If you’re a fan of pop music, you’re probably in heaven right now. The sudden global phenomenon successes from Lady Gaga down has breathed new life into a genre that was once dominated by nothing but an army of manufactured and repackaged young upstarts. Even Slash prefers it over rock nowadays.
So now is a good time for Marina Diamandis, aka Marina And The Diamonds, to go on a nationwide tour. Her first of two shows at the Bloomsbury Ballroom sees her performing songs from debut album The Family Jewels to an audience that is possibly younger than at your average gig.
Marina’s live show is a really interesting one, purely for the fact that it promises (and probably could achieve) so much in intimate settings like these, but instead just gives tantalising teasers. For starters, there is a huge screen behind the band that showed a gloriously sleek and James Bond-esque opening video that set the mood rather expertly. It’s only then used once more, as a teaser into Hollywood whilst Marina undergoes a costume change, leaving one to wonder whether any of it had any real purpose.
Other aspects of the show are similarly frustrating. Marina is someone who quite clearly has a bundle of energy; she dances flawlessly to most of her songs and with bags of confidence. Some of her stage banter in response to hecklers is at times hilariously feisty, like before Numb when a brave challenger recommends to her that she should take off her velcro costume she responds by stating that “I am so sick of boys saying, ‘Take it off’,” before suggesting to the audience member that he takes off his top. Yet, despite all of the bravado and swagger, her stage presence isn’t quite there yet. She has to work incredibly hard to get all of the audience on-board and, just as her hour-long set hits its finale, she only just manages it.
Yet, despite the frustrations, the set is well-paced. Baring in mind she only has one album out, her welcome isn’t outstayed and nearly all of her set (Live Lounge style cover of 3Oh!3‘s Starstrukk aside) is culled from her debut. Inevitably it’s the singles that get the crowd dancing the most. I Am Not A Robot and Hollywood both thrill with their infectious melodies and set closer Mowgli’s Road’s cuckoo chants are as kooky and quirky live as they are on record. Marina’s backing band is a solid, robust and reliable quartet that, whilst not taking anything away from the star of the show, contribute a far more organic feel than the overly-polished and mechanical sound palette that brings down The Family Jewels.
So, in essence, what we have tonight is a pop show that is a work in progress. We have some stunning projections that are classy and mood-setting but only used sparingly. We have a feisty star of the show who has enough confidence to wear comedic glasses and bounce around the stage yet without commanding the audience. The saving grace is that her songs are much more impressive live than on record. There is a lot of potential and, if and when she figures out a way to fully unleash it, she’ll be strong enough to take her place at pop’s top table.