The criteria for a good concert is simple: perform well and accurately, create a memorable set list and engage your audience.
Marina Diamandis, the Welsh pop-singer who was once known as ‘Marina and the Diamonds,’ checked off every one of those boxes at her show in Toronto in September.
In fact, Diamandis exceeded mediocrity, putting on a concert that wasn’t just good, but great.
After taking a four-year break from music, the singer-songwriter returned with a new, shortened stage name – Marina – and a beautiful double album, Love + Fear.
The album’s sound is undoubtedly different than her past work, but the change is far from drastic. It still contains a heavy amount of electro-pop that so many fans have grown to love, but the underlying tone of the songs is much more mature.
From the overall theme of the album, being raw human emotion, to the exploration of topics like freedom and exploitation, it seems to showcase an artistic side of her she once concealed.
Marina has never been one to shy away from addressing heavier topics within her music. But a lot of her past work was presented through the eyes of someone else.
This time around, the stage was free of her former alter-ego, Electra Heart, inspired by the album of the same name. There were no blonde wigs and painted hearts to hide behind. No, this time, it was just Marina.
And that’s a good thing.
Toronto’s show at REBEL was the first stop on the North American leg of the tour and the 33-year-old was quick to admit her nerves. Yet based on the show she put on, you’d never be able to tell.
The stage lacked the live instrumentals it once had. Instead of bandmates, she stood alongside four wonderful dancers. The flow of the choreography made it seem as if Marina had been performing that way since the very beginning.
The pop-singer took performing to a whole new level. Marina transformed the entire concert into a play and had the songs tell her story. The set was made up of white vinyl, which eventually mirrored the mesmerizing visuals projected on the platform.
The lights dimmed and the mood changed from eager to chaotic as Marina took her place at centre stage.
“Handmade Heaven” began to play as a spotlight fell on Marina. Screams immediately erupted from the audience at the sold-out show as the crowd soaked in her presence.
The set list was comprised of songs off all four of her albums. This allowed both old and new fans to enjoy the performance equally.
Each song was an entire show within itself. Between Marina’s powerful vocals – which are even more impressive live – the well-rehearsed choreography, and the stunning visuals, it felt like you were hearing every song for the very first time.
The most memorable moments of the night involved Marina sitting behind her sleek, white piano. The first song that included this was “To Be Human,” one of the singles off her latest album. This was, by far, one of the most chilling performances in her set. The song promotes unity amongst various cultures around the world despite our differences.
The music video for the single played behind her as the song began. Clips of police brutality and various Black Lives Matter protests were projected on stage as the audience belted out, “There were riots in America, just when things were getting better.” The combination of powerful visuals and Marina’s deep vocals merging with the crowd’s screams was enough to give anyone goosebumps.
She later payed homage to the beloved Electra Heart when she performed an acoustic version of “Teen Idle.” Marina said it was the first she’d played the song live since 2016, and let’s just say bringing it back was definitely the right decision.
After a brief intermission, Marina returned to the stage wearing a bright pink corset. She addressed the apparel as being very suitable for a “Bubblegum Bitch,” which smoothly led into the song.
Her ability to effortlessly transition from ballads to upbeat pop anthems is one of her most exceptional qualities.
Marina didn’t just go from one song to the next – she made sure to engage with the audience in between. This allowed fans to feel more involved, appreciated and acknowledged.
She ended the evening with what many consider to be her most iconic single – “How to be a Heartbreaker.” Everyone in the crowd jumped and sang along with Marina as she ran around on stage.
The energy was high as the song came to an end, and there was no denying she started the tour off with a bang.