The costume changes, elaborate set, lighting, and final curtain call all signaled theater, but the actual music was pure pop star shenanigans. Marina Diamandis and her group of talented musicians made for an entertaining evening with their energetic performance complemented by a neon pink heart in the background that beat along with each song.
I knew we were in for an interesting set when Ms. Diamandis walked on stage wearing an elaborate vintage-looking bridal veil and sang “Homewrecker” as her first number. The visual of a beautiful singer wearing that get-up while singing the line “I don’t belong to anyone” had the potential to be eye-rollingly annoying, but instead it seemed campy and fun—just like Ms. Diamandis’s entire onstage persona.
She shed the veil and added Lolita-type pink heart-shaped sunglasses for the next few songs and danced almost as vigorously as her fans for “Oh No” and “I am Not a Robot.” I was surprised at the variety of instruments on the stage because I never know what to expect from an artist like Marina and the Diamonds. Similar artists seem to be able to create a similar sound with fewer pieces on stage, but I enjoyed how the fullness of the musicians’ performance complemented the smaller-than-the-sound space of the 9:30 Club.
For another costume change, Marina slipped into a gauzy pink nightgown for “State of Dreaming.” Later in the set, she used an obvious prop for “Shampain” and took a few sips from the oversized champagne glass throughout the song. Even though “Shampain” was my favorite song of the night, my favorite prop of the night was the giant fake hamburger during “Hollywood.” Is this a comment on “the mess that is America,” as the lyrics go? Or is this an homage to California’s ubiquitous In-n-Out Burger? Either way, I found it clever and amusing.
Obvious crowd pleasers throughout the night were “Bubblegum Bitch” and “Primadonna.” These are the songs that prompted more dancing and glowstick waving than I’ve seen in a long time. Fans of Marina and the Diamonds do not mess around.
A note about the audience: I have spent many an evening at the 9:30 Club in the five-plus years that I have lived in DC, and never before has an audience appeared to be having so much fun. The audience’s enjoyment seemed like a mixture of fan girl/guy sing-a-longs, club-like dancing, and drinking like it was not a Tuesday.
Seriously, I’ve never had that amount of beer spilled on my feet, and I didn’t even care because I was so amused by what caused it. This was not a crowd who pushed each other out of the way to get to the front or argued over who is the bigger fan of the performer. This crowd accidentally spilled drinks and dropped bottles while attempting to dance with fellow fans or get a picture of the artist.
I have not been a fan of Marina and the Diamonds for very long, but this show ensured that I will continue to be a fan. It would be easy to dismiss this type of artist as pure fun with no substance. However, I am one of those people who get hooked-in more by lyrics than by sound, and the lyrics of the encore songs completely pulled me in. Usually I will examine lyrics while listening to music on my iPod/record player/media of choice in the privacy of my own room and then not even pay attention to the lyrics when at a live show.
With Marina and the Diamonds, it was the opposite experience. “Teen Idle” and “Fear and Loathing” are not exactly Disney radio pop-hits or profound pieces of poetry, but I definitely connected with the songs. That’s the whole point of live performances, right? The personal connection to a song, whatever that connection may be, is what keeps the fans coming back for more.
At end the night, Ms. Diamandis asked the crowd if we were ready to get sassy before launching into “How to be a Heartbreaker.” I think we were all plenty sassy much earlier in the show, but I’m glad the show ended on a high note—complete with a full choir-type curtain call with the musicians bowing in unison on either side of Ms. Diamandis. This brought the theatrical feeling from the beginning of the show full circle.
The opening act, the appropriately named duo Ms Mr, seemed excited to be there with Marina and the Diamonds. Having never listened to them before seeing them live, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was happy to discover that they sounded like they should be opening for someone like Marina and the Diamonds. The theme of the night was pop fun with a little bit of girl power thrown in, and Ms Mr’s sound fit right in.
What else can you expect from a singer who introduces a song by saying that she is going to be “spiteful and bitchy for a moment to all the exes in the room” ? Later, before playing their single ”Hurricane,” they mentioned they will be back at the 9:30 Club soon. I think DC can handle seeing/hearing more of Ms Mr, especially if we get to hear that song about exes, that is supposedly for a DC boy, again.
Photos by Alison Tremblay