Thirty Seconds to Mars have been taking their time with their fifth studio album, and with the success of their electro-rock jock jam “Walk on Water,” one can hardly blame them.
Since dropping last August, it has topped Billboard’s Rock Airplay chart, recently broke onto Mainstream Top 40, and has been damn near inescapable for anyone who watches college football. For a rock band these days, it’s rare cultural saturation that’s worth milking for a long run, without distracting anyone with a follow-up single or an album announce. At last night’s New York City Grammy week club show on Wednesday night (Jan. 24), Jared Leto and friends edged closer to both ends, without pulling the curtain on either.
As for a second new song, “Dangerous Night” finally arrived today, though the band declined to work it into their 11-song set at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza. Leto was chatty and accessible, welcoming dozens of eager fans onstage for the night-closing “Closer to the Edge” (who were already on a natural high off seeing an arena band in a thousand-cap room) and playfully trolling the room with threats of not playing obvious set staple “The Kill.” That turned out to be a bluff, just like Leto’s intent to spill about details: “We’ve been holed up working on the new album, and I’ll tell you the name of it,” he said at one point, immediately followed by a coy, “just kidding.”
Perhaps the more enticing JK was Leto’s shout out to sponsors Citibank, followed by, “They’re gonna give you all a thousand dollars just for being here.” The biggest actual reveal was Thirty Seconds to Mars’ plans to play Madison Square Garden the next time they’re in New York — not exactly a shock, but an announcement still met with rapturous applause.
Working a much smaller venue than usual also prompted a leaner version of the band, though not by design: Drummer Shannon Leto, a co-founding 30STM staple alongside his brother, was unable to play due to illness, and instead of enlisting a replacement drummer, the lion’s share of percussion was handled through automation. With guitarist Tomo Mili?evi? riffing along, the leading Leto sashayed through the go-to tracks off each of Thirty Seconds to Mars’ four albums, including a placid, acoustic“Walk On Water” rendition, a dutiful cover of Rihanna and Mikky Ekko’s piano ballad “Stay,” and the band’s road-tested in-memoriam medley of standards from Prince, David Bowie and others.
With the smaller stage and limited lineup, Leto was the unquestioned center of attention, even moreso than usual. For a show like this, it was fitting: His vocals came off booming and clean, and the up-close intimacy and confetti-drenched spectacle of it all (seriously, there was a lot of confetti) distracted from the momentum-sucking absence of live drumming. It felt like Leto, Mili?evi?, and a couple friends invited a thousand guest-listers to their mansion for a DJ party, then decided to break out mics and guitars for an impromptu set of Thirty Seconds to Mars’ most crowd-friendly moments. And now, it’s back to work on that new album, before a world tour inevitably consumes them in mid-March.
Here’s the set list from the show:
1. Up in the Air
2. Kings and Queens
4. This Is War
5. Walk on Water
6. Capricorn [A Brand New Name]
7. Stay (Rihanna-Mikky Ekko cover)
8. Cover montage: “Purple Rain” (Prince) / “Heroes” (David Bowie) / “Black Hole Sun” (Soundgarden)
9. The Kill
10. Do or Die
11. Closer to the Edge
The Citi Sound Vault concert series continues through Jan. 28, featuring the National, Eminem, Childish Gambino, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, and the Roots. Find Billboard‘s complete list of Grammy week concerts here.