Thirty Seconds to Mars review – empty euphoria from Jared Leto's arena rockers

Manchester Arena
With identikit power-emo songs and vague political sentiments, the Oscar-winner’s rock band are hollow and emotionally one-note

It is apparent early on in the show that Thirty Seconds to Mars do not employ a great deal of nuance. The supercharged energy of opener Up in the Air is all constant build up and soaring chorus, constructed around a heavy chant-along melody of “whoa oh” that sets the tone for the evening.

“I want everyone in here to jump so much that you shake the very core of the building,” instructs Jared Leto as the Oscar-winning actor skips around a rectangular stage set up in the middle of the arena. With shoulder-length hair, a multicoloured poncho, a thick beard, large sunglasses, red trousers, silver shoes and sparkly gloves, he resembles the 1990s wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Jared Leto.
Jared Leto performing with his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. Photograph: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

The audience respond to Leto’s request, and bounce hard through the power-emo euphoria of tracks such as This Is War and Dangerous Night. Leto’s brother Shannon shares the stage with him on drums, while two other musicians are relegated out of sight.

The set becomes so one-note that distinguishing between tracks is difficult. The drums rapidly build, over and over again, and songs feel more like chants, from the U2-style City of Angels to the U2-style Kings and Queens. This stream of empty euphoria is most apparent when the band cover Rihanna’s Stay, the first – and almost only – song of the evening to vary in pace, tone, depth and emotion.

Leto brings fan after fan on stage, picking out those who respond to his request for who is craziest. He then singles out a person in the arena for using his phone as thousands boo the offender. There’s a marriage proposal and someone else is brought up on stage to send a tweet from Leto’s personal account. Projected on the screen it reads: “Hey @theresa_may please call an election or resign (FUCK YOU), love Manchester” as chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” take over sections of the crowd. Leto talks about how he’ll never forget this night in his life and how he loves Manchester because: “This city has balls, it’s a special place; a city of dreamers.” A St George’s flag appears for him to wave.

For the encore, the band play 2017 single Walk on Water, a nebulously political song that Leto has called a “call to arms” but remains non-committal in its political vagueness and lyrics about changing times. It is so half asleep in its sentiment and delivery, it can hardly count as his woke moment. “I think we only have time for one more song. It’s total fucking bullshit, man,” Leto says at 9.40pm. (A venue rep informs me its curfews are always 11pm.) It’s a final empty sentiment from Leto in an evening as full of them as it is hollow music.

Shannon Leto (left) and Jared Leto pose with a fan.
Shannon Leto (left) and Jared Leto pose with a fan. Photograph: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

Leto works the crowd like a pro, and the constant zero-to-hundred surge of the songs seems to resonate with an audience that scream themselves hoarse in response. But, as the confetti rains down during Closer to the Edge, it’s a welcome release from being trapped inside one long “whoa oh” for the better part of two hours.


Daniel Dylan Wray

The GuardianTramp

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