You don’t think of Billy Bragg as a man who has a hard time expressing himself, but on Friday night at the Triple Rock Social Club, UK singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis managed to say in the chorus of her hit song “Hollywood” what her fellow Brit spent hours trying to communicate Wednesday night at the Cedar Cultural center. Wearing a letter jacket and dollar-sign sunglasses, Diamandis sang gleefully, “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America!”
Diamandis, who records and performs as Marina and the Diamonds, is a star in Britain, but she’s still decidedly under the radar on this side of the pond. She seemed astonished to see the Triple Rock full of fans who shouted along to the lyrics of songs from her 2010 debut The Family Jewels, and the fans were probably just as astonished. I don’t know how they all found Marina, but they found her, and they’ve clearly taken her passionate, danceable music to heart. In notable contrast to the tepid reception Vampire Weekend received when they made their Twin Cities debut at the Triple Rock, Friday night’s show was a riot of dancing, singing, and hand-waving.
Marina and the Diamonds wed the anthemic London-calling dance-pop of Lily Allen and Kate Nash with a splash of experimentalism that’s come by way of—among others—1980s indie icon Kate Bush, whose voice and phrasing Diamandis’s inescapably recalls. (Her throaty ululations also remind me of 1960s folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie. Google indicates I’m unsurprisingly the first one to catch that resemblance, but check it out—it’s uncanny.)
Really, though, the closest match to the spirit of The Family Jewels may be Nelly Furtado’s 2000 debut Whoa, Nelly! Both records have the same sense of momentum and confidence, with irresistible hooks floating on rich layers of sound. Both albums have sky-shouting openers (Furtado’s “Hey Man!”, Marina’s “Are You Satisfied”), surging ballads (Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird,” Marina’s “Numb”), and popping dance hits (Furtado’s “Turn Off the Light,” Marina’s “Oh No!”). That’s my kind of party.
Diamandis’s live band delivered tight, driving performances of songs from opener “The Outsider” to “Oh No!” to “Hollywood,” which was preceded by the only mid-set costume change I’ve ever seen at the Triple Rock. Somehow both spunky and statuesque, Diamandis received her fans’ adoration like Eva Peron, spiking her performances with a vocabulary of gestures that have proved oddly addictive—listening to the album again today, I found myself wagging my hands and voguing in my chair. The show was an enormously fun and entirely satisfying encounter with a talented artist who has already declared her intention to return—to what, it seems inevitable, will be a larger venue.
Opening for Marina and the Diamonds were the frankly forgettable Young the Giant, a California quintet who marry generic indie rock with generic grunge, to generic effect. Their performance wasn’t a total wash, though—at least not for my friend, who noted that singer Sameer Gadhia “fills in the ass of his jeans very nicely.”
Young the Giant
Marina and the Diamonds