Gig Review: 30 Seconds to Mars at Manchester Academy 1, 27th January 2008

In what is possibly not an auspicious start to the gig-going for 2008 I attended my first emo gig since about 1996 (back when emo bands played church basements full of straight-edged teenagers and didn’t wear eyeliner), using a spare ticket that Bricking Chick had for 30 Seconds To Mars, the band fronted by none other than Jordan Catalano out of the TV show My So-Called Life. Most of you probably know him as Jared Leto. Having only a vague idea that the band play some sort of predictable emo rock, I was, I must admit, tempted enough by the notion of being able to gaze up at the rather nice looking Mr. Leto that I completely forgot about the last time I saw a rock band fronted by a Hollywood leading man – Keanu Reeves and his band Dogstar who were the laughing stock of Glastonbury in 1999 because they were so abysmally awful.

This was nowhere near as bad as that Dogstar performance. Thank goodness.

For starters, Jared Leto can actually sing. In fact, his voice reminds me a lot of that of Ed Kowalczyck of +Live+ whose first two albums are pretty good. 30 Seconds to Mars are actually pretty competent musicians who do a very good job of entertaining a crowd. While the songs were pretty derivative and the set contained far too many ballads, their music was in no way offensive or off-putting. It just wasn’t particularly memorable. On the whole, though, I liked the louder songs well enough and was somewhat amazed by the fact that this was more of a “rock” show than the Marylin Manson gig I attended back in December (which really was just theatrical pop). The only real downsides were the fact that we couldn’t get close enough to the stage to really see the band and the between-song banter which was just pathetic. Apparently a song which Bricking Chick informs me they wrote two years ago is actually about their trip to China they took last month which was, it would seem, “life-changing.” Whatever.

The highlight of the night was not actually the band, though, it was the teeming masses of 15-year-olds who were in the crowd (whose parents were queuing to collect them at the end of the night). They were brilliant. They were enthusiastic, they were screaming like the girls in those old videos of The Beatles, and I swear that the four girls in front of us, kitted out not only in 30 Seconds to Mars T-shirts and hoodies but also bags and wristbands, were crying at one point. Maybe the choice of band is a bit poor, but hopefully with that enthusiasm for their music in a couple of years they will have developed a taste for something a bit more challenging and unusual. The fans of today’s manufactured rock may well be the people buying records by the next At the Drive-In, Trail of Dead or even Mogwai.

So, musically, not as good a beginning as 2007, but still a hopeful start to 2008.

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