It’s been nearly four years since Marina (full name: Marina Lambrini Diamandis) performed at Los Angeles’ iconic Greek Theatre. Back on October 19th, 2015, Marina and the Diamonds (which was her moniker up until only recently) gave a positively colorful performance in the midst of her Neon Nature Tour (off the heels of her Froot EP, which peaked at #8 on the US Billboard 200). On October 4th, 2019, her sold-out stop at the Greek as part of her Love + Fear Tour (to promote the titular double album released on April 26th; an acoustic version was released on September 13th) comprised equally satisfying stage ingredients as her last appearance here, with the added benefit of seeing a musically ripened, wiser, and even more confident Marina. For instance, her already deft mezzo-soprano vocals sounded even crisper and more resonant; and her dancing (flanked as she is by her four backup cohorts) was polished and effortless, melding seamlessly with her vocalizations and overall presence. Not to mention, it was a “special gig” for Marina, who remarked that it was a “hometown show” given that she now spends her time between here and London.
Now that she’s rebranded herself as simply Marina, joining the elite class of songstresses like Cher, Beyoncé, and Madonna (a personal muse of hers) who are referred to by a mononym, the Greek-and-Welsh performer finds herself renewed with the energy of her loyal and diverse range of fans who find solace in the musician’s musings about life and the unique individuals in it. She is earnest about her approach to all of this, too, and is one of the few pop stars who is not only hands-on with her own concert packages, and tour merchandise, but she is reassuringly accessible, going so far as to answer fan queries in her Instagram stories and even reply to comments. This is in stark contrast to many stars who disable their comments section on social media, dead set on not allowing any other narratives other than their own to steer their meticulously maintained images. But the socially conscious Marina is her own person, unencumbered by the chains of stardom, and liberated by the beat and rhythm of her own forward-thinking ingenuity.
At almost 34 years of age, when some stage acts might be winding down, Marina, who is probably in the best shape of her life, is just getting started as both a grassroots pop star and a scholar curious about the mind’s inner workings. She has an affinity for psychology, driven by her desire to derive personal meaning after having doubted her place as a player in the pop-culture parade. These previously disquieting thoughts have instead strengthened her, thoughtfully informing her compositions and especially lyrics that perspicaciously shed light on the duality of the human condition. Love + Fear bares two sides of the same coin, and while some may argue that hate should take the place of fear, it really is fear that is the harbinger of hate. Marina is intuitive and informed enough to realize this, which highlights a rawness and intelligence that draws her fans to her music.
Now with four discrete albums to her credit, some may still rate her music as being “bubblegum” pop, but if it is, it’s the kind that is long-lasting and bursting with flavor, never losing its novelty even after repeated listens. The approximately 20-song set of the Love + Fear Tour (about half are from the current album) has been carefully curated, each one underscoring Marina’s development and evolution as an entertainer.
When Marina walked on stage accompanied by her dancers and drummer/keyboardist at approximately 9 pm — following Canadian singer Allie X’s opening act — all 5,653 Marina-maniacs screamed and delighted in joy upon seeing a woman whose musical acumen is as natural as her beauty. Sure, Marina has sex appeal – as it’s an inherent part of being human – but she doesn’t feel the need to make her body the focal point of her presentation, instead astutely relying on what brought her to the scene: being real, personable, and engaging as an elegant electropop gentlewoman. Even with a minimalistic stage design comprised of a few adjoined podiums and a tilted rectangular white canvas to play projected images, the 5′ 4″ Marina, amid her soundscape of sincerity and surreality, was more than enough to satiate the audience.
Marina’s eye-catching fashion sense, additionally, is one of the first observations one likely had at the Greek Theatre. Hip as can be in her white tennis shoes, Marina sported two outfits for the two halves of her 90-minute concert — a gorgeous satin turquoise number inclusive of formfitting shorts and a corset-like tank top (with an ivory silk layer stitched over her bust, boasting a printed image of her kittens), as well as a similarly constructed fuchsia ensemble with a bejeweled waistband quirkily resembling a fanny pack. Suffice it to say, the artist owned every minute of being comfortable in her own skin, let alone in clothes.
By Marina’s own admission, true success has amounted to the serenity of being herself with or without the frills. From what the eyes and ears could muster in Los Angeles, she is a charmingly compelling personality that speaks with, not to her audience, virtuously conscientious that those who paid their hard-earned money have a memorable time watching and listening to her.
This was indisputably apparent from the moment “Handmade Heaven” (from Love + Fear) started the evening — a lovely idyllic piece that is pleasant-sounding and ingratiated Marina to her audience. The promise of paradise then took an amusing turn as Marina performed a “Hollywood” cheer (from The Family Jewels), with celebratory silver pom poms and all, in the most apropos venue, in the backyard of Tinseltown. “Primadonna,” “Bubblegum Bitch,” and “How to Be a Heartbreaker” (all from Electra Heart), along with “Oh No!” (The Family Jewels), were not just the most energetic, fist-pumping rompers of the night, but they also denoted the performer’s lighter side and offered an interesting juxtaposition between the lens of her appreciated past and the exultant reality of her present.
Marina, moreover, exhibited her tremendous range between softened lower notes and sustained highs during the vocal runs in “I Am Not a Robot” (The Family Jewels) and “Froot” (from the album of the same name) — a spectacle involving a choreographed dance with neon light tubes. Her timbre — which feels as light as a feather yet is tempered by an underlying bass — is versatile, fitting the mold of a pop diva or at times the lead character in an opera, where she’d be just as credible in a romantic role like in La Bohème or as a bad ass à la Tosca.
Of course, the Love + Fear tracks were the focus of the evening and they did not disappoint. “To Be Human” felt like a clarion call for unity, as images of soldiers, the Parthenon, and Hiroshima were projected behind Marina. “Orange Trees” was reminiscent of being transported to a welcoming, tropical climate, and “Emotional Machine” came across poignantly, as one of the dancers moved balletically across the stage with a billowing purple chiffon veil. In comparison, “No More Suckers” (with a video montage of insects) and the Mediterranean melody of “Karma” reiterated Marina’s lyrical assertiveness as one who is not to be reckoned with. The fiercely romantic “End of the Earth” was remarkable for its percussion and rumbling bass, as Marina became enveloped by starry orbs of light, prompting the enthralled crowd to join in with their illuminated phones.
The biggest — and most pleasant — surprises of the night, though, featured her collaboration with Clean Bandit and Luis Fonsi (“Baby”), as well as two stripped-down performances on the keyboard: “Teen Idle” (Electra Heart) and “I’m Not Hungry Anymore” (an unreleased song from Froot). “Baby” immediately cajoled the standing sea of people into an ecstatic frenzy and did not seem out of place in the set as it could have easily been an original Marina hit. The latter two songs resonated as the most intimate and meaningful, not necessarily for their subject matter, but for Marina’s musicianship and the immaculate emotional breadth on display in her voice. Just as impressive was that both pieces compelled passionate participation from the thousands in attendance, whose collective voices ebbed and flowed throughout the Greek Theatre.
By the concert’s end, when Marina wished her adoring supporters a good night, it was unquestionable that she is a natural at what she does — not solely because of her lustrous stage prowess, but for the mutually respectful relationship she shares with her fans. Over the last decade, they’ve seen her grow into a powerful woman who has graciously retained her humility.
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