London Roundhouse, UK
"Froot Sundae" 21st February 2016
Marina Diamandis has come a long way since she first appeared on an Australian stage back in December 2010. Now with 3 accomplished albums and 7 years on, Marina is a bona-fide pop goddess in just about every country except Australia. Radio programmers hold your heads in shame for Marina is revered in the UK and USA with social media platforms on Twitter and Facebook in excess of 1 million followers. Everyone should know who she is.
Marina’s fan base are known as the "Diamonds" with large followings in Argentina, Brazil, USA, to Greece and beyond, and with just cause. Unfortunately for Australian audiences, the Electra Heart and Froot tours have bypassed our shores but we live in hope that the latest Neon Nature Tour may one day be on her radar for us to experience.
An opportunity to see Marina’s final UK tour date on Froot Sundae 21/02/2016 seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up so with 3000 other like-minded Diamonds I headed to London to check out the Roundhouse show at Chalk Farm.
The current line-up of Marina’s band members consists of Andres Rebellon on bass, Glenn Callaghan on keyboards, Ben Fletcher – Musical Director/Guitars and Sebastian Sternberg on drums (the only surviving member that toured Australia in 2010). This show is a full production with a split level stage and high definition LED screens on the lower level that project visual images throughout the show. Marina for the main part of her show commands centre court attention on the lower level whilst her band are stationed above her on the upper level.
A row of 10 spotlights defines the boundary between upper and lower stages with a further row of 8 spotlights suspended from the ceiling which are used to great effect. Previous tours have relied on basic props of mannequins, hat stands, plastic hamburgers and toy dogs (Marilyn), so this is a step up into the bigtime.
The Neon Nature Tour has been devised as a show in 3 parts. Each part showcasing tracks from her 3 albums in chronological order, The Family Jewels, Electra Heart and Froot. Having the show in 3 parts allows Marina a costume change in between sets which seems to be obligatory in this day and age for productions of a higher standard.
As the lights dim just after 9pm, the LED screens light up with sets of white piercing eyes shining through a labyrinth of jungle creatures set in a garden. This sets off a multitude of hands raising i-phones to capture the imminent arrival of Marina who appears wearing a headband featuring a large pair of octagonal shaped purple Jewels and a matching outfit that Marina and her manager Jess Keeley have designed for this tour. The addition of the LED screens adds a great aesthetic and throughout the Family Jewels set images of pink polka dots, eyes, skulls, houses and jungle scenes are all displayed.
The opening song Mowgli’s Road is met with a huge roar as it’s instantly recognizable and I am not a robot and Oh No follow next which are well received and were popular radio songs in the UK. After 3 songs the momentum switches to having Marina perform without her bands participation and for this purpose the lights dim and a solitary spotlight lights up an electronic keyboard that the roadies have just wheeled into centre stage so that Marina can sing Obsessions. Marina explains that this is the first song that she ever wrote and it is delivered with perfection. The slower songs in the set tonight accentuate what a fine ethereal, hauntingly beautiful voice she has and the crowd are very familiar with this song also, so much so that Marina is nearly drowned out by the 3000 voices singing along. This to me is a really poignant moment in the show.
Hollywood was the main single from the Family Jewels album so it is only fitting that this song concludes Part one. The crowd jump on Marina’s command and there is a deafening roar when Marina sings the line from the song “Actually my name is Marina”. This is a great song choice to finish this set.
The lights dim once again and the LED screens now illuminate images from the Electra Heart era. Three large images of Marina’s face (complete with the signature love heart on her cheek) now flash rapidly giving the appearance that Marina is blinking which is very clever followed by repeated images of the Electra Heart neon sign that was used in that tour.
A shadowed silhouette of Marina’s body appears on screen which excites the crowd once more with lots of screaming and clapping, before she makes her entrance dressed in a figure hugging sparkly pink body suit that appears to be made out of latex or rubber which looks terrific. Marina is in great shape and has the confidence to wear such an outfit complete with trailing cape and heart shapes cut out of the costume running down both legs. A pair of sparkly purple high heels complete the look. I had read that there was considerable thought put into the designs and outfits for this tour and it clearly shows, for these are original and interesting choices.
Bubblegum bitch seems like the logical entrance song after making such an appearance, and sure enough that is the song chosen to launch part two. This high energy, up tempo song has the crowd jumping once again before the keyboard is bought back on stage for Marina to sit and sing Teen Idle. How to be a Heartbreaker and Primadonna were singles released from Electra Heart and were two of Marina’s most popular tunes, so playing these two songs after Teen Idle just about brings the house down. There is a really good vibe in the room and everyone is singing along and having a great time. Lies rounds out Part Two of the show. Ten songs down now as we ready ourselves for the Froot part of the show.
As you would expect, a large portion of this show is dedicated to the latest album Froot. Nine songs from this album make up the remainder of the show. The title track from the album is the first song in this set and sees Marina take the stage on the upper level with her band members. Dressed in a splendid sparkly blue jumpsuit with a different headpiece comprising of a pair of blue cherries, spotlights now beam different colors creating a rainbow effect which is visually breathtaking. Many small radiant stars fill the backdrop adding to the visual brilliance as yellow, orange, blue and purple spotlights flash on and off.
For the song Savages, Marina takes her place back on the lower stage and together with Can’t pin me down, the feel good vibe continues. What makes a great show is great songs. Marina has a real swagger as she sings these two songs but the strength for me is the quality of the melody and the band are so tight they do not miss a beat. Andres, Glenn, Sebastian and Ben have been with her for quite some time and this show is the final UK show so these musicians are accomplished and at the top of their game.
At this point in the show on the previous evening, Marina chose to sing True Colors, the popular Cindy Lauper tune, but tonight has opted to sing Solitaire instead. Personally I can never understand why an artist that has such a wealth of fine material to choose from would prefer to sing someone else’s song. Solitaire is rarely sung live, so tonight is a real treat for those in the crowd and showcases Marina’s amazing vocal range and compliments the next song I’m a ruin really well as both of these songs change the frenetic pace of the show to a new slower dynamic.
This slowing of the show allows Marina to say a few words. “I just want to tell you guys so many things. I have done three albums now and am at a bit of a crossroads. Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed to have this career and sing for you guys, but I don’t know when I will be touring the UK again”. The emotion of the moment brings tears to her eyes and she is clearly struggling now with the enormity of the occasion for this may be her last show in the UK for some years. I get the sense that Marina is trying to say goodbye and that other endeavors may occupy her time in the foreseeable future. I may be wrong, but time will tell.
Forget and Immortal are two of my favorite songs from the Froot album so I am particularly pleased that they are played next. Part of the reason this concert is so enjoyable is because Marina is a good song writer. What sets Marina Diamandis apart from many of her colleagues is exactly that. She is an independent song writer that does not rely on a team of hit-makers to gift her songs as so many other female singers do. Immortal is delivered to perfection and the diversity in Marina’s vocal range is exquisite. This is a perfect ending to close the show and again the crowd are exuberant with their applause. As Marina sings “I wanna be immortal – like a God in the sky” I think to myself, you are well on your way.
For the encore, two more songs are chosen from the Froot LP, Happy and Blue. Both good choices, mixing up the tempo with Happy being a slow song and Blue a fast, cheery song to finish.
As the house lights get turned on and I sift through the empty beer bottles and plastic cups strewn across the floor to get to the front of stage to meet a few people, I can’t but help think that I might have just witnessed something truly special if Marina does take a hiatus from performing. I really hope that I am wrong and that Australia does get a look in at some time.
A big thank you must go to Jon Jones for kindly allowing us to share his photos taken from the front row of the concert. Jon has seen Marina and the Diamonds in concert 58 times. Now that is dedication !
Photos Jon Jones and Adrian Alders
see more photos here