Marina And The Diamonds, Dingwalls, London
The pop world is hardly in need of another curiously named heroine with a big voice and even bigger shoulder pads after those very girls permeated the charts in 2009, but there's always room for one more to join the party, right? So meet 24-year-old Marina Diamandis from Abergavenny, south Wales. Moving to London after completing her A levels, she arrived in the city with one ambition: fame at any cost. She studied dance and auditioned for just about every musical venture being advertised in The Stage, before realising she was chasing a rather empty dream and took a step back to concentrate on honing her talent as a songwriter.
Drawing inspiration from her heroes Brody Dalle, Daniel Johnston and, er, Britney, the result is The Family Jewels, her debut album which arrives next month. Full of fantastically bonkers pop, it seems destined to make Marina a star. Critical praise has arrived quickly too, with her coming second in the BBC Sound of 2010 poll, having been pipped to the post by her mate, Ellie Goulding. Goulding just beat her to the Brit Awards Critics' Choice prize too, not that Diamandis needs such accolades when her songs are this catchy.
So how will she fare on this, her maiden headline tour? From the offset, it's clear that Marina is a no-nonsense songwriter, who's going to tell it exactly like she sees it. Her first track of the night, "Girls", is one long diatribe against superficial airheads who spend all their time counting calories and buying cheap magazines. And so begins a succession of songs that highlight Marina's disdain for modern life: commercialism, the pressure to conform, a society that champions appearance over integrity. But they're all packaged up in such a fun way, it's only if you pay attention to the lyrics that you realise she's full of disappointment at what we've become.
She's at her best when performing her past singles, feeding off the appreciation from the crowd. "I Am Not a Robot" and "Mowgli's Road" are magnificent to watch as she shrieks and prowls across the stage. For "Numb", the backing band leave for Marina to go solo behind the keyboard and prove to us why those Kate Bush comparisons may just be deserved.
At other times, though, her performance feels a bit like cabaret and she's prone to some rather annoying quirks. Her continual mock shocked expression when she sings can get a bit irritating, not to mention it recalling a blow-up doll. And the endless accents, laughter and animal noises that run through her songs mean she's in danger of becoming the aural equivalent of a cartoon. This could, of course, all be deliberate, but that's not to say it doesn't grate after a while. Then again, when Gaga first appeared, everyone bemoaned her "weirdness" and look what's happened to her. Marina's cartoonish brand of experimental pop might just be the factor to set her apart in a saturated market.
There's every chance that she felt a bit intimidated by it being the first night of her tour and she was certainly held back by a small stage setup that didn't allow her adequate room to roam. It would be great to see what she does after a bit more touring, when she's rougher around the edges and drops a few of the theatrics. The main thing is she has the songs, charm and looks to make a really interesting pop star. She was good, but with a bit of work, she could be great.
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