Show Review: 30 Seconds to Mars with CB7 at SJSU Events Center, 4/8/2011

by Stacy Scales on April 10, 2011

30 Seconds to Mars, a few days prior. Thanks to Flickr user danford for sharing!

To their fans, 30 Seconds to Mars are as much a religion as they are a band. If you’d have said this to me a week ago, I wouldn’t have known enough about other fans to agree or disagree. Though the band released their eponymous first album in 2002, it wasn’t until late 2009 that I wised up enough to pay them some attention. In retrospect, I can only wish I’d have gotten on board years ago.

In 1994, like most other fifteen-year-old girls, I was swooning over the baby blues of My So-Called Life‘s “Jordan Catalano,” as most of us first knew Jared Leto. After the show was canceled, I followed his film career sporadically. I heard he was in a band, and yet because I knew him first and foremost to be an actor, I never even thought to give them a listen. In 2005, a friend and I randomly bumped into Mr. Leto wandering from tent to tent at Warped tour in Long Beach, but even then I was more interested in not drooling over his long blond hair than in checking out his band. It wasn’t until the adamant recommendation of a virtual stranger in late 2009 that I turned my ears toward the album that would quickly lead me to call 30 Seconds to Mars my favorite band (This is War). After finally getting to see them live for the first time Friday night at SJSU’s Events Center, I’m starting to understand why I saw licensed t-shirts printed with the words “yes this is a cult.”

After 5 hours in line for a general admission show, I was let in to make a choice: I could stand in the pit, second row dead center, or I could sit with my new friends in the second row of seats, farther back. I made the wrong choice and planted my feet firmly on the floor. Even before opening band CB7 took the stage, the rowdy crowd had us involuntarily upright spooning and I settled in for what I expected to be a long night. The fact is, no one wanted to listen to an opening act; everyone around me could be heard hoping aloud that it would be over quickly. Moreover, we expected not to like them. Instead, most of us were pleasantly surprised to hear CB7’s retro 80s-new wave sound. It was hard to hear a word frontman Antoine was singing, but the general reaction of the crowd was definitely approval. After a short 5-6 song set, they left us to wait another hour for Mars to finally take the stage.

Before the house lights went down, a massive curtain was dropped just in front of the crowd so we couldn’t see the stage. A net full of balloons was hoisted above us (though later it would fall in front of the crowd, rather than on top of them, as I assume was the objective), and finally the lights went down to reveal Jared’s silhouette. The show began with “Night of the Hunter,” and the crowd began to push with an intensity I’ve never before experienced. It came from all sides, and we expected it to die down after the first song or two. It didn’t. After more than a half hour, I realized that I was missing most of the show because I was trying just to stay on my feet, remember not to lock my knees, and to breathe. I decided there was no one I was trying to impress, and no shame in getting out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t communicate to security that my car keys (in my bag, full of other stuff I could live without) were at the feet of the boys in front of me, and I spent the rest of the night trying to enjoy myself from the back of the venue while silently praying my keys would be where I left them.

The shadowy figure of Jared Leto

What I didn’t miss, however, was a great show. I’m still kicking myself for not having just sat in a seat like others who aren’t ashamed to avoid the pit. Also having something of a rough night, however, were the brothers Leto, what with Jared being apparently sick and Shannon having injured himself. I only saw him on his feet a few times, but the crowd naturally ate it up, at one point randomly cheering him on, chanting “let’s go Shannon, let’s go!” The band played nearly every song from This is War, except (I think) “Stranger in a Strange Land” and the instrumental “L490.” Most of This is War‘s songs are tailor-made for an excited crowd like this one – so many of the songs on the album feature a choir part like the “NO NO NO NO!” in the band’s current single, “Closer to the Edge,” as well as the “whoa whoa whoa”s of “This is War” and the chorus of “Vox Populi,” just to name a few. In addition, they also played a few older favorites like “A Beautiful Lie,” “The Kill,” and at least part of “From Yesterday.”

As I sat back watching, I realized that Jared Leto is a bona fide rock star, and perhaps he was all along. I just didn’t notice because he was in TV and movies instead of on a stage. Seeing him in his true element made me wish again that I’d been a fan all along. Though there was a fair amount of encouraging the crowd to get rowdy, Jared repeated over and over throughout the night, “someone falls down, what do you do?” to which the fans roared “PICK THEM UP!” Though I can’t imagine how someone really had room to fall down, I thought it was fantastic that he’d care enough to make it absolutely clear that having fun in the madness was okay, but caring for your fellow Mars fans was still of paramount importance as well.

The show closed with an encore of “Hurricane” and “Kings and Queens,” at which point Jared invited fans from the floor to come up on stage: “anyone who’s crowd surfing right now, come up!” (Eventually he had to say, “okay, that’s enough!” because so many people were hoping to join the band onstage.) “Kings and Queens” is definitely the kind of song that brings the house down, and this night was no exception.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how much the crowd loves the band – you couldn’t throw a balloon in that little venue without hitting someone wearing face paint or a t-shirt supporting Mars (whether homemade or licensed, I saw them all). What struck me, though, was how much I felt Jared expressing that this love is mutual. What’s a cooler thing to feel as a fan than that the band you love so much feels the same? I counted at least three times that Jared screamed to the crowd, “I love you guys so much!” And I believed him.

(Epilogue: when the show ended, I made my way back to the floor to find my bag in the hands of one of the guys with whom I’d left it, safe and sound. I don’t know if it was just one of those “kindness of strangers” things or if it was fans helping each other out, but I’ll take it. I heard one girl who was pulled out of the pit before I was say that she’d stick to listening to 30 Seconds to Mars from home. I can’t say the same, I just know that next time I’ll avoid the pit and thoroughly enjoy myself from a great bird’s eye view.)

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

MandyJane April 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Great review. Haha and yes the floor was insane. My brother and I started off back left and ended up front right of the stage the where I could reach out to Leto. Despite him being sick, and poor Shannon hurting himself it was a night to never forget. Anyone shorter than about 5’6″ should be cautious though when in the pit. I am luck to be very tall but there was one point when I looked down and saw a very short girl compressed between all the people saying she could’t breathe. We then proceeded to help her onto a very nice gentleman’s shoulders.

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Andi April 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

I honestly have never listened to Mars. I’m off to visit iTunes now!

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Nina Loves Jared May 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

I had wait in line for TEN hours to be in the very first row!! It was the BEST night of my life! and YES the crowd was super crazy but it was all worth it! PS. I was the one who ripped off Jared’s shirt during “The Kill” hehe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3pjygwcAIU&feature=player_embedded

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Raine January 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm

This is a great review though…It really shows the greatness in which 30 Seconds to mars is, and the actual power they have over the people that love the music. And, you are absolutely right. I am a die hard 30STM fan, this is like a religion to me. And a cult. “Echelon” Being the religion, cult, and music.

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