Whilst the arena is still barely half full a bigger, better You Me At Six take the stage first. Josh apologises for having not played Newcastle for nearly a year and a half, but the evolution of the band from then to now is clear. This is the first time we’ve seen the YMAS lads playing an arena, with the exception of the epic Final Night Of Sin at Wembley last December, but they look right at home on that big stage.
The band waste no time, beginning straight off with Reckless and making use of the extra room on stage by jumping about and encouraging everyone to join in. Franceschi’s vocal performance has improved with time and he proves himself as a brilliant front man with just the right amount of swagger and charm to win everyone over.
The setlist, although perhaps disappointingly not containing any songs from the Take Off Your Colours era, is full of hits and the impressive riffs of massive tunes like Loverboy and The Dilemma prove that the band aren’t just all talk and that if they aren’t already one of the biggest names in UK rock, they will be soon. However, even in their support slot they still find time to slow it down and show their other side with heart wrenching ballads such as Crash and Liquid Confidence, some particular fan favourites. Whilst YMAS were once dubbed “just another wannabe pop-punk band” they’ve proved their individuality and sheer rock talent tonight.
And fans there are plenty! You could be forgiven for mistaking You Me At Six for headliners here, as they aren’t phased at all by this step up in audience size and the crowd sing every song word for word, often louder than Josh himself, as though they came for YMAS (some of them actually left once they were done!) The set finishes with the always pleasing Underdog which sees the biggest amount of audience participation and upon watching this spectacle I’d be very surprised if the next time You Me At Six grace this arena stage it is not in their own headline spot.
The crowd are well and truly warmed up by the time 30 Seconds To Mars are ready to take the stage. You Me At Six’s quick entrance seems insignificant as 30STM’s intro is much bigger, as Jared Leto descends from above the stage on a platform to deafening screams from his adoring fans whilst Birth, the introduction to the band’s latest release Love, Lust, Faith & Dreams is played by an impressive line of drummers and the other two members of 30STM, Tomo and Shannon.
To the fans’ delight, after this the band go straight into a favourite off This Is War – Night Of The Hunter. The band perform flawlessly and Leto has complete control over the crowd as he jumps about the stage in his kilt and fur jacket.
Whilst 30STM may be more about bigger production than YMAS they also show that they can rock out with new song Conquistador which has particularly impressive riffs and gets a big audience reaction.
To be fair though, the crowd react hugely to every song, old or new, and no one seems disheartened by the dominance of the new songs. However, whilst the music is fine and the band perform well, there are aspects that could have been missed from the night.
Between some songs, acrobats perform to some of the album interludes, and whilst their tricks are particularly impressive and do draw some intrigue and awe from the crowd, it isn’t really needed at a rock concert like this and the time taken to set up their equipment was left in an awkward silence which left some audience members feeling awkward, whilst others muttered “come on, just play some songs!” Whilst 30 Seconds To Mars have always been knowing for putting on an interesting and different show, to be honest it would have been more fun if the music had been continuous and the awkward gaps had been filled in some way, even if Leto just filled it with speech, and the impressiveness of the band seems to be taken away somewhat.
Another point to be made is Jared Leto’s stage presence. Obviously, lead singers and front men always attract the most attention in a band and this is only natural. However, I’ve always found that Leto takes this a step further and there’s an air of arrogance around him. The night, to be honest, feels more like the Jared Leto show and less like a 30 Seconds To Mars show. At times Leto is also pretty offensive, whilst it’s commonplace for bands of this genre and even most people these days to use the F word often, Leto brings fans up onstage, including children, and encourages them to swear at everyone and even encourages one child to say the C word, which could be taken much more offensively and frankly no child should be saying! Whilst encouraging fans in the seating area to stand up, Leto also causes unnecessary offence by outright insulting fans who wish to stay seated in quite a crude way. Whilst other lead singers have been known to take a brutal approach to encouraging fans to stand (Hayley Williams of Paramore comes to mind, with her angry shouting until everyone does as she says) but the crude and offensive remarks Leto makes are a step to far and are embarrassing to listen to.
The dragging fans onstage is another thing. Whilst it’s cute at first and it obviously makes those fans’ lives, for everyone else after a while it gets a little tiring. When you’ve paid however much money to see a band play their songs that’s what you want to see them do and the rest of Leto’s antics tire quite quickly.
However, it’s not all bad. As mentioned before, when the band are playing songs they are flawless, and the acoustic section which Leto does on his own, including stripped back versions of Hurricane, The Kill, a cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and the chorus of From Yesterday (to name a few), is very impressive and shows a welcomed more humble side to the show, which for me is the highlight.
The show ends with the band’s even bigger hits, Closer To The Edge, Kings & Queens and Up In The Air and they show that 30 Seconds To Mars are more than capable of making big, impressive hits which will not be forgotten any time soon.
Overall then, the songs and the performance of the band are impressive, yet Leto’s antics and attitude somehow let the show down and You Me At Six’s more humble, no nonsense approach is something I prefer much more.