Worth the wait? A resounding "hells yeah". Marina & The Diamonds made their Manhattan debut tonight during their first U.S. visit. Let's just say that at the end of her 45-minute, 12-song set, I wanted to drop to my knees and scream, "I'm not worthy!"
The setlist, almost the whole Family Jewels album, sans Are You Satisfied? and Hermit the Frog:
- The Outsider
- I Am Not a Robot
- Oh No
- ENCORE: Mowgli's Road
Marina Diamandis has been patiently waiting for her break-out moment. For the past two years, she's been steadily releasing singles, demos and EP. These tracks showcased her cabaret style with her unique spin. She may be U.K. born, but her Mediterranean exotic qualities comes through in her music. Those early songs like "Daddy Was A Sailor" or "Simplify" (which I played on my old radio show) had eccentric, playful vocal stylings where she would go high and then drop to a low tone. Then with her on piano, it showed her versatility with different moods and ideals. The chirping gave it a uniqueness as well.
That's what I was looking for tonight. She's now a major-label player, but I wanted to see her get weird and let her personality come through. Most certainly, she did.
Marina D. is a dynamo. I try not to go heavily into looks when talking about shows, but you have to acknowledge it in this case. She's like a living Alberto Vargas girl and a muse from a Fellini film that can sing the roof off the joint. She's criminally good-looking. We're not talking indie rock cuteness like a Jenny Lewis, we're taking va-va-room, European fashion magazine cover woman plateau. She plays off her sexiness quite well without being exploitative. You can be sexy and tasteful without being a showoff.
The crowd was pretty pumped for her show. Lots of random shouts of love, flowers on stage and girls screaming in delight. As a performer, she's elegant, but strong with her dark Greek hair going in every direction. For tracks like I Am Not a Robot, she stressed every line while scanning the crowd to make it known that she's not kidding. Her big hit in the U.K. is Hollywood where she declares, "I'm obsessed with the mess that is America." Her finale had her coming out in a yellow, pig outfit, complete with overalls.
Okay, gang. As much as I thought that this show from M.D. and her valiant crew is a keeper and would love to see her again when the albums come out here in May. There's a problem. Honestly, the album is good. Just good, not jaw droppingly fantastic, not a must-have on Vinyl, CD, DVD, what have you. Compared to the debuts for her contemporaries like Nash, Florence, Bat for Lashes, Regina, Family Jewels is a busy, over-produced album at times.
It's seems that she aiming to be more of a pop star, while trying to be true to how she started. She brought in some big name producers for the album, and they added too much synths and programmed beats. For me, she's best when she relies on her voice, the piano and the odd quirks she lays into the music. Something like Obsessions, I think is a perfect introduction. Where it starts simple and then grows into something more lively and catchy. "Hollywood" has great lyrics, but there's too many things swirling around it.
With that said, the show tonight is not a reproduction of the album. The synths and keyboards are toned down and Marina is the star of the show, not the production. You can tell because the whole crowd was giddy leaving the show. Me especially, because she grabbed my hand at the end. She recognizes the skills.
Here's a few signs that tell me that I didn't dig the first opening act, Samuel. I had to to look up who the opening act was just now and I spent a portion of his 25-minute set trying to figure out what he was wearing around his neck. He just wasn't for me. He does this 80s dance pop retreat that gets more tired with every new entry. I'm sure the guy is talented and he works hard at what he does, but come on now. The Timberlake-Thicke thing he was pulling off where he wants to appeal to the club kids who like Hot Chip and to the mall rats who listen to Radio Disney is not working. Meanwhile, he performs like he's trying out for Fame: The Next Generation. He sings about the sky, he looks up at the sky. He sings about his heart, he points at his heart. He sings about his soul, he grabs his shirt. Next....