Marina and the Diamonds @ Limelight 1, Belfast, 01/12/2015

Marina and the DiamondsIf I were to summarise tonight’s Marina and the Diamonds show, I’d need just 7 words: how is Marina Diamandis not playing arenas? She’s got the songs, she’s got the stage presence, she’s certainly got an appropriate light show, but if anything sums up the Belfast date of her Neon Nature tour it’s that, on the morning of the show, she tweeted that the LED screens that have accompanied her on tour since October won’t be able to fit in the venue (the 900-capacity Limelight 1). This is not something she should be dealing with, especially not since her third studio album, FROOT, saw her hitting new heights, musically and lyrically.

Bounding on stage just after 8.20pm to the sounds of “No Church in the Wild” by JAY Z and Kanye West, an atmospheric introduction by her four-piece band leads into the opening bars of “Mowgli’s Road”. You would think that Diamandis, decked out in a typically flashy pink body suit adorned with diamanté mouse ears, would save her more popular songs for later in the set, but then breakout single “I am Not a Robot” follows, prompting the first of many passionate sing-alongs, after which she explains that her show will be presented in three acts, the first of which focuses on 2010 debut The Family Jewels. It’s the sort of choreographed move typical of much bigger shows, but the only thing that’s scaled back about this gig is the number of props.

After Act 1 concludes with “Hollywood”, Diamandis disappears for a costume change, while her band strike up an instrumental version of “Electra Heart”, the title track of her second album - weirdly, only ever released as a promotional single - signalling the start of Act 2, which begins in emphatic fashion with the punk-pop swagger of “Bubblegum Bitch.” It ignites the room, taking the energy level to a fever pitch for three minutes before things shift to a more sombre mood. Diamandis dedicates “Teen Idle” to the teenage fans in the room, before realising, “Wait, isn’t this an over-18 venue? OK, this is for anyone here under 20.” It goes down a storm, as do “How to be a Heartbreaker” (“Anyone looking for lessons in love?”) and a triumphant performance of “Primadonna”, the latter her biggest hit to date and getting the reception it deserves.

Concluding the second portion of the show with an emotional rendition of “Lies”, the focus shifts to Diamandis’ most recent record, of which 8 songs are performed tonight: 6 in the main set (with the ‘surprise’ she’d hinted at earlier turning out to be the live debut of “Gold”, replacing the usual appearance of “I’m a Ruin”, and two in the encore. Her shift towards 80s inspired synth pop produced some of her most striking material to date, and the chillingly poignant “Savages”, a song about humanity’s appetite for destruction that seems even more relevant in the week that the UK voted to begin a series of airstrikes on Syria, is a highlight.

So too is “FROOT” itself, kicking off Act 3 in style, with Diamandis now in a sparkling blue dress that looks like it’s come right out of Cinderella, while her stripped-down take on “Happy” reduces the boisterous crowd to hushed silence, before “Blue” closes the show with the reveal of appropriately-hued balloons and a euphoric reaction to her last hurrah. She’s every inch the consummate performer and has had brushes with success before - Electra Heart went straight to number 1 upon release, for instance - but on tonight’s evidence, she can take on venues 10 times the size.

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