Friday, November 19, 2010

Marina & The Diamonds: HMV Forum, Kentish Town

When Marina Diamandis took to the stage in front of a giant screen flashing diamonds, fire and Bond girl silhouettes, and took position behind the mike (and in front of a wind machine that would make Diana Ross weep) there was no doubt that we were in for a night of utterly theatrical and meticulously staged entertainment. It’s easy to lump the 25-year-old chanteuse in with all those other cute, shiny-haired radio-friendly pop tarts (let’s not name names here) but from the opening song – the title track of her debut album, Family Jewels – she proved she’s got the musical chops to back up the flamboyant persona and poptastic stylings.

The half-Welsh, half-Greek singer-songwriter looked totally in control of Kentish Town’s HMV Forum from the get go – pulling fierce, photo-worthy poses behind the mike; indulging the fashion-forward audience with four costume changes; and leading the sharp-suited quartet of musos hovering in the background with an assuredness more fitting of an industry veteran. She might wear her musical influences on her sleeve – Kate Bush, Madonna and Tori Amos spring to mind – but when performing tracks like Are You Satisfied and Mowgli’s Road, it’s clear to see she has a truly unique musical and songwriting style: think dark melodies, swooping vocals, and ubiquitous pop hooks. Watching her play accompanying keys for her spiky ballad Obsessions, you certainly wouldn’t guess she only taught herself piano relatively recently.

Sure, she’s winning mainstream success with the backing of a major label, but her heavy touring schedule and ascension from opening slots in Camden’s dive bars is admirable, to say the least. By the time she performed single Shampain and had an animated and fluent exchange with some Greek fans in the audience it was impossible not to be won over by her charm. She also roadtested a new track, Jealousy, which is sure to have her record execs rubbing their hands together – the soaring vocals over a driving dance beats has ‘hit single’ written all over it. Chances are, the crowd would have been satisfied even without the overblown finale featuring a giant hamburger lowered onto stage and Marina in full U S of A cheerleading regalia. But all in all, a victory of style *and* substance, and the gig showed there’s a lot more to Marina and the Diamonds than cat suits and cartoony props.

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