Since arriving on the scene in 2009 as Marina and the Diamonds, Welsh singer Marina Diamandis has been a force to be reckoned with within British indie pop. Her unique brand of upbeat tunes with self-reflective, self-deprecating lyrics and acrobatic vocals have rocketed all four of her albums into the Top 10 of the UK charts.
Ten years after her debut, she has returned with her new album Love + Fear, having shed ‘the Diamonds’ to perform under the streamlined moniker ‘MARINA’. On Tuesday night, at the O2 Apollo, she performed her second Manchester show of the Love + Fear Tour, with an updated setlist and a new supporting act, Canadian alt-pop singer, Allie X.
Allie X convincingly commanded the iconic venue, performing an on-trend range of left-of-field pop songs from her catalogue, including her new singles ‘Fresh Laundry’ and ‘Rings a Bell’, as well as older hits like ‘Casanova’ and the discordant electropop banger, ‘Bitch’. Her relatively brief set proved to be a suitable, thoroughly enjoyable warm-up before Marina took to the stage.
Marina opened with ‘Handmade Heaven’, a gorgeous and hypnotic cut from her latest album. She then immediately transitioned into back-to-back crowd-pleasing classics “Hollywood” and “Primadonna,” reminding us all of her camp, off-beat indie-pop beginnings. This contrast between new and old set the tone for the rest of the concert, as Marina alternated between songs from her latest album and well-known hits from her earlier releases. The concert was loosely split into two sections – Love and Fear – but there was no obvious distinction between the two other than an outfit change.
Love + Fear has proven to be Marina’s most divisive album so far, with its uncharacteristically generic production and lyrics disappointing some long-time fans and prompting lukewarm reviews from critics. The crowd, it must be said, were unusually still and quiet throughout many of Marina’s songs. Their low energy was especially evident during songs from her newest album, as she struggled to hype up the crowd. An especially painful moment came during ‘I’m Not Hungry Anymore’, an unreleased track originally intended to be on her third album, Froot. During this soft, piano-led ballad, it was hard to even hear Marina over the chattering of the restless crowd.
The staging of the show was simple but relatively effective. Four backup dancers supported Marina though this was, at times, more of an unwelcome distraction than anything else. A clip of a backup dancer running in circles while Marina performs ‘Emotional Machine’ has already been widely mocked on Twitter, and, indeed, it was extremely awkward seeing this part of the show performed in person. Nonetheless, Marina herself commanded attention for every moment that she was on stage; her presence made up for any flaws in her staging or backup dancers.
Noticeably, Tuesday’s show was not sold out, perhaps a reflection of the lacklustre reception and commercial performance of Love + Fear. Nonetheless, those in attendance appeared to be having a very good night, even if the overall energy in the room was bizarrely low.
While it may feel as though Marina has lost some of her lustre since dropping ‘the Diamonds’, she is still able to put on a very fun, if flawed, show a full decade into her career.