Live Shots: Marina and the Diamonds at the Warfield

Pub date May 9, 2013

I like a little grit. Usually I feel that a great show combines unpredictability, recklessness, and some raw, unpolished vulnerability. That’s what makes live music exciting and dynamic. If we wanted flawless vocals and sonically airbrushed instrumentals, we’d just stay at home and listen to the music on iTunes. So I’m trying to figure out why Marina and the Diamonds’ shiny, choreographed, factory-sealed set at the Warfield Sunday night felt so right.
Marina looks like an actual Barbie doll, with the kind of proportions people go under the knife for and a no-hair-out-of-place look straight out of a Bettie Page photo shoot. Her live persona is a hyperbolic take on teen idolhood, oozing confidence as she strutted, posed, and gracefully reclined on the daybed featured in her onstage bedroom set (complete with a coat rack, television, and stuffed animals.)
As Marina ripped through a packed setlist studded with costume changes and flawlessly executed pop routines, the sold-out audience — 1/3 tween girls, 1/3 their mothers, 1/3 Castro on a Saturday night — screamed and gushed at every opportunity. Fans wore homemade sashes bearing the Marina slogans “teen idle” and “heartbreaker” and nearly everyone had her trademark little black heart painted on their cheeks. And I can see why.
Marina is insanely talented. Her rich, clear voice is pitch-perfect. Her songs are catchy, extremely danceable, and overall just good, old-fashioned fun. She shone brightest when the camp factor was turned up to eleven, as it often was, with prop martini glasses full of glitter and neon lighting. Her more stripped down moments, featuring just Marina and a keyboard, lacked the punch and glamour that makes her presence so awesome.
But I think what makes Marina so likeable, despite her unbelievable precision and Mattel-like beauty, is that when she sings “I am not a robot,” you believe her. There is something very genuine about Marina’s hyperfeminine persona. When she said, “San Francisco, are you living in this moment right now? Because I am,” it rings true.
Usually my feminist blinkers would be going off at the sight of this woman in a crop top singing to tweenage girls about being a prima donna, but instead I found myself singing along with thousands of devoted fans, “Oh my God, you look just like Shakira/ No, no, you’re Catherine Zeta/ Actually, my name’s Marina!”

The simple fact is that Marina knows what she’s doing. Her image doesn’t seem contrived or commercially driven — it seems like a reclaiming of the femme fatale.
Marina may not be redefining dance music or pushing any major envelopes, but she rules at what she does. She absolutely dominates the stage, reminding everyone that there’s no shame in letting yourself enjoy a great pop hook, and that a powerful woman can still totally rock a pink vinyl minidress.