Marina may have stepped out onto the stage under the cover of darkness to being her show at The Anthem in DC recently, but she stood with unyielding confidence and conviction as she launched into “Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land” to celebrate the album of the same name. Her smoky voice rang clear over the aggressive beats of the number and she began swing in sway as if to call her words down from the sky and channel them into the audience when the lights came up.
Although she no longer calls herself Marina *and The Diamonds,* she truly sparkled nonetheless.
Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land is Marina’s fifth full-length studio album, released on Atlantic records last year. After its more cerebral predecessor Love + Fear, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land displays passions that come from the heart. The fearless joy of being a woman rang throughout many of the selections, such as in the second song of the night at The Anthem, when she sang, “Why be a wallflower when you can be a Venus fly trap?” in a new album song named after the carnivorous plant.
Marina recognized Love + Fear with one song — “Handmade Heaven,” a tender number performed at the midpoint of her concert — leaving the roar of Ancient Dreams to dominate the show.
Stream Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land by Marina on Spotify:
There was also plenty for longtime Marina fans to like, as she pulled a fair number of tunes from her first three albums as well — The Family Jewels (2010), Electa Heart (2012), and Froot (2015). Indeed, Marina on-stage recalled that she has performed in DC for every tour beginning with her initial 2010 appearance at the 9:30 Club. (She would hit the club bigger in 2011 and begin selling out her DC shows shortly afterward.)
By the time Marina performed “Froot” as the third song of the set, the audience was eating out of her hands. The inviting, tropically tinged tune represented a shift in tone from the thunder of Ancient Dreams, and that served only to highlight one of Marina’s many strengths. As a singer, she is capable of shifting tone and style substantially and yet seemingly occupy the same conversational headspace. Part of that stems from the fact that she’s a natural performer, and part of it from an earnest desire to communicate through her lyrics and melodies.
Watch the official music video for “Froot” by Marina on YouTube:
Marina’s debut record will always hold a special place in my heart for its new wave cabaret overtones, and its quirky, wordy rejections of complacency. So I had to tap a foot or two along to a mini-set of The Family Jewels in the first half of the show — “Are You Satisfied?,” “I Am Not a Robot,” and “Oh No!” These three remarkable tracks still make me think *and* smile, which is a happy combination indeed.
A little later, Marina added “Hollywood” — and gave her audience the opportunity to belt out one of her most famous lines as a chorus in a shared moment of unbridled assurance: “Actually, my name’s Marina!”
Watch the official music video for “Hollywood” by Marina on YouTube:
The darkly playful Electra Heart received its share of attention, particularly at the end of the main set when Marina closed with the one-two punch of “How to Be a Heartbreaker” paired with “Bubblegum Bitch.” Again, the crowd went wild, and every single soul in the cavernous sold-out venue was there only to dance dance dance the rest of the night away.
Marina punctuated the last part of the show with Ancient Dreams heartstoppers “I Love You but I Love Me More” prior to Electra’s shenanigans and “Goodbye” as a one-song encore.
For “I Love You,” Marina’s voice maintained its remarkable clarity as she lyrically spelled out accusations to an untrustworthy lover, and it’s no secret that an unhappy breakup helped to inform this album’s material. With venomous bite, the song underscored the idea that no comforts await those that scorn our heroine. On the other hand, “Goodbye” served as one of those simply sweet moments that usually result from Marina sitting down at a piano to transport us all to a more melancholy place — one full of happy memories turned sad and of growth and fulfillment but maybe other places to be again.
Here are some photos of Marina performing at The Anthem on Feb. 24, 2022. All photos copyright Parklife DC.