Review of Marina and the Diamonds live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 21/02/2010
Marina and the Diamonds is one of the most hyped artists of the moment, and on this showing deservedly so. After clocking up various TV appearances, shed loads of airplay and, of course, the nod from BBC Sound of 2010, she seems set to make this year her own.
Set against the backdrop of sure-fire stardom and critical acclaim, this show was always set to be a real treat. Deaf Institute is a cracking but surprisingly little-known and relatively small venue, and the show was scheduled for the day before the release of Marina's debut 'Family Jewels' album. Next time she plays Manchester, it will be to a sold out Academy 2 audience, with a top-selling album gracing the merchandising stand. Marina won't be playing to a few hundred people above a trendy bar in the foreseeable future.
She knew it. 'Guys - I'm feeling really weird tonight. My album's out tomorrow!', Marina told us early on in the set. Nerves? Maybe - but if she hadn't told us, we'd never have known. In fact, if you'd stumbled into the show and been told that this was a veteran performer doing an 'intimate gig', you'd have believed it. Because, in a way, that's what it was.
The whole show was impressively cohesive and Marina held the limelight with charisma and confidence. After coming on to a sample of 'Diamonds Are Forever', the four-piece band launched straight into the punky, bass-driven 'Girls'. Marina lives every line of the lyric, bouncing effortlessly between melodious sections and the shout-a-long chorus 'of all the calories they eat - all they say is 'na na na na na''.
Marina was clearly delighted by the crowd - she shielded the stage lights from her eyes to see as many of the audience as possible, and revelled in the light-hearted heckling and unexpected singing along. Don't forget, this is an artist whose discography is composed of just two single releases. It wasn't just the ubiquitous 'Hollywood' that got the crowd involved - the new single 'I Am Not A Robot', and other fan favourites like 'Obsessions' and 'Mowgli's Road' were also sung in full voice by the assembled masses.
Although the current discography is short, Marina is an experienced performer and it shows. For starters, this girl can really sing. Her material is vocally demanding in terms of range and tone, and she handled it with strength similar to Debbie Harry or Florence Welch - but the showmanship doesn't stop there. Each word was punctuated with sincerity and theatrics - from the punchy chorus of 'Oh No!', to the simple honesty of 'Numb', performed on solo piano.
The show was a brisk forty minutes - as you'd expect from such a new artist - and ended with a full-throttle rendition of 'Shampain' - 'Is anybody else hung over today? I'm thoroughly hung over!' - and a cheeky encore. As we scampered home to download the album at the stroke of midnight, it was clear that when Marina takes the music industry by storm this year, it'll be for all the right reasons.
Photo by Bart Pettman.