Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 23 Mar
Never ones to shy away from theatricalism, Thirty Seconds To Mars perform in the centre of the arena. Not content with calmly fading, the lighting sways in and out tantalizing eager fans. Gigantic metal panels, initially concealing the stage, lift and rotate revealing a screen for displaying a sky of surreal images and dazzling colours above the heads of the audience and performers. The opening notes of Up In The Air sound, Jared Leto commands attention with a scream of “Cardiff!” and an ensuing chorus of voices sing every word.
Before the performance, a huge screen displays the release date of America, simply known as ‘the new album’ until the day the Cardiff show when its details were revealed. There are some new songs tonight, including the wonderfully melodic Dangerous Night and the currently exclusively live Rider, but no shortage of classics in the setlist either.
The Kill serves as a powerful call back to their days as an emo/post-hardcore outfit. Night Of The Hunter rekindles the sound of the band at their peak proving a strong dramatic moment. Even City Of Angels serves as a blissful reminder of their later ventures into the genres of pop and alternative. While the absence of certain favourites from their back catalogue – From Yesterday, Conquistador – proves somewhat disappointing, the callback to different stages of their career excitingly demonstrates the band’s diversity.
Every effort is made to heighten the excitement in the room. Kings And Queens sees the audience led to singing in the unison for the entire song, surpassing the sense of inspiration created on record. For Search And Destroy, huge balloons of multiple colours bounce into and around the crowd, bringing to life the energy of the music itself. Leto proudly waves a Wales flag around the stage during Walk On Water, declaring, ‘’This is one of the smallest venues we’re playing on this tour but it feels like the biggest!” Come set concluder Closer To The Edge, our frontman even invites fans up onstage – an astounding experience for those picked, a warming spectacle for everybody else. Some forms of audience interaction are more spontaneous, Leto pausing This Is War to stop a ruckus in the audience and call for unity and mutual respect.
‘’I might have to move to Cardiff for a few months. You guys wouldn’t mind that, right?’’ Leto quips at one point. Considering the rightfully wild reception to his band tonight, it feels like we would welcome Thirty Seconds To Mars back anytime.
words ALEX SWIFT photos NATHAN ROACH