The O2 Academy, Oxford
15th October 2012
Marina Diamandis’s PhD thesis would be on the relationship between surface and substance, with special reference to American society. Her medium would be her remarkable voice, blessed with a beguiling mix of Kate Bush, opera and the histrionics of a couple having an argument. Her conference papers would cover the various personas manifested on her second album, Electra Heart, all of which are present tonight: the regretful Teen Idle, the unapologetic, lock-twirling Homewrecker, the Primadonna, and the trapped-in-suburbia Su-Barbie-A from the nihilistic Valley of the Dolls, a nod to the themes of fame, success and self-destruction of the 60s novel and film.
It seems appropriate that to deliver Electra Heart she’s plunged more fully into what is often said to be the most ephemeral and transient mode of music: pop. It’s a bit odd to pepper this concept album it with the earlier, more new wave stuff; she covered similar themes on a lot of her Family Jewels-era songs, such as Hollywood and Oh No! (albeit from a somewhat more cynical outside viewpoint of celebrity culture), but she still leaves the out-and-out bangers – the Calvin Harris-esque metaphor-flogging Radioactive and latest single, How To Be A Heartbreaker – until later.
Given the many layers steeped in the obsession, it’s a relief to see her paraphernalia limited to a bit of set decoration (neon signs, an old TV) and a few props (like a veil, a negligee and the toy dog, Marilyn, from the Primadonna video); mock castles and hordes of dancers would have been overwhelming.
It’s an overtly confident performance, even when the lyrical content is more vulnerable, as in I Am Not A Robot; whereas Lana del Rey seems to trade on being a victim of the American dream, absorbed and confused, Marina examines it from different sides, from Power and Control to Fear and Loathing.