Like Florence and the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds is the eponymously named band of half-Greek, half-Welsh beauty Marina Diamandis. The mention the ‘beauty’ part because let’s face it, us mortals girls don’t have a chance when compared to the gorgeous brunette singer/songwriter. She’s already won the hearts of many a girl and boy across Britain with her brand of idiosyncratic yet incredibly catchy pop. The crowd that lined up prior to doors opening at the 9:30 Club Monday night weren’t shy about showing off their love for the singer: they dutifully put on what I considered pretty tacky “Oh No!” glasses and were taking photos of each other with them on. Kind of weird. It was, however, nice to see an even mix of the sexes at the show, since most gigs I attend are 70% male or more and it can feel intimidating.
The opening act for Marina’s tour is Young the Giant, a very young (all members around 21 or younger) rock five-piece from sunny Newport Beach, California. They also have some serious cred already: in 2009 when they were still called the Jakes, they won an online vote to open for Kings of Leon in Chicago and reportedly “crushed the competition.” I guess there was a lot of equipment set-up on the 9:30 stage for Marina and her band, because sometimes I felt bad that the members of Young the Giant were cramped for space, especially since their guitarists like to run around the stage, run into each other and singer Sameer Gadhia, and occasionally, into drummer Francois Comtois‘s drum kit. At times, I was worried one of them was going to wipe out and fall ala Steven Tyler onto the 9:30 Club floor.
Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened, and they delivered a respectable and energetic set of songs to the rabid Marina and the Diamonds fans. “Cough Syrup” was a highlight, with guitarists Payam Doostzadeh, Jacob Tilley, and Eric Cannata looking so overtaken by the music, they forgot where they were spatially and started running into each other. Afterward, one audience member, obviously pleased with the song, yelled out, “I love you man!” With a smile, Gadhia shouted back to him, “I love you too!” Another standout, “Streetwalker,” featured slide guitar that was I not expecting from a couple upstarts from Orange County. Their last song was “My Body,” which you can download from their website here.
We had to wait over 45 minutes before the Marina and the Diamonds part of show would begin, but the crowd was content to yell “Marina!” every time a roadie would come onstage to test equipment or put down set lists, water bottles, and towels. When 9:30 rolled around (supposedly Marina’s set time), people started chanting “Marina! Marina! Marina!” Her band came out first, already 10 minutes late and then suitably fashionably late, Diamandis appeared, looking a bit Elvira with a black velvet dress and dark purple, almost black lipstick, her dark hair flowing onto her shoulders.
She jumped right into “The Outsider,” and over the course of the night, she played all but one song from her debut album The Family Jewels released here in America in May on Chop Shop Records. Being up front with a friend of mine who is a huge, huge fan of Marina, I was surrounded by girls and guys who sang along to every word uttered by their biggest heroine. For “Numb” and “Obsessions,” she showed her piano-playing chops and also sweating profusely and complaining, “this black velvet is a bitch. It’s so hot, I want to peel my face off.” She then added, smiling widely at her fans, “but it’s worth it!” Never a truer word said by a slave to fashion.
I’m not a huge fan of Diamandis (her voice varies from deep alto territory to over the top operatic), but I have to admit “I Am Not a Robot” is an earworm of the highest caliber. Even days after seeing Diamandis and her band, I’m still hearing the chorus, “guess what! / I’m not a robot / a robot,” in my head. Two more highlights came after Diamandis had a quick costume change. For “Hollywood,” a song she wrote about the perceived excesses and chaos of America, she re-emerged from backstage wearing a long slip, a purple and yellow letterman jacket, and dollar sign sunglasses and holding two exaggeratingly big fake hamburgers. The applause and cheering was deafening.
This was quickly followed by the purposely misspelled “Shampain,” during which Diamandis encouraged everyone in the club to jump up and down and they happily complied. She was so happy with the response that she thanked the crowd with “a bit gin and tonic for all of you!” The encore was an unexpected, soft and reflective cover of 3Oh!3‘s “Starstrukk,” followed by the odd-sounding “Mowgli’s Road,” complete with Diamandis’s cuckoo noises. I’ll say this: a Marina and the Diamonds show is certainly a spectacle.
Marina and the Diamonds Set List
I Am Not a Robot
// (costume change)
Are You Satisfied?
Starstrukk (3Oh!3 Cover)
Sept 13 – Crocodile / Seattle:
Sept 14 – Doug Fir / Portland
Sept 15 – Independent / San Francisco
Sept 17 – El Rey / Los Angeles
Marina and the Diamonds: website | myspace | Marina and the Diamonds Announces September North American Tour
Young the Giant: website | myspace