BPREVIEW: 30 Seconds to Mars @ Arena Birmingham 29.03.18

30 Seconds to Mars @ Arena Birmingham 29.03.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

On Thursday 29th March, Thirty Seconds to Mars will be performing at Arena Birmingham as part of their Monolith Tour

Doors open at 7.30pm, with tickets priced from £37.60 (plus booking fee) as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

It has now been close to 20 years since we were introduced to Thirty Seconds to Mars, with their self titled debut album shooting them into the top end of the alternative music scene. Two decades later, the band are still rooted in rock but have evolved a sound that takes inspiration from a range of musical styles.

30 Seconds to Mars @ Arena Birmingham 29.03.18However, it was during 2005 that the Los Angles based three piece paved their way into commercial mainstream with the release of their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie – containing singles such as ‘The Kill’, ‘Attack’ and the titular ‘A Beautiful Lie’. Moving away from the progressive and ‘space rock’ of their debut, A Beautiful Lie brought the band into a more personal context – as front man, Jared Leto, told the American broadcaster, USA Network, “on the first record I created a world, then hid behind it. With A Beautiful Lie, it was time to take a more personal and less cerebral approach.” 

With a growing fan base, firmly rooted in the band’s music alone, Thirty Seconds to Mars would release of further two albums over the following decade – This Is War (2009) followed by Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams (2013). They would also win a cavalcade of awards, including a Guinness World Record for the longest concert tour by a rock band (just over 300 shows to be precise).

Then in November 2015, Thirty Seconds to Mars announced they were working on their fifth studio album – set for release in April 2018. So far two tracks have been released from America, with the album’s explosive and cinematic lead single, ‘Walk on Water’, hitting No1 on both the UK Rock and Metal and US Rock Airplay Billboard charts.

The supporting Monolith Tour was announced in October 2017, kicking off in Switzerland and coming over to the UK for five dates, starting with a show in Cardiff on 23rd March and ending at Arena Birmingham on 29th March – before heading back across the channel for shows in Portugal, Spain and a string of festival appearances.

‘Walk on Water’ – 30 Seconds to Mars 

30 Seconds to Mars perform at Arena Birmingham on Thursday 29th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.arenabham.co.uk/whats-on/thirty-seconds-to-mars 

For more on 30 Seconds to Mars, visit www.thirtysecondstomars.com

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com

For more on Arena Birmingham, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.arenabham.co.uk

BREVIEW: West Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17

West Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17 / Courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatre

Words by Paul Gallear / Pics courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatre

It wasn’t new when Shakespeare wrote his version around 1591, and it wasn’t new when Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim debuted West Side Story on Broadway in 1957. It probably wasn’t even new when Masuccio Salernitano published Mariotto and Gianozza in 1476. But what is new tonight is the cast.

The New Alexandra Theatre (itself over 100 years old) runs an annual programme called Stage Experience, where fresh faced 9-24 year olds get to perform a full musical to a paying audience, taking advantage of all of the theatre’s facilities including their 19 piece orchestra.

Now in its 14th year, the Stage Experience for 2017 is West Side Story, with our young hopefuls taking on the acting and singing roles as well as the technical roles such as lighting and set design. And they only have two weeks to run lines, rehearse dances, and learn what it takes to tread the boards at a professional theatre company. No pressure then.

The auditorium tonight is largely full and the stage is crowded; these days I am more used to seeing a comparatively sparse set where a lot of the context is left to the audience’s imagination. But this time the crew has striven to West Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17 / Courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatrecapture the iconography of 1950’s down town New York: Coca-Cola advertising, metal fire escapes, graffiti and barbed wire-topped chain-link fences.

Indeed, the barbed wire is separating the audience and the stage from the moment we enter, sending us a clear message about the social status of the characters and their delineation from society. The set is manipulated cleverly throughout, creating a range of scenes and scenarios, though I am sometimes distracted by the noisy and visually obvious way in which the set is moved around. Perhaps, with more time, this could have been better planned.

The set (despite being visually busy and sometimes noisy) is used creatively and energetically by the cast – climbing walls and fences, ducking down side streets and alleys. The dancing, especially during the fight scenes, has an almost balletic quality, and the actors interact with each other well even when the stage is crowded.

West Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17 / Courtesy of the New Alexandra TheatreAt times it is joyous and exuberant, such as during the famous song ‘America’ or during the scene at the dance. But the stage feels too crowded at times, as though everyone who applied to Stage Experience (103, so we are told at the end) has been given at least a walk-on part at some point. During lively numbers, such as ‘Tonight’, the large cast does help to build the atmosphere but it isn’t always needed.

The professional orchestra, with whom the cast have the pleasure of working, are just that: professional. They do justice to the energetic score and to provide an ample framework around which the singing and the dancing can be hung.

The singing is well-performed throughout, though at times the annunciation is a little lost on my ears and some of the lines are hard to hear. It is also worth mentioning that there are occasionalWest Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17 / Courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatre glitches from the radio mics worn by the cast – sometimes the audio is not picked up and, on one occasion, we hear audio from an off-stage cast member.

The audience is, I suspect, largely made up of the families and friends of the large cast. But I don’t think the enthusiasm they show for the performance is unjustified, especially given the mere two weeks of preparation that has gone into this production. The New Alexandra Theatre’s Stage Experience is meant to be a chance for young performers to hone their skills and demonstrate that they are faces to be looked out for in the future, and I think some of the actors tonight have certainly managed that.

Two in particular stood out for me: Leah Vassell with her strong and sassy portrayal of Anita, who was especially moving during ‘A Boy Like That’, and Elliot Gooch as the erstwhile Jets gang member, Tony. Gooch was the standout performer for me from this production; singing and acting with aplomb, West Side Story @ New Alexandra Theatre 23-26.08.17 / Courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatreespecially when he had the stage to himself during numbers such as ‘Maria’.

I did feel that more could have been done to contemporise this production and move it away from being a straight facsimile of the original stage show or film. It would have been interesting to find out how the young cast would have coped with a West Side Story adapted in a different way and to have tested their abilities.

Whilst there is nothing particularly new about such a well versed narrative, or stage production, there is again something new tonight – the actors. Many of whom may well be gracing the stage again, and perhaps the screen, very soon.

West Side Story runs at the New Alexandra Theatre until 26th August. For direct information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here

For more from the New Alexandra Theatre, including full event listings and online sales, visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham