30 Seconds To Mars graced Cape Town with their presence for the third time, this weekend. Or perhaps it was ’20 Seconds To Mars’, as third member Shannon Leto was noticeably absent – ill, explained his brother, frontman Jared Leto.
By 6pm on Sunday evening, the Echelon (read: The Serious Fans) were already queuing in droves, and those who had purchased meet and greet tickets, could be seen sprinting from GrandWest’s Good Hope Suites clutching signed posters and hyperventilating. Can’t say I blame them. What would any sane human do when faced with Jared Leto? Cry, surely.
Cape Town’s own Beatenberg were given the opportunity to open for the American rockstars, but unfortunately they did little to excite the crowd. Whilst their music is catchy and popular, their fan base and that of 30 Seconds To Mars clearly did not overlap. Although a few younger people sang along happily to ‘Chelsea Blakemore’, crowd interaction was minimal, and the band seemed slightly lost on such a major stage.
Cue dimming of the lights and loud, dramatic music – ‘O Fortuna’ from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – and a long-haired figure wearing a long white coat and crown emerges into a patch of light on the stage. Is that you, Jesus? No, it’s Jared Leto. But to those present they’re pretty much the same thing.
Opening with ‘Up In The Air’, from their latest offering, Love Lust Faith Dreams, Leto immediately electrified the crowd. Jared Leto is acutely aware of his reputation as a sex symbol. “Who wants to sleep with me tonight?” he asked the predominantly female crowd, cheekily. The answer? EVERYONE. He later took the opportunity to lift his shirt revealingly, teasing the group of girls to the right that if they kept shouting for him to take it off, they might just get more than they bargained for. But, we were here for the music, of course…
And it was music we got. 30 Seconds to Mars have an incredible way of producing extremely powerful music, and it becomes, perhaps, even more powerful when performed live. From ‘This Is War’ to ‘Kings and Queens’ (the latter written right here in Cape Town), Jared Leto’s stage presence is faultless, and it’s clear that his passion is performing live. Setlist highlights included ‘City of Angels’, the stand out track from their latest album, and a stripped-down-to-the-bones version of ‘The Kill’. All too soon it was over, in a snowstorm of white confetti and flashing lights.
A glance at Big Concerts’ Facebook page reveals nothing but disappointment with the Johannesburg show (held two nights previously). Shannon Leto was absent, Jared Leto’s voice was not up to standard, the sound at the Coca Cola Dome was shocking, and – perhaps most disturbingly – the crowd was full of people who were more interested in “drinking wine and going on Facebook” than watching the show. But the Cape Town show could not have been more different. The Grand Arena is an impeccable venue, with excellent audio, and even though it was a true rock concert, I was not left with ringing ears the next day.
As Jared Leto so sincerely told us, South Africa is truly a special place for his band. Yes, all bands engage the crowd with shouts of how happy they are to be in the ‘best country in the world’, but somehow, I believe him more. Maybe it’s because he looks a bit like Jesus.
30 Seconds To Mars performed at the Grand Arena, GrandWest on 23 November 2014.