Germany Essigfabrik Cologne 6th May 2015, Markthalle Hamburg 7th May 2015 and Astra Kulturhaus Berlin 8th May 2015
The whole world loves Marina and the Diamonds, or at least I think they should. Somewhat puzzling is why this artist is not touring arenas of her own volition and songs such as Forget, How to be a heartbreaker and Radioactive, have not been inscribed in everyone’s DNA. (three of the best pop songs written in recent times by any artist)
By her own admission even Marina is unsure where she fits in the musical landscape but just maybe that’s why she is so endearing, relevant and refreshingly different. Marina Diamandis is a talented singer/songwriter and her fans are known as the Diamonds. Essentially a solo performer with a full band for accompaniment, Marina has just released her 3rd album Froot which she wrote without collaborations and after a recent run of 40 minute festival appearances including Coachella as a warm up, Marina got to showcase many of these new songs with a full length one and a half hour show in Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin in Germany on consecutive nights. This review is a culmination of these 3 shows which contained the same set list for each performance and explains why the photos in this review have Marina wearing 3 different outfits. There was no costume change during each performance.
Much like Gaga has her little Monsters, Diamonds are also a close knit tight group of ardent followers that have a real sense of unity and community about them. Having waited with many of the most enthusiastic Hamburg Diamonds for 5 hours before the doors opened at Markthalle, I see all that is good about sharing the love and passion of a common interest. Strangers meet, converse, exchange contacts on social media platforms, talk all things Marina and genuinely look out for each other for the next few hours.
As the Cologne venue opens its doors, there is a stampede to get to the front of the line that borders on being dangerous but thankfully no-one gets trampled underfoot. Doors open at 7pm but by 7.30pm this venue with a capacity of 2000 is nearly full already and Marina is not due on stage for another half hour or so. This is the 1st full Froot show so it is met with much anticipation and enthusiasm.
The stage set up is simple with just a backdrop of glowing stars in the night sky. This minimal approach suits this performance and extenuates the music. Gone are the TV’s, Neon signs, mannequins and Marilyn her pet dog from the previous Electra Heart Tour. As the roadies fine tune the bass guitar, drums and microphones are put into place, I notice that there is no microphone stand for Marina at centre stage. Almost by design this creates some mystique and the venue is a buzz as to how and when Marina will appear.
As the clock strikes 8pm a single 5 foot neon lit microphone stand appears that glows radiantly at centre stage. Marina’s band members then take their places including Sebastian Sternberg on drums who is the only remaining band member that toured with Marina in Australia in late 2010. A slow build intro ensues until Marina busts on to the stage to a deafening cheer and launches straight into Bubblegum Bitch. One of her favorite songs to perform on her own account, this is a great choice to kick off proceedings. With an up tempo kick ass beat and with the venue being all standing this gets the crowd instantly engaged and dancing.
Not wanting to dissipate the new found energy in the room, Marina hardly draws a breath before singing the opening line "Sometimes I think I’m not as strong" from her latest single ‘Forget’, to which the whole auditorium sings back the 2nd line "But there’s a force that carries me on". I am blown away by the sheer magnitude of the singing and speed at which everybody joined in. During this performance the use of many white spot lights that illuminate the stage in the shape of a fan is very visually effective and the backdrop of stars glow a brilliant blue hue. As the chorus approaches Marina encourages the crowd to "sing with me" which isn’t required as the crowd is already in fine voice and this is only song two. The applause at the end of the song is deafening and elongated which seems to genuinely take Marina by surprise. Clearly taken aback by the noise and level of affection shown she pauses to take it all in and her broad cheeky smile says it all ……. it’s good to be back singing live.
The set list for tonight’s show has a good balance to it with 4 songs from The Family Jewels (debut album), 4 songs from Electra Heart and 7 songs from the new album Froot.
‘Cuckoo’ sends the crowd into meltdown mode as this signifies the commencing of the song ‘Mowglis Road’ and is a crowd favorite from Marina’s debut album. The atmosphere in the room is electric and the dancing levels are at fever pitch. With everyone in close proximity, the vibe in the venue is infectious and such a catchy song keeps everybody moving.
‘I am not a robot’ is next which pleases those in the crowd that have followed Marina from her embryonic stages. The band members are enjoying themselves too and the grin on the bass player is broad and wide. He appears almost bemused at the high level of crowd participation so early in the night.
The backdrop of the stars of the night sky turn a vibrant purple color for the next song ‘Savages’. One of the
standout tracks on the new album. Asides from the visual spectacular, what impresses me most on this performance is the strength and vocal range that Marina possesses. Marina sings with a low larynx position which enables her to sound effortless and her breathing is nice and relaxed. When she extends herself to sing the high notes it sounds breathtakingly beautiful, a sonic heaven. Her controlled whaling at the culmination of ‘Savages’ is supremely confident and powerful and the vocal delivery and strength of this performance is outstanding and one of the highlights of the night for me.
The frenetic pace of the concert is unsustainable and thankfully we all get a chance to catch our breath as Marina walks over to the keyboards for the next song ‘Obsessions’. There is a good energy in the room and the noise is deafening. Someone from the crowd yells out "You're f**ing gorgeous" which makes Marina laugh and reply back "Thank you. You’re very frisky and fun tonight’.
With just Marina on keyboards it clearly demonstrated what a talented singer and musician she is and eventually Sebastian joins in on drums to give the song a little depth. The song ends with Marina displaying her incredible vocal range once again.
Marina tells the Berlin crowd “I just wanted to say thank you, whether you are a brand new fan or if you have been a fan for a while, because tonight especially, I feel like I wouldn’t want any other fan base. I’m so so happy that I’ve been able to have this kind of career because we all know I’m kind of living pop, kind of in between alternative, whatever you want to call it and, um, I was just thinking when I was to go on stage, I haven’t really had any radio play with this record, however, because of the type of fans that I have, you guys, I’ve had a lot of success with it and you’ve given me the freedom to do exactly what I wanted. 'So that’s not important' you ask me? It’s not about charts, or sales, or money, or anything like that. It’s actually about feeling real support and a real connection. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m really happy to have this career and, um, every city I go, you know, the fans make it what it is, but I just want to tell you guys tonight because I’m feeling very emotional".
Sitting at the keyboard seems to be a good place to be and ‘Happy’ is the next song which fits in the context of how Marina is feeling. I sense that every word spoken by her is genuine and heartfelt. This connection she talks about is tangible and real. Her ability to have the Hamburg Diamonds sing every word of every song up to now impresses me no end and reiterates what impact she has had with the majority of the 2000 patrons that have packed this venue.
After sitting at the keyboards for 2 songs, Marina asks the crowd "Do you feel like dancing" and for the next 4 songs that’s exactly what happens with Froot, 'Can’t pin me down', 'Hollywood' and 'Primadonna' exciting all and sundry.
‘Blue’ is performed with an exquisite backdrop of 8 blue spot lights and a centre pairing of yellow spotlights shining on Marina as the night sky stars sparkle radiantly in the background. A very catchy uptempo song that just makes you feel good and the crowds singing nearly drowns Marina out altogether. More crowd calls of ‘I Iove you’ at the end of the song put another smile on Marina’s face.
To make the next song even more intimate, Marina takes hold of her neon lit microphone stand and brings it right to the front of the stage to sing 'I’m a ruin’. The stars now sparkle a bright white color in unison with the microphone stand and the use of white spotlights give the performance a different visual to the rest of the show. Her vocal strength on this song is stunning and confident and the ability to sing the high and low notes in such contrast is enthralling and resonates with me.
'Radioactive' is one of the catchiest songs I have ever heard and for the life of me, I cannot understand why that song was not a huge global hit for Marina. A super high energy performance of this penultimate song brings the show to its near conclusion. Thunderous applause rings around the venue once again and brings Marina back to the microphone one last time.
"So this is my last song. I’m not coming out for an encore so I’ll say goodbye now. However I will come back, I think, sometime November, December. My manager’s gonna kill me but I think that’s the time and I’m just planning a tour now. It’s called the Neon Nature tour. So I have lots of surprises up my sleeve but thank you so much and I will leave you with one last song".
Aptly ‘How to be a heartbreaker’ is the last song and its opening line is ‘Rule Number 1 is that you got to have fun". Perfectly appropriate to sum up this concert and a pretty good mantra by any standard.
No Australian dates have been set yet but with Skippy’s personal plea at the merchandise desk you never know. We might just get lucky.
see more photos here