If there is one thing I have learned from seeing Thirty Seconds to Mars live, it’s that every show is an adrenalin-filled endurance test. I’ve seen frontman Jared Leto stop the show mid-song to call out duds in the audience and make sure everyone is on their feet. Mars is not a band to watch from the comfort of a theater seat; it’s an experience felt and shared by all. This was no different. The din of cheers was deafening when Mars took the stage at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden NJ this past Friday, August 15, 2014, Frontman Jared Leto sprinted through pulsating spotlights with a rousing battle cry that had fans springing up to the electronic sounds of “Up In The Air,” the first single off their latest album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams.
Playing a well-balanced mixture of new songs and older material, Mars continued its heart-pumping performance with “Night of the Hunter” and “This Is War”, at which point dozens of giant multi-colored balls sank onto the crowd during the song’s energetic solo. Anyone who has ever experienced a Mars show knows this is common – balls, balloons, confetti – all used as a means to get an exhilarating reaction out of the audience. Something they do successfully. Consisting of drummer Shannon Leto and guitarist Tomo Milicevic, Thirty Seconds to Mars is a band that cherishes its fans, lovingly called the Echelon, and no live performance is devoid of intimate interaction with its audience. Regardless of the size of the venue, and regardless of the mixed attendance already in place eagerly awaiting Linkin Park, Leto’s compelling presence grabs the crowd and doesn’t let go. Not for once second. Consistently running across the stage and into the audience, Leto led the Echelon through a number of awe-inspiring sing-alongs with electrifying rock anthems like “Conquistador” and their brand new single, “Do or Die.”
The atmosphere at the Susquehanna blazed under a shower of shimmery confetti and the excitement was palpable. But after six loud pounding songs, Thirty Seconds to Mars brought it down a notch with their Los Angeles-dedicated melody, “City of Angels” followed by a haunting performance of “End of All Days.” Under the cover of dimmed lights Jared Leto climbed the steps of the Susquehanna to stand among the crowd for a short acoustic set, taking requests and interacting with his fans up close before breaking into “The Kill,” which has been a concert staple throughout their last several tours.
Thirty Seconds to Mars has an incredible tradition hailing back to their lengthy worldwide run for This Is War (a feat that earned them a Guinness World Record for most shows played on a single tour.) While Tomo Milicevic and Shannon Leto kept beat to a false start of “Closer to the Edge”, vocalist Jared Leto personally picked people out of the crowd to join Mars up on stage. Backed by a chorus of fans, fists pounding high with a resounding “No-no-no!”, and a wall of screens playing the official video for “Closer to the Edge”, Leto led the crowd through one last feel-good anthem.
With six full-length albums to their name, Linkin Park has plenty of material to pick from, so it is not surprising to see that they have devised a way, through mashups, medleys and shortened tracks to incorporate a whooping 27 songs into a 90 minute-performance. And while some fans might feel gypped by the way classic songs like “Papercut” and “Runaway” get cropped down to teasers from another era, the moment is fleeting because Linkin Park is just that entertaining. Once again, vocalist Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda prove that they are an unstoppable team up on that stage, feeding off each other and the fans.
Linkin Park’s production is perhaps almost as striking as their performance—the stage packed tight with LED screens, meaty light fixtures and risers to elevate the band well above the audience. It’s a visually stimulating backdrop to yet another hard-pounding performance.
They kicked it off with a mashup that carried into an explosive performance of “Guilty All the Same” off their brand new album, The Hunting Party. Keeping the energy high with the heavier sounds of “Wastelands” and remixed dance party of “Castle of Glass”, Linkin Park only slowed down with a piano ballad medley of “Leave Out all the Rest”, “Shadow of the Day” and “Iridescent” which Bennington belted out from beneath a solo spotlight.
The stage dimmed for a trippy synth performance of “Robot Boy” followed by an instrumental mashup. It was a welcomed breather before yet another fan-favorite, “Burn It Down” which had the audience clapping their hands to the intro. Despite the overall dim response of the audience toward new material off, The Hunting Party, songs like “Final Masquerade” exemplified how Linkin Park’s origins are still deeply integrated among the heavier rock & roll riffs of the album. A true rock ballad, Bennington crooned it with the energy and soul easily found in their earlier break-through works.
Linkin Park wrapped up their set with the powerful classics. “I see some shirts,” Shinoda pointed to a fan in the pit. “I saw a dude right down here with a shirt from like 2001, so this one’s for you buddy.” He said over the intro to “In The End”, through which he joined the audience on the barricade, extending his mic into the crowd and taking the hands of those who reached out for him.
After two minutes of pitch darkness, the band returned to the stage for a six-song encore consisting of shortened versions of “Lost In The Echo”, “New Divide,” “Crawling” and “Until It’s Gone.”
“Make some noise for AFI!” Shinoda addressed the crowd. “Make some noise for Thirty Seconds to Mars. Make some noise for yourselves, you guys are incredible out there, thank you so much! On this one, this one’s gonna be our last one – okay?” Standing on the edge of the short catwalk, Shinoda kicked off the intro to “Bleed it Out” and Bennington mounted the barricade to belt those last verses among his fans as they closed off the set. It was with tired but smiling faces that Linkin Park bid farewell to their fans, a farewell that was not without hugs and greetings along the barricade and a general good feeling of accomplishment for yet another triumphant night.
You’ll notice that I have neglected to mention AFI’s opening set. It’s not for any lack of love for the band, or the prowess of their performance. But for the unfortunate reason that while AFI blew through their 9 song set, I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper Camden-Philadelphia traffic. Lesson learned. In either case, if you have the chance to catch AFI on the Carnivores Tour, do so! These guys have been rocking hard for the past twenty years and their latest album, Burials although a departure from the sounds we’ve learned to identify with AFI in the early 2000’s, is my personal favorite to date.