Marina, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, isn’t nearly as big as she should be in Montreal, and that is a crying shame. If her stop in at our own MTelus theatre for the Love + Fear tour proved anything, it’s that the British singer/songwriter needs to be playing in stadiums. Small to mid-sized venues are simply not enough to showcase her vision properly. Of course, this thing happened on a Wednesday, so the turnout was not overwhelming.
First, we need to talk about 20-year-old alt-pop singer Daya who started things off accompanied by a drummer, a double-duty keyboardist/guitarist, and a healthy supply of backing tracks. That said, her voice was powerful enough and her band loose enough that it was pretty easy to tell where the backing tracks ended and the live elements began. Though she seemed nervous while addressing the crowd between songs–at one point even stuttering through a short greeting–the enthusiastic reaction to the music seemed to empower her and she even dipped herself low during the dubstep portion of her popular Chainsmokers collaboration “Don’t Let Me Down” to vigorous approval from the crowd. That cut was a highlight, as was “Hide Away,” a song Daya (real name Grace Martine Tandon) wrote and released when she was just 16-years-old.
Almost exactly thirty minutes after Daya finished, the words Love + Fear flashed across the stage wall to signal that it was time for Marina to do her thing. The room went dark, and the album title was replaced with a projection of a starry night sky. Slowly, three figures each took a podium in the darkness, and then Marina and two of her dancers were revealed. She wore a green, skintight jumpsuit, and her dancers were garbed in red cloth. There were four dancers in total, and they occasionally provided backing vocals as well.
The set was split into two parts. The first featured mostly singles, with huge singalongs dedicated to classics like “Hollywood” (“actually, my name’s Marina!”) and “Froot.” There was a very somber acknowledgment of how messed up the world is right now with “To Be Human,” and she closed this portion off with a stripped-down piano and vocal rendition of “Teen Idle,” a song about regretfully looking back on teenage years that is, like, way too real you guys.
I wouldn’t call what happened next an intermission, but there was a short dance interlude as Marina changed outfits to mark the second half of the set. This song selection was slightly more dedicated to the new album (“Karma,” and “Emotional Machine”) with some more popular album cuts thrown in like “Bubblegum Bitch” and a demo from the Froot album that leaked and went viral a few years ago called “I’m Not Hungry Anymore.”
Throughout all of this, Marina and her crew pulled out every stop. The dancing complimented the tongue-in-cheek lyrics she’s become known for beautifully, and the set was so perfectly timed that no moment lacked engagement and anticipation. The projector changed between pastel color palettes and lush scenery, and Marina herself made us of props like pom-poms and confetti as well as the previously mentioned choreography. This was a Bell Centre level show backed by a powerful set of songs. If Marina hasn’t caught your attention with any of her work up until this point, it may be time for you to look into what she’s doing.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Nicolas Racine
*edited by Danielle Kenedy