Marina live in California: idiosyncratic pop gets lost in the desert

June 13, California desert: In a show that sometimes lacks direction, the pop icon shares little of her outsized personality

Marina Diamandis is winding up the wistful bridge of ‘I Am Not A Robot’ when something extraordinary happens. “Let the drum beat drop!”, she exclaims before disappearing into a puff of magic smoke on cue, like a pantomime pop Genie. The camera trickery at play is genius: when she instantly reappears in an eye-popping, bright green three-piece, the rhythm section behind her bursts into life for the song’s final chorus, and fans in the live chat of tonight’s livestream show go wild. “She’s living her cucumber fantasy!” chirps one quick-witted commenter, remarking on the luridness of the Greek-Welsh artist’s outfit.

Perhaps it’s down to the cool minimalism of this one-off event – pre-recorded from a hazy, tumbleweed-strewn slice of Californian desert, no less – that this carefully choreographed costume change stands as the only real element of surprise throughout an hour-long set. These days, Marina (who scrapped the “and the Diamonds” suffix in 2018), is less of a theatrical performer: she’s ditched the (virtual) audience interaction and the Broadway-worthy dance routines, and she sings to backing tracks, which often get tangled in an echoey mix. The lack of visual effects throughout only exacerbates this issue.

That said, she’s ever the self-aware pop star who knows exactly what her cult-like fanbase wants – and she delivers. Marina proudly debuts songs from her latest album, the return-to-form ‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land’, released last week (June 11).  The piano introspection of broad-strokes feminist anthem ‘Man’s World’ (and later, the genuinely moving closer ‘Goodbye’) see her irresistible vocals soar high into the purple skies above, while ‘Venus Fly Trap’ – Marina’s strongest single since the triumphant title track from 2015’s ‘Froot’ – is a campy romp.


It becomes increasingly noticeable, however, that this 15-song setlist is devoid of any of the lead singles from 2019’s ‘Love + Fear’, a breezy record that was panned for its surface-level rumination on social issues. Instead, Marina leans on the reliable numbers of old: a live band adds an arena-rock breakdown to the aforementioned ‘Froot’, while ‘How To Be A Heartbreaker’ – aka Stan Twitter’s national anthem – morphs from a conspiratorial wink to a singalong party. They’re spectacular moments, sure, but the difference in energy between the hits and the newer tracks is palpable.

Marina is a charming performer, and her otherworldly talent – particularly an operatic vocal ability – is undeniable. But tonight, you can’t help but wish for a greater pop spectacle to get lost in: a few more stage fireworks, a little more connection.

Marina played:

‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land’
‘Venus Fly Trap’
‘Purge The Poison’
‘Man’s World’
‘Highly Emotional People’
‘New America’
‘I Am Not A Robot’
‘Pandora’s Box’
‘To Be Human’
‘How To Be A Heartbreaker’
‘Bubblegum Bitch’
‘I Love You But I Love Me More’