I saw Marina and the Diamonds perform twice in 2015, for the fourth and fifth times respectively, in Las Vegas and DC.
The first time in April at the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was a decidedly mature affair. Stopping between showcases at the Coachella Valley Music Festival on Monday, April 13, Marina Diamandis performed in a diva’s gown, meant to seduce us in the moonlight, opening her set with “Bubblegum Bitch” from the 2012 album, Electra Heart. The Welch beauty was staggering — her fantastic voice impossibly perfect and her striking poise formidable.
The second time on Friday, Nov. 6, at the Lincoln Theatre in DC as part of the Neon Nature tour was a decidedly different, albeit still quite enjoyable, experience. As a fully conceived tour stop for her most successful album to date — Froot, released in March 2015 — the tour was designed to take us through three phases of Marina beginning with her first album, 2010’s The Family Jewels, and ending with her third in three acts. The new wave diva didn’t change the content of her songs or some of their overt sexuality, which is often philosophical rather than physical in expression, but her audience on the official tour date was tremendously younger! As an attendee of the two shows, the difference was jarring.
Nonetheless, Marina and the Diamonds — she’s a solo act (Marina) and we are the diamonds — performed her heart out leaping into three different skintight outfits to strut, pout and dance away the evening in a thoroughly memorable concert performance.
The first act of the Neon Nature show presented songs from The Family Jewels, in many ways still my personal favorite of her three albums to date. It’s catchy, punchy, and sometimes cartoony — recalling on occasion legacy new wave ladies like Dale Bozzio or Lene Lovich at the height of their musical prowess.
In the first set, Marina struts through “Mowgli’s Road,” “I’m Not a Robot,” “Oh No!,” “Obsessions,” and “Hollywood.” With a full band on an elevated level of a secondary stage, Marina strides out in front of a digital screen along the first level, clad in a shiny midriff-bearing ensemble and jeweled “mouse ears.”
She sings and sashays, and she looks and sounds so absolutely happy and positive that it’s infectious. Every girl in the audience will soon beginning screaming at the top of their lungs as if they were seeing Lady Gaga or Britney Spears. And Marina is surely at that level. At an initial selling price of $35 at the Lincoln, Marina’s bookers tremendously underestimate her star power (just as they did at her last visit to the 9:30 Club in 2012). She could have easily sold out Echostage at twice the price. Needless to say, the Lincoln was solidly sold out (and was the first venue on the current leg of the tour to do so, Marina said).
As Marina gets into “I’m Not a Robot,” the digital screen really starts to come alive to mirror her song, and cartoon robot Marinas are being assembled behind her on a virtual production line. The screen comes alive for other numbers, producing emojis for the winning, defiant “Oh No!” and a tale starring Betty Boop for the lonely, reflective “Obsessions,” which Marina kicks off alone on a keyboard from the front of the stage. (She noted “Obsessions” was the song that got her signed, and the father of the man who struck the deal was in the DC audience that night.)
Watch Marina and the Diamonds perform “I’m Not a Robot” live at T in the Park (Strathallan Castle, Perthshire, Scotland) on July 11, 2015, via YouTube:
For the second act, Marina tackles the mature more mature Electra Heart, the title of an album but also of the character referenced in the songs. Electra Heart isn’t afraid to explore her sexuality, and the material thematically is enough of a break from the first album that Marina once joked in performance that she asked her manager about changing her stage name for the second album. “No!” the manager wisely declared.
On Friday, Marina moved through “Bubblegum Bitch,” “Teen Idle,” “How to Be a Heartbreaker,” “Primadonna,” and “Lies” — each an absolute showstopper — after changing into a latex catsuit. The songs proved the most rousing of the night, as the audience (already pumped) went absolutely crazy for the second album tunes and sang them as loudly as possible.
Marina goes from dominant to demure as she slips from “Bubblegum Bitch” to “Teen Idle,” the latter of which she says she had performed only twice on the tour so far. (The first time apparently in Boston at the House of Blues on Nov. 4.) Marina truly hits her mark with “How to Be a Heartbreaker,” a dynamic song and a clear fan-favorite, and follow-up “Primadonna,” which also inspired excited singalongs (and it was sang with Electra Heart’s “best friend,” a little mechanical doggie named Marilyn).
Watch Marina and the Diamonds perform “Primadonna” live at Sziget Festival 2015 in Budapest, Hungary, on August 10, 2015:
Finally, for the third act, dedicated to Froot, Marina changes costume once again and easily transforms for the most metaphysically mature material of the night. Still clad in a catsuit, albeit a different “fruity” green one, Marina wears a Froot logo on her head, and the teen girl next to me positively bursts out of her skin with happiness, as she’s wearing the same Froot headband.
Marina kicks off the set with “Froot,” and follows that up with “Savages,” “Can’t Pin Me Down,” “I’m a Ruin,” “Forget, and “Immortal.” These are among the most sophisticated and robust of Marina’s songs, and some of them are simply heart wrenching while still magnificent. The lament “Immortal” is simply the most affecting song I’ve heard in quite a few years, and I would challenge anyone to listen to it in a quiet space alone sometime and not be moved.
“Savages” is a brilliant gem of a song that bears witness to the extraordinary power of Marina as a songwriter. The clever and insightful lyrics are absolutely stunning in their pondering of the savage nature of human beings, particularly with the refrain line: “I’m not afraid of God; I am afraid of man.” Marina signs it with booming intensity and her dance moves echo the primal mood of the song.
Watch Marina and the Diamonds perform “Savages” live at the House of Blues in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 4, 2015, courtesy Yahoo! and Live Nation via YouTube:
Marina wrapped her show with a much quieter yet powerful pairing of “Happy” and “Blue” — both from the album Froot.
Marina closes out her current US tour tonight with a show at Terminal 5 in New York City. It’s sold out, but you should beg, borrow, or plead your way into it if you can. (If you’re already going, be prepared to enjoy one hell of a show!) Afterward, Marina is off to tour Europe, but let’s hope together that our favorite heartbreaker will return to the United States as quickly as possible.