Thursday, November 27, 2014

30 Seconds to Mars Cape Town Review

30 Seconds To Mars graced Cape Town with their presence for the third time, this weekend. Or perhaps it was ’20 Seconds To Mars’, as third member Shannon Leto was noticeably absent – ill, explained his brother, frontman Jared Leto.
By 6pm on Sunday evening, the Echelon (read: The Serious Fans) were already queuing in droves, and those who had purchased meet and greet tickets, could be seen sprinting from GrandWest’s Good Hope Suites clutching signed posters and hyperventilating. Can’t say I blame them. What would any sane human do when faced with Jared Leto? Cry, surely.
Cape Town’s own Beatenberg were given the opportunity to open for the American rockstars, but unfortunately they did little to excite the crowd. Whilst their music is catchy and popular, their fan base and that of 30 Seconds To Mars clearly did not overlap. Although a few younger people sang along happily to ‘Chelsea Blakemore’, crowd interaction was minimal, and the band seemed slightly lost on such a major stage.
Cue dimming of the lights and loud, dramatic music – ‘O Fortuna’ from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – and a long-haired figure wearing a long white coat and crown emerges into a patch of light on the stage. Is that you, Jesus? No, it’s Jared Leto. But to those present they’re pretty much the same thing.
Opening with ‘Up In The Air’, from their latest offering, Love Lust Faith Dreams, Leto immediately electrified the crowd. Jared Leto is acutely aware of his reputation as a sex symbol. “Who wants to sleep with me tonight?” he asked the predominantly female crowd, cheekily. The answer? EVERYONE. He later took the opportunity to lift his shirt revealingly, teasing the group of girls to the right that if they kept shouting for him to take it off, they might just get more than they bargained for. But, we were here for the music, of course…
And it was music we got. 30 Seconds to Mars have an incredible way of producing extremely powerful music, and it becomes, perhaps, even more powerful when performed live. From ‘This Is War’ to ‘Kings and Queens’ (the latter written right here in Cape Town), Jared Leto’s stage presence is faultless, and it’s clear that his passion is performing live. Setlist highlights included ‘City of Angels’, the stand out track from their latest album, and a stripped-down-to-the-bones version of ‘The Kill’. All too soon it was over, in a snowstorm of white confetti and flashing lights.
A glance at Big Concerts’ Facebook page reveals nothing but disappointment with the Johannesburg show (held two nights previously). Shannon Leto was absent, Jared Leto’s voice was not up to standard, the sound at the Coca Cola Dome was shocking, and – perhaps most disturbingly – the crowd was full of people who were more interested in “drinking wine and going on Facebook” than watching the show. But the Cape Town show could not have been more different. The Grand Arena is an impeccable venue, with excellent audio, and even though it was a true rock concert, I was not left with ringing ears the next day.
As Jared Leto so sincerely told us, South Africa is truly a special place for his band. Yes, all bands engage the crowd with shouts of how happy they are to be in the ‘best country in the world’, but somehow, I believe him more. Maybe it’s because he looks a bit like Jesus.

Review also published on

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Taylor Swift: '1989' Album Review

OMG, I just DIED! #RIPme! Tay Tay has a new album out! If you're not sure what's going on - or if you think I've just regressed from quite a serious 23-year-old lady to a squealing 13-year-old girl -, check this out and then come back.

Yes, it's sure, country-pop's sugar-sweet little Taylor dropped her much-anticipated album '1989' this week. No, I did not converge at a friend's house that very night for a listening party, because I am an adult, and that would be weird...

I must admit, my hopes were not high. After my strong feelings of dislike for most of 2012's 'Red' - which I took as a personal insult, after being completely obsessed with 'Speak Now' - and my outright hatred for 'Shake It Off', I had begun to sink into that deep depression of human beings who disregard the girl as just another awful pop star. A bit of a joke. Did I mention awful? Well, I was about to be proven wrong.

THE ALBUM IS A MASTERPIECE. (Yes, caps are needed)

It is, indeed, a pure pop album, without a hint of the country style that had defined her early career, but somehow it's edgy, with barely discernible hints of indie-rock (largely, I'm sure, due to her work with fun.'s Jack Antonoff). While most of the album is filled with highly-listenable tracks, I do have a few favourites:

1) 'Wildest Dreams': This turns me into a complete fangirl. I can just imagine crying on the floor if I ever had to see this song live. I'm dead. DEAD. It's tinged with poignance and sadness, but still comes back down to Taylor's favourite themes of girls in pretty dresses, crying after boys and begging them to remember her. It's probably even set at Tay's favourite time of day: 2am.

2) 'Blank Space': Taylor Swift ripping off Taylor Swift - can it get any better? "Got a long list of ex-lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane..." It's also dead catchy.

3) 'Out of the Woods' - Nope, I am never going to be out of the woods. An obvious stab at Harry Styles, it shows off Taylor's slightly darker side - one can almost imagine her singing "Remember when you hit the brakes too soon, 20 stitches in the hospital room" with a sadistic little smile on her face. And with an electronic chorus that is bound to stick in anyone's head for weeks, it's a favourite among many.

All in all, I think Taylor has done great. She remains my guilty pleasure, so far removed from any of my other favourites, that some people think I'm joking when I say I love her. But really, who cares? Haters gonna hate.