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Thirty Seconds to Mars + You Me At Six @ The NIA, Birmingham, 15th November 2013

Lots of events going on in Birmingham tonight it nearly being Christmas, the festive market and big wheel have opened. So we fight our way through to make it to the NIA Arena. It sure has taken more than 30 seconds to find our way into the NIA (it’s in the process of refurb*) but tonight’s headliners offer us far more distant shores will be achieved far quicker. Tonight we’re invited to the church of Leto and his mates in Thirty Seconds to Mars plus the new upstarts for support You Me at Six.

Surrey boys You Me at Six are rocking the place out as we arrive and are going down well. Formed in 2004, albums ‘Take Off Your Colours’, ‘Hold Me Down’ and ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ brought them to the masses including winning the 2011 Kerrang! Award for Best British Band. New album nearly here, Cavalier Youth, due date 27 January 2014, you can pre-order via their website. Last track of their set ‘Underdog’ goes down well with the kids – they sing along, jump, scream and mosh. You Me at Six deliver well on an arena stage, well at home – no doubt they will be back early next year.

Set completed a huge curtain comes down on across the front of the stage, with the main band logo – the kids scream with excitement of what is to come as New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ blasts out through the speakers….

Thirty Seconds to Mars (or 30 if your prefer) started off ’98 when established actor Jared Leto went back to his musical roots with brother Shannon, joined by guitarist Tomo Miličević in ‘03. Starting off performing under different names, jamming in small venues, they eventually recorded their first self-titled album in 2001, to critical acclaim but slow burning success. Second album ‘A Beautiful Lie’ hit the big time and subsequent albums has led to them selling over 10 million albums worldwide (as of 2013), over 300 million hits on YouTube, arena tours and festival headlining. This tour be the ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams Tour.’

As we wait, two men in suits with gas masks appear at the front of the stage and shine torches on the crowd. Then the houselights drop, as does the curtain onto the front of the crowd and 60 foot up, on a lowering stage is Leto, dressed in Viking-like face mask, fur sleeveless overcoat and a kilt, while the band play literally underneath him. First track is ‘Birth’ joined by Taiko drummers on stage as it powers out. The audience goes absolutely crazy.

The set is energetic, almost frenetic, Leto is now on the main stage, stripped of the mask and coat, running around – getting the crowd to ‘… jump… jump… jump….’ The set impressive, light-show crazy. Now we’re into ‘Search and Destroy’ lyrics enlarges on the huge screens at the back of the stage. Leto insists, this is the best audience of the tour, and gets everyone to crouch down. The audience do, then after 1… 2… 3…  they’re jumping up in tandem and going crazy.

‘This is War’ the crowd chants back and the arena is engulfed in huge balloons;  ‘Conquistador’ gives us confetti in bucket loads. 30STM are giving us a full-on show; they’re engaging, energetic and enjoyable. And then, with health and safety firmly chucked out the window, Leto gets the crowd to sit on their friend’s shoulders… and then jump! I’ve never seen so many people do this at a gig and not get shouted out by security.

Then a ‘slight’ break from the frenetic energy it’s a man in a cyr wheel, a large metal hool-a-hoop, he balances within it, spinning and doing tricks. The crowd cheer as we get a bit of Cirque Du Soleil in the middle of a gig. Next up 30STM epic – ‘End of Days…’ Leto sings from the platform, which extends from the front of the stage into the crowd; we are indeed in the church of Leto. As the high def screens show video, Leto encourages the crowd to get their phones out; a thousand lit phones and a handful of lighters, light up the arena like a glow worm cave. We’re making noise, we’re jumping and we’re clapping…

And as we catch our breath we get another Cirque experience; two guys on a seesaw that flips them high into the air and as they summersault the crowd cheer.

Then back to the church of Leto, just him under a spotlight with guitar, wearing a Joy Division T, he’s chatty and engaging, he knows just how to connect with his fans. He asks if this is people’s first time seeing 30STM – “Where you been? Welcome to the family…” And now he has long Christ-like locks, he asks the crowd if he should cut his hair? The response be no.  Then he gets two kids on stage, a zebra and a gator (dressed in onesies – we do indeed have a crocodile and a zebra). ‘Gatorboy’ is from Wolverhampton (partisan Brum crowd cheekily boos) “F*** you..” quips Leto. Stacey, the Zebra, is from Wales – gets the same response from the crowd. After a “…picture for Instagram…” they perch at the front of the stage at Leto’s feet, as he asks the audience what they would like him to play… song titles rain down on him. We get snippets of ‘From Yesterday’, “…for those who have had difficulties in their lives…” ‘Alibi’, ‘Hurricane’ for which he castigates the audience for singing the wrongs words “… you’re young, I’m old…” (surprising Leto is 41), ‘Up In the Air’ and a mash-up of ‘The Kill (Bury Me)’ for which the we wave our hands in the air from side to side. “You guys are the most amazing audience ever…” Leto is loving this; this acoustic set goes on for nearly 25 minutes, maybe not the best vocally, but hey we’re engaged and loving it too.

Then we’re into the finale: ‘Closer to the Edge’, an epic of epic proportions. The words are again across the screens and we get blasted with a huge amount of confetti, which once again, fills the arena.

‘Kings and Queens’ has U2 overtones for a new generation, then an encouragement to support 30STM to do something special. They’re filming. “Introduce the world to Birmingham…” – Leto speaks to the camera with the lights lowered as if he’s playing to “…a couple of hundred people…” and then the crowd scream the words “Birmingham” as the lights go up. Then we’re into ‘The Race’-  “it’s brand new… go f***king nuts…”

Leto is having a blast, the show was due to end at 10.15 and we’re well past that. “Incredible beginning to our UK tour… having so much fun I don’t want to leave…. shall we come back here tomorrow for a giant free show for everyone?”

Another song then ‘Up in the Air.’ Leto spends at least 10 minutes selecting kids from the audience to come on stage with him. “Craziest people come on stage…. guy with the tank top…you… you…you… you in the onesie…you… you… you in pink…you… you put your boobs away….” he’s running around selecting, and as they clamber over the barrier the stage fills with nearly 100 fans… He runs the stage for the finale song and once again we are encouraged to  “…stoop down low and jump….jump…jump…jump…”

And after nearly 2 hours of craziness it’s over.

I have to admit 30STM are a band that didn’t really cross my radar and this is the first time I’ve seen them. Jared Leto has the looks and it is indeed the church of the Mars with his messiah-like appeal. 30STM tonight, were just cracking good fun, putting on a fantastic show. You couldn’t say Leto’s acoustic set was the best ever given but that didn’t matter – he is fun and engaging – he held the crowd in the palm of his hands and then some and everyone came out smiling. 30STM do what Bon Jovi did twenty-odd years ago, just more modern for today’s world. You got a great set, a great light show, a great delivery. They will make you smile  and everyone had a blast. While 30STM may not be your scene, and you may think them overblown if you’ve seen their videos – live, you couldn’t ask for a better night out for £30 (30STM actively try and keep ticket process as low as possible). Catch them on the tour if you can and be prepared to be taken way up in the air…

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*NIA Arena is starting its refurb! So if you haven’t been there recently – be warned – everything has moved! You want the box office – it’s now in portacabins at the rear of the venue – be prepare to walk around, or along the canal to find it and ask directions….!

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Setlist

Birth
Night of the Hunter
Search and Destroy
This is War
Conquistador
Do or Die
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Depuis Le Debut [Cyr Wheel]
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End of All Days
The Race
City of Angels
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Pyres of Varanasi [Acrobats]
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Acoustic set
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Closer to the Edge
Kings and Queens
Up in the Air
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Listening:
You Me At Six
Take Off Your Colours [2008
Hold Me Down [2010]
Sinners Never Sleep [2011]

Thirty Seconds to Mars
30 Seconds to Mars [2002]
A Beautiful Lie [2005]
This is War [2009]
Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams [2013]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Bianca Barrett.