Marina & the Diamonds – Live at The Ritz, Manchester 31/10/2010

Review by Chris Gilliver

From the first song of hers I heard, ‘I Am Not a Robot’ I think, Marina seemed stratosphere-bound. Noting on her growing success she says: “This is my first proper tour. A lot of people say I didn’t expect to be here, but I did, because I wanted it”. This is not arrogance, or an over-confidence in her abilities, but a simple, factual statement. She’s made it to The Ritz, because she’s an excellent singer, she knows it, and she has total faith in herself. She looks like she would be just as at ease in her living room as she is onstage. Judging by her numerous costume changes, from wearing a red, neon heart around her waist to dressing up as a fast food vendor and brandishing a giant novelty burger at the audience, she also expects to be as big as Madonna, Beyonce etc. After all, the number of costume changes in one night is an odd indicator of a female artist’s success (Lady Gaga changed her clothes 13 times at one show in Boston).

Though her voice is genuinely flawless, as proved by the A cappella intro to ‘Oh No’, there are elements about tonight’s performance that make me wonder if this faith is misplaced. For instance, the costume changes, an extra hat here or minus a pair of sunglasses there, are mostly done in such a half-assed way that they make me think that the curve of her success has not been as steep or accelerated as she would like or believes. Then there’s the fact that she’s just not icy or enigmatic enough; she’s just too bubbly, engaging and disarmingly funny to be a proper diva. I could never imagine Britney Spears saying, “Crap my pants”, when describing something in between songs – though I can imagine her doing it in real life (harsh but true).

Then there’s the fact that some of her upbeat tracks aren’t quite as interesting as they think they are. ‘Shampain’s methodically, labouring synth indie pop, is as generic as the title suggests, and ‘Hollywood’ walks on familiar ground. But then she plays one of her ballads, and these thoughts vacate my mind as easily as blowing the seeds off a dandelion head.

MatD are similar to Blur in this respect – even though Damon Albarn is responsible for some of the most annoying, I’d rather blow my brains out with a potato gun than listen to this, songs ever (like ‘Country House’ or ‘Parklife’), he’s also responsible for sublime ballads like ‘The Universal’ or ‘This is a Low’. ‘I Am Not a Robot’, ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Numb’ are all so exceptionally good when they come, that I feel that all my doubts must be misplaced. It might take longer than she expects, she will have to write more songs like these, but in the end I think she will become the star she so desperately craves to be.

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