In this handmade heaven, it’s paradise…
Having detached herself from her earlier title as Marina And The Diamonds (settling instead for a straightforward ‘Marina’), Welsh musician and songwriter Marina Diamandis returned earlier this year with new album Love + Fear (see Wavegirl review previously). This followed a lengthy gap since 2015’s Froot, brought on by Marina’s misgivings about the whole music industry routine that she’d found herself shackled to.
After a sabbatical, Marina began to ponder on the idea (inspired by a quote by psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross) that all human emotion stems from love and fear. The result was a more intimate album that took a side-step from the more obvious pop bangers evident on previous outings.
Marina’s tour of the album arrived in London (at Hammermith’s Eventim Apollo) to greet an enthusiastic home crowd. Divided into two segments (‘Love’ and ‘Fear’ respectively), our pop princess delivered an enthralling evening of entertainment drawn from her extensive musical catalogue.
Meanwhile, support act Allie X was the first to grace the sparse white stage at Hammersmith. Combining electronics with guitars and drums, the Canadian artist delivers a surprisingly beefy series of tunes that bounce between baroque pop through to more on-the-nose bangers. There’s hints of Robyn and Lykke Li in the mix at times and it generates a good chemistry with the assembled Marina fans. The use of a solitary paper lantern, which ebbs and glows according to the mood of the moment, is a nice touch too.
After a brief break once Allie X departs the stage, there’s an almost palpable sense of anticipation in the audience. As the lights finally go down, a huge cheer erupts as Marina strides onto the stage accompanied by two dancers. Opening with the sober tones of ‘Handmade Heaven’, Marina is picked out on her podium by a stark spotlight. As an opener, it’s a good way to ease into the set (as well as a perfect showcase for how powerful the Welsh musician’s vocals are).
Then it’s straight into ‘Hollywood’ as frenetic blue and red projections strobe behind her. The ‘Marina Massive’ give a huge cheer as their queen belts out the classic tune (“I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America”) – and even fill in the “Actually my name’s Marina” part on her behalf.
Breaking for a little one-on-one with the audience, Marina gushes about how much love she has for everyone here tonight. Then her dance troupe is expanded to four as it’s straight into a stirring rendition of ‘Primadonna’. The Electra Heart song goes down a treat against pastel-coloured projections and the performance comes to a suitable conclusion with Marina and Co. adopting a tableau as the final notes end.
A sunset orange bathes the stage for a contemplative ‘Enjoy Your Life’ (which marks the first outing from her new album Love + Fear tonight). Marina struts back and forth across the sparse stage with confidence, keeping a steely eye on the audience.
Then it’s time for another slice of banter with the audience as she introduces her drummer and keyboard player Fabian ahead of the next song. “We’re now going to play a song that’s ten years old – a song we play at every concert…”, at which the audience seems to be well ahead of her. As the plaintive opening lyrics sound out (“You’ve been acting awful tough lately/Smoking a lot of cigarettes lately”) this live take on ‘I Am Not A Robot’ starts out as a reverie on vulnerability, but turns into a big anthemic outing with the crowd singing along.
In keeping with the sparse set design, a white piano is wheeled out for a wistful ‘To Be Human’ while images culled from the promo video film the screen. It’s one of Love + Fear’s best moments and the simple power of the song’s travelogue lyrics has a weighty emotional impact.
But there’s also time to dip into other parts of her musical legacy. “This next song is from Froot” Marina says with a casual aside, which gets a big cheer. Delivering an astounding take on the 2015 album’s title track, Marina lays down a pop banger care of powerful lines such as “Living la dolce vita/Life couldn’t get much sweeter.”
There’s a suitable summery vibe for ‘Orange Trees’ with some picturesque scenic projections, before Marina engages the enthralled audience for a bit (“You guys are so chatty for a Monday – I love it!”). Then she offers up another cut from her 2012 album Electra Heart, care of the soaring plaintive pop of ‘Teen Idle’. It’s a composition that seems custom-built for audience sing-a-longs, which the crowd supplies in spades (“I wanna be a real fake..”).
With the conclusion of the ‘Love’ part of tonight’s performance, there’s a brief interlude while the stage set is moved around into a new configuration. When Marina returns for the ‘Fear’ segment of the concert, she’s decked out in a tight black and green affair. Then it’s straight into the choppy tones of ‘Believe In Love’, an icy rendition of the Love + Fear track.
“Do we have any Bubblegum Bitches here tonight?” Asks Marina, getting a big cheer in response. Its straight into pop banger territory for this one – a big, bold outing that has the entire venue jumping up and down. Then things get dialled down a notch for a reflective ‘Emotional Machine’ with Marina accompanied on stage by one solitary dancer. But this is just a brief break as she announces the next number: “This next song is for all those that have suckers in their life…”. With some intriguing projections of insect life projected behind her, Marina offers a witty line in lyrics for this plucky pop number.
With the performance entering its final third, Marina then drops in a more surprising song. ‘I’m Not Hungry Anymore’ was a tune originally composed for Froot, but ultimately discarded. Subsequently leaked online, Marina says “We’ve been playing in on the tour and it’s proved popular.” Back on the piano, Marina starts out with a plaintive tinkling before it opens up into a more muscular pop number. Tonally, it feels like it belongs more to Family Jewels-era Marina with its quick chord changes and its reflective lyrical musings. “Are you going to sing along with me?” She offers to the audience, who of course are only too willing to join in.
Pausing to tie up a loose (neon) lace on her shoes, Marina then delivers a live take on ‘Karma’. Originally a more stripped-down affair in recorded form, it takes on a more earthy feel here, particularly due to the live percussion from Fabian.
Then it’s time for another curveball when Marina announces the ‘People’s Choice’, inviting the crowd to vote for what the next song will be. The voices are ‘Blue’ (from Froot) or ‘Oh No!’ (from The Family Jewels). They’re both good tunes, but it’s a no-brainer for the audience who give a deafening vote for the classic early Marina outing. As a result, we get a thumping take on ‘Oh No!’ With its soaring bridge of “I’m gonna live, I’m gonna fly/I’m gonna fail, I’m gonna die” seemingly hitting the roof of the Hammersmith venue.
There’s an equally big sound for a rendition of ‘Baby’ while scenic landscape shots lend a cinematic aspect to this performance. While that marks the end of the concert as-is, it’s clear that the crowd aren’t going to be satisfied until the inevitable encore.
With dancers filing back on stage (each holding light globes in their hands) we get a solid take on ‘End Of The Earth’. Dedicating the show to her sister and boyfriend, Marina finally closes things out with a truly magnificent ‘How to Be a Heartbreaker’.
Since she first made an appearance on the music scene, Marina’s contributions to the world of pop have maintained a consistency that’s delivered rewards with every album. As she’s demonstrated to her London fanbase tonight, she’s also still more than capable of commanding the stage in a live environment.