Published on November 2nd, 2010 | by Lisa McInerney1
Review – Marina & The Diamonds at The Savoy
The beautiful thing about Marina and The Diamonds is that she’s not difficult to explain to the uninitiated. She is a popstar, pure and raw. The stage name refers to the relationship between Marina Diamandis and her fans (it’s Marina and The Emeralds over here, anoraks!), and once you understand that the act is solo and the stage name as contrived as she gets, you’re cleared for takeoff. That’s it. Marina, her songs, her fans.
This was the second time I’d seen Marina live. The first was as part of a Heineken Green Spheres gig in Carlow, where Marina was the first act on, and played in the back room whilst the main stage was set for dance punks Digitalism. I’d been a fan well before the gig, so hearing the songs live was an especially sweet experience. This time ’round, I was off to see a headline gig, but I had absolutely no worries as to whether she could pull off a longer set and more attention, whether she could blossom from the bashful artiste asking “Honestly, how many of you have ever heard of me?” to a proper star, spinning her own magnetic field. Marina Diamandis has always wanted to be a popstar. It’s in her songs, her blog posts, her tweets. She’s thought about her calling, and not in any cynical, marketing-campaign sense; she openly questions herself, her motives, her lyrics, her inspiration. She writes songs about the monkey on her back and the ruthlessness of ambition, but her tunes are thrillingly catchy, instantly hummable, sugary-sweet. She is the most genuine musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of being absolutely infatuated with. Was there ever a possibility I’d miss her playing live in my city? Not on anyone’s nelly.
No Lady Gaga, mind. Marina obliged us/herself with a few fun costume changes, and a nice explosion of confetti during the encore (Hollywood, naturally), but that was the extent of hyperbolic flamboyance and putting-on-a-show-in-the-barn-isms. To be honest, I doubt that slick production and bells and whistles would do anything for Marina; as pop as she is (and she’s popper than ginger beer on the lawn), I came away with the impression that the more intimate the gig, the better she’d be. Her songs are so very personal that I can’t imagine the stadium thing ever working for her, even if she does “infect our brains“. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but a crowd bellowing along, or tasty dancers shrouding her every warble, would just smother her completely. She doesn’t come across as fragile, just … too kooky to polish.
The set was mostly compiled from debut album The Family Jewels, barring Seventeen, one of Marina’s very first and very best offerings which was criminally omitted from the album, and Jealousy, introduced as a new song though it’s a familiar demo and not very new at all. It will appear on her second album, one very good reason to slobber in anticipation. Every track from The Family Jewels got an airing, and all so confidently performed it’s difficult to isolate highlights. Handing out balloons during my personal favourite Hermit The Frog? An interactive dress during I Am Not A Robot? A three-foot-high headdress for Mowgli’s Road? Tiny, quirky touches for tiny, quirky giggles, but none that overshadowed the songs, and none that added much to them, either. Like I said, costume changes to oblige us/herself. The disarmingly self-critical Numb, the quintessentially-Marina Obsessions, the neon-creepy Guilty, and the lament of Rootless were all note-perfect and powerful … very welcoming in Rootless’ case, as I’d always considered it the weakest track on the album, and was delighted to have my interest in it rekindled by a magnificent performance!
I must admit that I growled briefly at the rendition of the album version of The Outsider, a song that was butchered from its brilliant demo form into something not-quite-coherent, like an X Factor contender’s squished-up re-yodeling of a classic track. That wouldn’t have hurt so much if Marina hadn’t, then, gone with the single/demo version of Hollywood as her encore, instead of the extended and much more stirring version on the album (to me, the song means so much less without the “Lady, I know why your thoughts turn grey” lyric). Grating, too, that so many in the crowd were able to sing along to I Am Not A Robot, but seemed completely stumped at Guilty and Shampain. Why pay €20 to see an artist whose album you haven’t bothered to grab? Surely the €20 is better spent on what’s replayable? Kids today.
It would have been nice to hear one of Marina’s covers, as she’s performed some amazing re-tellings of contemporary trash (she recently transformed 3Oh!3’s abysmal Starstrukk into something beautifully eerie, for example). It would have been very nice to get a support act, just to make more of an occasion out of the gig. As it was, the crowd went directly from chatting over background music to Marina’s arrival on stage, an unnecessarily haphazard start to her performance.
Did it really matter? Nah, not a whole lot. Marina is the girl who takes the guilt out of the notion of pop as a guilty pleasure, who perfectly illustrates that you can be catchy and neon and fun at the same time as being thoughtful and cryptic and unsettling. No, it didn’t matter hugely that she didn’t get a build-up or that half the crowd didn’t know half the songs. It wouldn’t really matter if you were listening to her through a tin-can telephone whilst standing in the rain. Marina and The Diamonds is an occasion … and one I’m always thrilled to be part of.
And yes, she does hit those notes live. Really live. From her own lungs and everything!