Marina Diamandis dreamed of one day having her own band. As the frontwoman, naturally, it would be named after her, though she’d skew her last name with creative license (as I likely just did in those opening sentences). The first Marina and the Diamonds album was released later than the Welsh schoolgirl version of Diamantis may have liked, but The Family Jewels made an impact on audiences. Quirky pop numbers with serious themes and lyrically-rich pop-rock songs sung in Marina’s deep-reaching voice set her apart from the pop divas of 2010. Electra Heart followed a similar template in 2012. My awareness of Marina came about with her 2015 release, Froot. A full-band album with darker themes, many agreed that it was her strongest album to date. Marina played Toronto twice in support of the album, the first being the first concert my five-year-old daughter wanted to see. She sat and bopped on my shoulders while Marina and the Diamonds played in the sunshine at Field Trip in 2015.
MARINA ‘fired’ the Diamonds in 2018, leaving the name solely as what she calls her fans, stating on Twitter,
“It took me well over a year to figure out that a lot of my identity was tied up in who I was as an artist… and there wasn’t much left of who I was.”
She announced at the beginning of 2019 that a new album was nigh releasing the first single Handmade Heaven in February. Following was the news that the album would actually be a pair of eight song albums. Love + Fear dropped in their entirety on April 26. An eclectic mix of lush pop songs showcasing Diamandis’ voice with a softer timbre, the album titles are what psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross theorized were the only true emotions humans feel. MARINA (now in all-caps) explained in her words that “There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love and all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt.”
Around the time of the album’s debut, an InStyle article the artist wrote was published that hinted at some of the artist’s thoughts leading to the themes of the songs. A British tour and run of Euro festival dates commenced and concluded during the summer while MARINA fans on the other side of the Atlantic awaited her second leg. That tour began in Toronto at REBEL to a raving sold-out crowd. I bought tickets the day they went on sale, one with my now ten-year-old daughter’s name on it. The date seemed far away for her so I gave her the bittersweet news that we’d see the show a week after she started grade five.
The audience at REBEL was an eclectic mix of queer kids and girls on a night out. Not entirely surprising, I wasn’t the only chubby bearded Gen X music geek in attendance. Backed musically only by a drummer (and lots of backing tracks), MARINA entered the stage with a pair of dancers to perform Handmade Heaven. A quick run of songs from her earlier albums followed with Hollywood, Primadonna and Enjoy Your Life. A pair of singing dancers joined the stage to run through I Am Not A Robot, To Be Human, Superstar, Froot (which she announced was originally an eight-minute song that didn’t thrill her record company) and Orange Trees. MARINA was left solo onstage to accompany herself on the piano to perform Teen Idle. The Fear portion of the show came next and the energy flew sky-high again with the room-bouncing Bubblegum Bitch. More upbeat numbers came with Emotional Machine and No More Suckers plus I’m Not Hungry Anymore, a previously unreleased song from Froot which again was presented solo. The rest of the set ran full steam with Karma, Savages and Baby which Diamandis coyly announced as the last song. The two-song encore of a stunning version of End of the Earth and singalong romp of How To Be A Heartbreaker ended the night. A joyfully waving all-smiles Marina left the audience as they roared with cheers and applause, as they had the entire night, my daughter included.
Not only did she show her premature teen attitude by making sure to stand some distance away from her parents and refuse to dance with us, but she also insisted we listen to the new album on the way home.
MARINA’s North American tour continues through the US before ending on October 9th at the Orpheum in Vancouver, BC.