30 Seconds To Mars - Cardiff International Arena
February 2010 in Cardiff and everything is miserable, cold and grey so what better cure for the quiet city blues than the injection of some Californian sunshine and Hollywood style courtesy of Street Drum Corps and 30 Seconds To Mars. Contrary to popular rumour the Drum Corps turn out not to be a majorette troupe from Hounslow but, rather bunch of tribal proto-punks who play a variety of makeshift percussion instruments and prove to be the perfect warm-up act; whipping the crowd up into a state of near hysteria when vocalist Bobby Alt leaps off stage to join the kids in the moshpit. We’ll undoubtedly hear more from them in the UK before too long.
Tonight is all about the epic majesty of 30 Seconds To Mars though and they don’t disappoint the thousands who’ve turned out to see Jared and the band in the flesh. As you might expect from an acclaimed movie star Leto is a master of theatrics and from the moment the curtain falls and the band appear in a blaze of light his magnetic charm is inescapable. Sporting a new Strummer style Mohawk he thrills the crowd with his relentless energy, throwing himself about the stage eager to commune with every last person in the audience. The majestic sweep of the performance combines the ambition of U2 with the darker elements of Depeche Mode with early highlights including the frenetic ‘Night of The Hunter’ and the dystopian nightmare vision of future single ‘This is War’ which, in a surreal turn of events, is accompanied by a hailstorm of giant bouncy balls upon the rabid crowd. The appearance of the balls appears to set off Leto’s’ playful side as he leads the crowd in a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ to a crew member before doing his rockstar duty and screaming Hello motherf***ing Wales – not to be confused with England which, of course, sends the kids into raptures and allows him to indulge his pantomime fantasies and do the whole left side/right side bit. Someone should do a scientific analysis of the results of these things, I’m putting my money on the right side being loudest.
Midway through the set the band disappears and the stage morphs into a giant pulsating mass of red fog which proves to be so mesmerising that nobody notices that Jared Leto has reappeared up in one of the boxes at the back of the arena. That is until a single spot picks him out as he serenades Cardiff with acoustic versions of ‘Echelon’ and ‘A Modern Myth’, which puncture any lingering hints of bombast. Does anyone have any requests? he foolishly enquires. JUMP! comes the inevitable response. I’m stupid but not that stupid he grins as he heads back down to ground level. It proves to be another set-up though as the band re-appear not on stage but at the mixing desk from where they perform a riotous ‘Buddha For Mary’ clad in giant Welsh flags. From then on, they just can’t lose with this crowd and the climax of the set, featuring the guys from SCD strafing the audience with giant spotlights plus a magnificent rendition of ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ is nothing less than a jubilant, triumphal parade the likes of which have rarely been seen outside of imperial Rome. They came, they saw, they conquered.
Street Drum Corps
Words and Photographs: Steve Burnett