liner emo phase that swept through the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. Their smash hit The Kill rocketed them into stardom and The Echelon started as the tight knit group of fans that were there through the band’s first album, before striking it big.

There’s your history lesson. These days MARS is traveling the world in support of their fourth album, “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” (LLF+D), released this past May. Their first string of North American tour dates included two dates in the Midwest for Columbus, Ohio and Sterling Heights, Michigan, both of which I attended. The venue in Sterling Heights wasn’t quite to capacity, but the crowd that attended came ready to rock. The amphitheater and the cool sixty degree weather became a near perfect couple by nights end. New Politics, Biffy Clyro, and Billy Talent all successfully energized the crowd and readied them for the emphatic show MARS would put on.

To start the show a backtrack played over the PA system of the opening track from “LLF+D”, Birth. The deep drum rhythm excited the crowd and the roaring started as each member made their way onto the stage one by one. First, Guitarist and Pianist, Tomo Milicevic; next came one half of the Leto brothers, Shannon, making his way onto the riser and seating himself at his kit. The spotlights in the middle of the stage shined brightly and from behind them walked out Jared. The way his face seemed so made of stone, frozen; paired with the hood of his black sweater and black sunglasses, reminded me of a villainous twin of Altair from the “Assassins Creed” video game series. As the intro quieted, there was silence on the stage, but shrill screams of female fans filled the air as they waited for more.

“Jump, jump, jump!” Were the next words to leave Jared’s mouth as Shannon played in the second track from their junior effort, “This is War”. The crowd obeyed and left their feet every time the chorus rolled through the six minute song. Jared’s vocal prowess, when healthy, is perhaps one of the strongest in the genre, if not all of music. It was easily notable that the trio of members played, sounded, and gave off the vibe of a happy group of guys, something that wasn’t always evident when touring through two straight years of “This is War”. Shannon added drum fills to songs that didn’t previously exist and really enhanced the intensity and feeling of the song. The creative spunk of a live show was present, which is something I’m always fond of because hearing a carbon copy of the album version isn’t what I go to concerts for.

The bands third song was one of their more anthem like tracks, and the title track off their third album, This is War. This was the first song of the show in which Jared pulled out and played the guitar himself. With the crowd singing along word for word, Jared had the crowd calm and composed as the bridge came through the song. With the hush of the crowd being just loud enough to hear from the back of the stadium, the voices grew louder into a buzz as they chanted “fight, fight, fight,” relentlessly. As they yelled the single word one last time, the synthesizer was the one instrument going for a brief moment as Jared vocalized, “sing it loud!” As he pointed the microphone to the crowd and the last chorus triumphantly blasted through the arena, giant balloons of an assortment of colors began flying overhead of the crowd. The wind pushed all of the balloons out of the theater within a few moments time, but that was enough time to convey the breath taking strength of the moment in that song.

The stage show was something that the band obviously wanted to improve from the last round of touring. There was no “set” as you would typically see on a huge pop tour, such as Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, just the band’s most prominent logo, The Triad. The large glass cutout of the band’s logo was prominently white but changed colors to fit the theme and mood of the song being played (for example, red for the triumphant anthem “This is War”). The light show was vastly improved with an array of light boxes and LED screens that flashed in rhythm to a lot of the songs.

The show slowed down when Jared pulled out the acoustic guitar and both Shannon and Tomo left the stage. “Anybody have any requests? I’ll play anything you want.” I yelled Freebird, to no avail. Of course, with every person in the arena shouting random song titles of large variations, there was no real way Jared was picking from the songs being barbarically shouted at him from the crowd. Instead, he played some of his trusty favorites. He fiddled around before playing a large part of “Hurricane”. Again asking for requests, he played a familiar riff on the guitar and told the crowd he’d need “their help on this next one” (which I fully believed after he forgot a line to a more recent song of his, “End of All Days”) before reciting the chorus of “From Yesterday”. The crowd clamored along as he played through the first two choruses of the song. He went on to play what I still believe is their biggest hit, “The Kill”, entirely acoustic. As a fan of heavy music, this disappointed me because I enjoy the song for what it used to be, and it seems like they’re close to phasing it out of their live show entirely.

Shannon and Tomo would rejoin Jared on stage to play the final three songs of the night; Closer to the Edge, Kings and Queens, and Up in the Air. Closer to the Edge is what I would say is the band’s second biggest hit and the crowd never seems to disappoint with their participation. People gather on the shoulders of others and sing along, crowd surfers fly over head of those watching innocently, and if you look closely enough you can find the person with tears in their eyes because that is just how important the song (and the band) is to them. The part that even got me a little bit emotional was the beginning of the last chorus, when confetti shot out of machines and into the air, raining over head the crowd. Some were just white pieces of paper, others had little fortunes written on them such as “we love you.” Having never been a big fan of Kings and Queens and it no longer being the song fans join the band on stage for, I’ll skip to the finale.

Knowing that I was there to cover the show for publication, I wanted to immerse myself completely into being a fan (which I am, but I felt more of a need to do so). That being said, when Jared called out for people to join him on stage for Up in the Air I was already backstage thanks to a little help from one of Jared’s kindly assistants and I was able to stand at the front of the stage next to the part time actor, full time musician and ungodly specimen of human being, Jared Leto. Releasing all frustrations and problems while you’re on stage, dancing to the most progressive tune on “LLF+D” is the greatest way to forget about life’s problems for close to six minutes (though not always the cheapest way). As one last hoorah to/for the crowd, the song slowed down over the course of the bridge and Jared asked everyone to crouch down as long as they could, even doing so himself. Counting back into the song, on the count of four, every person in the theater jumped as high as they could back onto their feet and continued jumping to the end of the song. Any form of release is acceptable as “dancing” to the song, including flailing arms, wild spins, and tossing of your head in every direction.

Long after the show ended and the band walked off stage, those who attended would be talking about the show MARS put on for them. There is not a single thing that makes this show great, as it is a mixture of every single detail put into the show that makes it phenomenal. From Jared’s strong vocal ability, to Shannon’s improvisation on drum patterns, to Tomo losing complete control of his body during the most powerful moments of songs. MARS is not a band you want to miss if they come to your city, state… or frankly even country.

Again, it’s only for those who understand.