30 Seconds To Mars 12/7 NYC Hammerstein Ballroom Review

By Michel Dussack

In October, 30 Seconds To Mars announced that they would celebrate their 300th and final show in support of their critically acclaimed third studio album This Is War with a special Tribus Centum Numerarae concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Dec. 7th. This Is War was released in December, 2009 and has sold over 1.5 million albums and 1 million singles around the world. The album is certified platinum in three countries including the UK, Germany and Poland and has achieved gold status in seven countries including Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They have been on the road non-stop since the album’s release and have circled the globe multiple times over the past two years. That show sold out out in minutes and eventually the band added a show for the night before. The second show (dubbed Mars 300) set a new Guinness World Record for the most shows played during a single album cycle.

Before we delve into details about the Mars 300 show, I’ve got a bit of a confession to make – I went to the gig as a fan of two songs, and was fully expecting to not enjoy the show, particularly after hearing negative remarks about previous shows from some friends. I’m pleased to say, however, that 30 Seconds To Mars impressed me throughout the course of this truly special night.

Throughout the course of their 1 hour 40 minute set (which was extended to two hours due to injury), the band played the majority of This Is War while peppering in hits from A Beautiful Lie and deep cuts from their debut self titled album. When you’ve got a fan base as dedicated as “the echelon” (mant of whom were from faraway states and probably out of the country) though, it doesn’t really matter what you play, odds are, the crowd will know every single word to every single song of the night.

Aside from the record setting fact, the biggest part of night for many fans was actually the intimacy of the show – indeed, the 4,000 capacity Hammerstein Ballroom seemed cozy compared to the arenas that the band is now frequenting. Usually intimacy means a sacrifice in production value, however 30 Seconds To Mars brought their entire gigantic setup with them – from the massive array of lights, two video screens, a light up triangle, and of course, a ton of confetti and balloons. Jared Leto, love him or hate him, proved that he can command a crowd of any size, and that he has developed into a truly masterful front man, though he can come off as disingenuous at times.

After the first 8 songs, which included the flawlessly performed “Night of the Hunter”, the lights went off and many fans towards the back of the crowd started to get very excited. A few seconds later, and Jared Leto took to an acoustic guitar and microphone on a platform in near the soundboard. He asked the crowd what they wanted to hear and someone yelled out Kings and Queens. Despite clearly not wanting to play the bands signature closing song so early on, Leto compromised by playing the chorus and moving onto a song of his choosing, Alibi. A few songs later, Leto joking asked if we knew the next song before launching into an acoustic version of The Kill, arguably the bands biggest hit. Midway through the song, feedback resonated from the stage and it was clear that the song would be finished by the whole band, and Leto climbed through the crowd to get back to the stage. Closer to the Edge followed and closed the show, though it was clear the crowd expected a lot more from the band in their encore.

When they finally returned, Leto remarked that they would play some old ones for us, but then said this next one wasn’t that old and asked us to bear with him as he played The Story. The next part of the show was clearly for the hardcore and old school fans in the crowd, as the band played 2 1/2 songs from their debut album – Buddha For Mary, Capricorn, and then the beginning and chorus of Oblivion. While the newer fans seemed confused as to what was going on, the band was clearly enjoying themselves, only stopping Oblivion when Jared joked that his brother Shannon probably didn’t even remember how to play the drum parts anymore.

Jared then invited up a representative from Guinness World Records to present them with their award for most shows on an album cycle and delivered a fairly lengthy, though heartfelt speech. He thanked every single person at the show, and those watching on the live stream, for turning dreams into reality and told everyone not to give up on their dreams. After a quick appearance from Bam Margera, numerous fans were selected to come on stage with the band as they closed the show with mega-hit Kings and Queens. It seemed like the perfect ending to a show, until Jared stopped everything when he noticed a fan was hurt in the pit. The show stopped for a full 20 minutes, with the band refusing to continue playing until the fan got adequate medical attention, something that really opened my eyes about Jared’s personality. When the show resumed, the band picked up where they left and finished playing, and not a single fan went away unhappy. Indeed for every fan there, this show was special, especially considering no one really knows what the future holds for 30 Seconds To Mars. Let’s just hope it includes making more music and, especially, more touring.

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