Over the last eighteen months Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds has dug solid foundations to give herself a concrete claim to at least a few of the jewels from the new princess of pop crown. With an imminent sold out tour and debut album ready to roll, now is the time for Marina to surface above ground into the public consciousness. This show at London’s Tabernacle, a converted Grade II listed building complete with curved beams, timber panel roof, ornate balcony and restaurant downstairs provides for a slightly more sophisticated venue than some of the sweating beer stained clubs that she’ll be playing.
The venue is only an eighth full when first support act, and recent Breaking More Waves new wave Tinashe plays. He benefits from the Marina hardcore standing right up against the stage. Playing taught tight snappy acoustic guitar backed just by a drummer to his side his set is almost too short. From the Vampire Weekend influenced A-Liar to the hooky “What do you know, what do you know about me,” chorus of the jiggle-skiffle Mr Presumption, the set is warmly received and deservedly so. Stripped of studio production, Saved with its Motown lion sleeps tonight hip wiggling “Oo-oo’s,” and Mayday with its obvious accessibility come across as gorgeously raw pop songs.
When the stage is filled with bearded check shirted men with non-descript haircuts, stereotypes kick in and it’s a fairly safe assumption that the half hour that follows will not haemorrhage dance routines, synth pop or celebratory club bangers. It doesn’t. Predictably Goldheart Assembly bring west coast harmonies to the country / folk / rock path. Yes another UK Fleet Foxes perhaps, who rock out a little more. Unfortunately they destroy any muso cool they may have obtained when they plea desperately “Please buy our album when it comes out in March, otherwise its back to work.”
“Hello diamonds,” Marina chirps; not to her backing band of what appear to be session musicians, but to the audience. These ‘diamonds’ are Marina’s crutch. Like any other performer she needs an audience, otherwise being on stage is worthless. The Tabernacle crowd give her the platform to play at being a ‘proper’ pop star, with her oh-my-god drama school graduate confidence, big smiles and Toyah goes opera euro-pop songs. Marina exudes quirky theatrical belief, albeit sometimes it seems too calculated and contrived in its ‘look at me posing’ control.
There are however hints of vulnerability that seep through. “I’m a snail without a shell,” she sings with whispered vibrato. Later she admits to being very scared about the release of her new single on Monday. It’s these moments of fragility that leave a perception that underneath Marina is as brittle and real as anyone else.
Marina and the Diamonds have the big pop songs in the trash culture obsessed Hollywood and the immense romp of Shampain, to have chart success, as well as slightly more complex tunes such as Oh No and the piano ballad Obsessions for a more long term musical relationship. If she can bring home the openness of her character more fully to the live arena, and appear less stage managed without coming across as being over affected or zany, then she could well be on to a winning formula live as well as on record.