Upon arrival at the Commodore Ballroom, I was greeted by a line that stretched far down Granville and around the corner of Smithe Street. The doors opened a little later than advertised, but the friendly and efficient door staff ensured that everyone was inside in less than 15 minutes. Concert goers congregated in small groups around the dimly lit venue, glancing occasionally towards the stage in excited anticipation, while the more enthusiastic among us were already securing our positions by the stage.
The opening act in tonight’s line up was up and coming Brooklyn based pop duo MS MR – who are currently signed with Sony and who have just released their first single. The main act of the evening was Welsh beauty Marina Diamandis, better known by her stage name Marina & the Diamonds. Even though not yet well known in North America, the 26 year old London based singer/ songwriter of Greek descent has practically become a household name in the UK and surrounding European countries over the last few years after the release of her album “The Family Jewels.”
At around 9.15pm the lights cut out, completely shrouding the thickening crowd in darkness as loud squeals of excitement and roaring applause reverberated off every corner of the room. I could tell already that the acoustics in this cosy intimate venue were going to be amazing!
Without warning a female figure appeared under a sudden soft pink-purple spotlight that cast an almost ethereal and ghostly glow upon her. What a way to be introduced to MS! To her right I spotted the other half of this alternative indie pop duo – MR, who seemed content to let MS quite literally shine in her bedazzled attire as she began to sing the opening lines to the first song. A definite unexpected chill went down my spine as MS’s voice filled the venue with such a haunting fluidity, it would most certainly have left even the harshest of critics momentarily breathless. Although relatively fresh faced in their attempts to carve a name for themselves in the music industry; after attentively hanging on MS MR’s every note throughout their 8 track set-list, international success is a not-so-distant certainty in my humble opinion. I feel that this is definitely due in part to their accessibility– theirs is music that is surprisingly commercial. It is however the angelic voice of MS that is guaranteed to aid them in their quest for success. I was reminded of the heavenly voice of Ellie Goulding and at times of Florence Welsh and Duffy as she blissfully sang her way through each song including “Bones”, “Ash Tree Lane” and their debut single “Hurricane”. Tearing my eyes momentarily from the stage, I noticed that the audience were as thoroughly captivated by their performance as I was.
Following the stage exit of MS MR, the now well and truly pumped up audience babbled and giggled noisily amongst themselves in the bright red glow of the stage lighting as songs from Britney Spears, Garbage and Gwen Stefani to name but a few, boomed from the nearby speakers. I stood quietly rooted to the spot however, completely mesmerised by the stage crew as they set up the backdrop and props that included a coat stand and plush red velvet chaise longue in preparation for Miss Diamandis’ entrance.
We were not left waiting too long before once again, the ballroom darkened, which was instantly followed by a deafening roar from the crowd. The atmosphere in the room was electric and I felt the contagious rush of excitement well up inside me as the neon sign that hung to the back of the stage, bearing the name of her latest album, flickered brightly to life. Marina dramatically floated on stage moments later to a thunderous welcome from her followers – the “Diamonds” that adorn the crown of her stage name, complete with wedding veil and off-white faux fur cropped jacket. Marina’s trademark tiny black heart etched high on her cheekbone was imitated by the majority of her loyal followers in the audience.
“Homewrecker”, the 4th track on her latest album Electra Heart was the opening number and this set the tone for the rest of the show; which was more or less based on her negative views on being in a relationship. With her unmistakable vocal style and unique singing voice, Marina worked her way through the set-list, getting lost in and putting on a show that must have surely left her exhausted by its’ close. There were a few costume changes which saw her don a puffed out powder pink prom dress for her song “Power and Control”. She determinedly draped a sash that had been hanging from the coat stand with the words “Miss Shellfish Beach” emblazoned in thick red block letters on it for her self-proclaimed favourite song “Bubblegum Bitch” a fast paced electro-pop song which she pranced around the stage to like an egotistical teenager as she blew kisses and winked cheekily at the audience. I must confess, my inner girly girl swooned over her stage outfits, which were a cross between 50’s inspired Betsey Johnson creations and sugary Disney Princess Chique.
Interacting with her beloved Diamonds on several occasions during the show, Marina described her song “Lies” as a perfect track to listen to on a “depressing singles Sunday night.” She introduced us to her little toy poodle Marilyn before she sang latest release “Primadonna”; a prop that since appearing in the music video, has shot to fame almost parallel to her own, she joked. She advised her Diamonds never to allow themselves become the supporting act in a relationship, before with an almost heavy heart she sang the emotional ballad “Starring Role.”
I personally lost all sense of composure when Marina launched into one of my top 10 favourite songs of the past year – “Radioactive”. I unashamedly sang (OK… shrieked at best..) along to the fast paced pop song at the very top of my lungs, bopping along awkwardly in a vain attempt to dance in my confined space in the crowd.
Marina chose to end the night with the very song that shot her to fame in the UK.
“Hollywood” saw the crowd almost drown her powerful voice out as they sang passionately along.
In conclusion, Marina’s unique beauty, energy, charisma, onstage presence and her outstanding talent as a singer/songwriter as well as her genuine appreciation and love for her fans – her Diamonds; leave me in no doubt whatsoever that capturing the attention and hearts of North America is most definitely set to be an imminent occurrence in her near future.
Electra Heart is available to download now from iTunes.