Marina & The Diamonds - HMV Forum, London
It seems fitting that just as peoples’ minds start to turn to what acts are going to make it big next year, Marina & The Diamonds, one of 2010’s hottest tips, rolls into town to promote her debut album for the last time. While sales of The Family Jewels didn’t match those of Florence, it still certified gold and garnered enough critical acclaim to ensure that Marina wasn’t going to become a ‘has-been’ before she had even ‘been’. Tonight’s set at the HMV Forum seemed to showcase her mission to prove that new act or not, Marina isn’t going anywhere. On the basis of her deliriously entertaining set, we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Coming on stage to the backdrop of a Bond-esque opening sequence before gently moving into the soft musings of ‘The Family Jewels’, the theatricality of Marina’s live set is established immediately with every movement measured and performed for maximum impact; the ambience improved with the positioning of several fans (of the blowy kind) at the front of the stage to ensure that her hair was never less than dramatic. This isn’t just a one-off dramatic entrance though, with the emphasis on crafting a show permeating through every track. It’s comparable in recent times only to Paloma Faith, but Marina even manages to out-sparkle her; after all, Faith doesn’t (yet) end her main set with a spot-lit freestyle dance routine. It’s musical theatre Jim, but not as we know it.
In particular, Marina thrives on the slow numbers from her debut album: the likes of ‘Rootless’ and ‘Guilty’ sees her prowl the stage in ultra slow-mo, posturing endlessly yet giving the tracks a much stronger impact than their recorded versions. But all this showmanship could be disregarded as just pretty decoration, aimed at distracting the audience from any perceived weakness, if she didn't have the musicanship to back it up which she definitely has. Her vocals are certainly divisive and it’s fair to say that if you don’t like the quirks on record, you won’t like them live. Her idiosyncrasies are amplified in the live arena and occur far more frequently, but few could argue that she doesn’t have an exceptionally strong voice. A falsetto intro to ‘Oh No!’ is stunningly beautiful and when all the production is stripped away for the likes of ‘Numb’, she impresses just as much with the subtleties as she does when she holds her own against the booming synths of ‘Hermit The Frog’.
As if having a taste for the theatrical and an incredible voice wasn’t enough, Marina succeeds on another, perhaps more important, level: she’s eminently likeable! She gets away with ducking off stage for a costume change mid-set just because she already has the whole audience eating out of her hands, but it’s all done with a complete lack of pretension. Marina happily sits down on stage taking a break from the songs to just chat to the audience about her first ever gig (crap, apparently), and her reasons for starting the fantasy of the ‘Diamonds’ – to involve her fans in a world she originally felt excluded from herself. It’s all done so naturally, like her very own ‘An Audience With…’ show that it makes her seem like the most normal person in the room.
OK, there are flaws to be found and niggles to be had if you look hard enough for them: the set isn’t the most imaginative with the whole of The Family Jewels showcased along with only one new song and a couple of older tracks for the hardcore fan, and the subtler hooks of some tracks are drowned out by the reverberating bass and synths with ‘Are You Satisifed?’ especially suffering. However, everything is just so utterly charming and entertaining that there’s something wrong with you if you came out of the gig with only those quibbles in mind, especially after a giant burger had descended from the ceiling and the inevitable tickertape makes an appearance during set closer ‘Hollywood’. She may not be the new kid on the block anymore, but any new hot prospects will have to go some way to push Marina & The Diamonds out of the spotlight.
THE FAMILY JEWELS
ARE YOU SATISFIED?
HERMIT THE FROG
I AM NOT A ROBOT