The Coal Exchange is humid and bright tonight. If not for the venue’s decor it could be considered an escape into an uncomfortable American nightmare. Just what Marina Diamandis wants I expect.
Meredith Sheldon is her support. With acts like Spark and Yadi on previous tours, she has a hard job following up those brilliant new young artists. Unfortunately however, the excitement didn’t come through. Sheldon is not the type of artist that is geared towards Marina fans and is more at home possibly supporting Band of Skulls, The Kills or Blood Red Shoes. Most songs are a slow burn, and never race the heartbeat. Apparently she has visited Cardiff before five years previous, but with little impact on the web she seems like just a keepsake of Marina’s travels around America. A display of her more appetising tastes and not the gaudy Marilyn Monroe inspiration, it’s almost as if whilst passing through a Western bar she happened to chance upon an artist she liked. Although Sheldon seems comfortable with her guitar she’s not so comfortable with opening up to the crowd as Marina will to follow, although that may be due to the space. Although not grating or poorly trained to the ear, this support falls a bit flat and lacklustre compared to her predecessors.
The music before and in between acts is a menagerie of the most bubblegum pop imaginable with inflections of older American twanged roots. This appeals to those you would expect to be assembled for such an event minus the obvious boyfriends and family members.
Now renowned for her elaborate sets and costume changes, the Lonely Hearts Club tour is no exception, although it’s somewhat hampered tonight by the humidity. Still Marina appears to open with ‘Homewrecker’ and transforms herself into her alter-egos seamlessly. She inhabits a cast of characters which some may mistake for her actual personality. Waif-like one moment in ‘State of Dreaming’ and strong blooded the next in ‘Power & Control’. You almost wonder if she must psych herself up during her impressive instrumental breaks and costume changes. Her shifts in personality do not reflect her as a person but more represents the extremes she tends to go to in changing from one song scenario to another. You do get the feeling she is slightly deranged by all this as she delivers a small monologue about her stuffed dog ‘Marilyn’.
The heat doesn’t stop her from powering through an impressive 17-song set (from someone with only two albums) with only three breaks for costume changes. She does need the assistance of her rather large fan (which she seems to almost pray to at some points), a chaise-lounge and a martini glass of what I’m sure is water (as she has been instructed not to drink vodka at least to save her recently damaged vocal chords). Fitting in the powerful hits like ‘Oh No!’, ‘I Am Not A Robot’ and ‘Primadonna’ amongst the looser tracks of ‘Lies’, ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ (surely the best track off new album Electra Heart) and ‘Living Dead’. She retreats behind the piano less this tour (for ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Teen Idle’), opting for the more explosive tracks of ‘Primadonna’, ‘Shampain’ and ‘Radioactive’ to lead into the encore. Finally she ends where it really began for her with ‘Hollywood’, that oh so Yankophile song about someone who used to be uncomfortably obsessed with America, but now seems right at home.