“If you want my cold, come up to the front,” Jared Leto teased as a horde of girls clamored for the Thirty Seconds To Mars frontman’s bacteria. Still shrouded in the black that he wore less than 24 hours before at their mind-blowing Hollywood Bowl set, Leto and the rest of Thirty Seconds To Mars was able to transition from signing CDs for a thousand people and coughing so hard Leto “almost called 911” to an intimate performance at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ.
Prompting the audience to sing-a-long with him to songs like “City of Angels,” “End of All Days,” and even a heartbreaking version of Rihanna’s “Stay,” Leto hinted that his voice wasn’t on par with what it could be, but the added vulnerability in his sound actually made Thirty Seconds To Mars’ performance that much more poignant. With his beautiful singing interspersed between naughty banter, Leto proved that he doesn’t need a massive light show or Taiko drummers to actually be one impeccable performer.
“One of you dirty people got me sick,” Leto laughed, but he didn’t hesitate to give an audience member a hug after she apparently helped his brother Shannon find parking at the Hollywood Bowl. He also hugged a tiny fan in the audience after the little girl was given drumsticks from Shannon as a gift. It’s clear that Thirty Seconds To Mars aren’t like other bands that just play music and move on; they have a very special connection with their fans.
Leto said the familial vibes at their Hollywood Bowl performance was like the Grateful Dead “without the patchouli” and told host Ted Stryker that he’s like the “Jared Garcia.”
“It’s wonderful. I think we’ve always been really curious about the people that have made a decision to believe in what we do, so it goes both ways,” said Leto about their fans. “We hung out after the Hollywood Bowl and we signed 1000 CDs, old-school style, and it was really fun to see the people and who’s listening to your music. I’m actually really interested. You know. Some people like to make music and do their own thing, that’s ok, but I’ve always been quite fascinated by all of you. “
Leto is so fascinated by his fans that he consistently likes to go out into the audience and touch them. He did this at the Red Bull Sound Space performance, illness and all, and he did it the night before at the Hollywood Bowl. He said his favorite part was playing for “all the people in the lawn.” A rare occurrence in concert history, a donation bucket was also passed around to raise money for AIDs and AIDs awareness as inspired by Leto’s upcoming role in Dallas Buyers Club.
In the role, Leto plays a transperson named Rayon dying of AIDS. To prepare, Leto had to lose 35-40 pounds and wore heels and make-up through-out the role. Already generating Oscar buzz, Leto said it wasn’t easy for him to take the role because he “hadn’t made a film in 5 or 6 years” and “wasn’t looking to make a film.”
“You know, we had more success than we ever dreamed of with Thirty Seconds To Mars,” Leto told Stryker. “We’re playing the biggest and the best shows of our lives so when someone called and said, ‘Hey, do you want to be a part of this?’ It wasn’t on my radar really, but eventually someone convinced me to read the script and I fell in love. I thought, ‘What an amazing opportunity here.’ I had this window and I decided to go for it.”
Leto has never been afraid to play controversial and creative roles and that might be due to his wholly creative upbringing with his brother Shannon. Calling his brother a prodigy drummer, Leto said that his mom found an ad for an “old beat-up piano” that said “If you can drag this piano out of this place, you can have it.”
“So, it was missing a bunch of keys and barely played but we started at a very young age and music for us was all about creativity,” confessed Leto. “It wasn’t something that you did professionally. We didn’t know anybody who made a living or spent their lives making music; it was just something you did. And in some ways, it’s still like that. It’s just what we do.”
In that sense, Thirty Seconds to Mars has indeed fulfilled their life purpose, which was a question asked of them by an audience member.
“You know, it’s an interesting question, it’s a big question about fulfilling purpose, probably one that a lot of us think about from time to time but I think we’ve achieved more than we ever hoped and there’s always a fight there,” said Leto. “You know, we made an album Love Lust Faith + Dreams that was very different but I think very important when we look back on it, it’s going to be a crucial period for us. It’s an important to follow your gut and your heart and I think that, you know, your purpose really comes out in hindsight most of the time.”
And in hindsight, everyone in the audience was probably wishing they had asked Leto for a hug.
–Nadia Noir, KROQ