Marina and the Diamonds live review

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Mai 25 2010, 18h46

Marina & the Diamonds
with Spark
16/05/10 – Millennium Music Hall


What’s understandable and obvious about music is that everyone has their own tastes. With Marina & the Diamonds’ (otherwise known as Marina Diamandis) rise to fame, opinion has been split regarding her seemingly avant-garde music and image. I shared a little of the scepticism too, wondering how well the incredibly layered and overproduced (in the best sense of the word) music from her debut album ‘The Family Jewels’ would transfer to a live environment.

Supporting Marina at the (reincarnated from Sub29) Millennium Music Hall was Spark, strikingly similar to Marina & the Diamonds, she was supported by a bassist, drummer and backing track. The similar vein of music and style in a support was a strange move for an artist who normally tries to do things a little differently, but the choice was still a good one. Spark (otherwise known as… well I’ve no idea, her true identity seems a mystery) is a slip of a character, strong musically but a little naïve and innocent in the face of hecklers yelling “You’re not Marina!”. With songs like ‘Shut Out The Moon’ the new-wave singer-songwriter showed obvious musical and lyrical flair. The similarities between her and the main act are substantial but something about her attitude sets her apart.

The overzealous “oh oh”s may grate at first (she seems almost to roll her eyes at the sheer numbers sung) but with songs like ‘Revolving’ the simplicity yet brilliance of the concept of being a wind-up doll bludgeons you over the head with how good it is and then she rips apart all pretence of shyness and conformity comes in ‘Scream’ with a scything chant of “Boy you can’t get rid of me/you don’t want to get rid of me” followed by a well-charged and unabashed chorus of “Gonna scream the house down/wake somebody, wake somebody”. Perhaps overshadowed by Marina’s success, the attitude in which Spark writes is possibly even more left-field and definitely punkier in songs like ‘Blow’ with simplistic and straight to the point lyrics backed up with pounding drums and harsh synth. Definitely one to look up and have a listen to.

So, with much fanfare and a breathtaking video introduction filmed in America depicting the star surrounded by diamonds and matching the visuals of a James Bond introduction, Marina Diamandis walks on to the rising notes of ‘Girls’ immediately demonstrating the strangeness she continuously embodies “Look like a girl/but I think like a guy!”. What’s immediate is that she totally underplays her voice on record, amplifying it only through effects and the dreaded autotune (which thankfully doesn’t grate as much as you would think). Devoid of such devices live, Marina staggers the ears with her seemingly unstoppable voice – it’s only until she cracks a note like anyone would do you understand that she’s a fallible force such is the power of her entrance and attitude.

Following with the lesser known b-side ‘Seventeen’ is needed to fill out the set after just one album punches through with yet more attitude with the disarming “You don’t know fuck about my family”. It’s an example of how open and honest that Marina is. Before her ubiquitous fame she connected with her fans daily through the internet, but has now become almost a recluse – possibly due to blood, sweat and tears exposed in her music.

Following with album tracks like ‘The Outsider’ and ‘Oh No!’ – both brilliant songs – it seems the majority of the audience aren’t that enthused as the few fans constantly moving and singing every single word. So is the appeal of a pop star which Marina is now undoubtedly – even incorporating costume changes and instrumental medleys in an obviously pre-orchestrated set. She’s gone from an avant-garde DIY singer songwriter to all out pop and fashion icon. Only in the singles ‘I Am Not a Robot’ and ‘Hollywood’ does enthusiasm in the crowd show. However, a reverent respect is paid during solo piano pieces ‘Numb’ and the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Obsessions’.

Marina’s band (not the ‘Diamonds’ as she has said before that she considers her fans as the Diamonds) are brilliant warranting an introduction to all before the encore and being a mouthpiece to Marina’s instrumental side. The backing track is also a big part of the music, and it’s a struggle to take a musician with a backing track seriously, but Marina holds court ferociously as a performer foremost and a musician second, incorporating a great set of gimmicks like UV lipstick, glowing hearts and mini-wind machine (as well as the aforementioned costume changes) on top of a brilliant stage presence through well-thought out dance moves and of course a brilliantly powerful voice.

Despite all her newfound pop stardom, she is still humblingly modest, surprised and thankful for the great response the crowd gives after every song – saying she must come to Cardiff more often (the last time being at Swn Festival last year) which seems strange as she was originally born in Wales (and apologises for not still having a Welsh accent, “I wish I still did” she says apologetically). She returns after bemoaning having to be ‘dishonest’ about an encore (which still hints at that early DIY attitude) to play a cover of 3OH!3’s ‘Starstrukk’ and end on the vivacious ‘Mowgli’s Road’. To dismiss Marina & the Diamonds as an over-produced and slightly weird pop act is to pander to the critics’ opinions. In reality, Marina is an unstoppable performer, and a perfect show-off.

8/10

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