Concert Review

Marina Makes a Welcome Return to the Mess That’s America

Marina Neon Gold X Emotional Machine

It’s been 84 years, or at least a small handful, since Marina Diamandis – heretofore known as Marina & The Diamonds, henceforward simply Marina – graced a U.S. stage.

If memory serves correctly (or, well, Billboard telling me so), the last time she performed stateside was during the final few shows of The Neon Nature Tour with Christine and the Queens in 2015. I was there for that too, like the loyal Diamond that I am.

Time’s changed, name’s changed, and Marina is back – and she’s ready to celebrate.

Last night, Neon Gold Records marked their 10th anniversary with Neon Gold X at the Knockdown Center in Queens, a nearly day-long series of performances from past and present Neon Gold acts, including St. Lucia, Alex Winston, Your Smith, LPX, Broods and Matt Maeson. It was, essentially, a mini-festival in a massive industrial performance space / art museum / bar thing.

First of all, congratulations to label co-founders Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies for their continued success as tastemakers with a talented roster of acts. Neon Gold is one of the first labels that even started sending me PR emails during my baby blogger era, so all of this feels pretty full circle. (Also, I’m very old now.)

It’s also telling that nearly one decade after releasing “Obsessions” with the label, Marina felt compelled to come back just to celebrate the milestone: “I’m performing out of love and gratitude for my friends, and that feels like an excellent place to start a new era from,” she told Billboard in the days leading up to the event.

And so, the new era begins.

Marina Diamandis Neon Gold Party

The Marina that appeared on stage last night wasn’t entirely unlike the Marina of the Neon Nature Tour, but she seemed even more assured – which is actually crazy, given that she hasn’t done a show here in literal centuries. It felt like she was simply making a pitstop mid-tour, but we know that’s not the case: she basically shut it all down post-Froot, turned inward, created an online “book” to navigate her emotions, then slowly-but-surely emerged, writing songs, disconnecting with Clean Bandit and casually hanging with Jack Antonoff and our beloved Venice Bitch Lana Del Rey (birthing the ultimate dream duo, #Larina), and eventually popping up in Queens to kick-start a new chapter.

Accompanied by two dancers, Marina hit the neon-lit stage with a rousing rendition of – what else? – Fr-o-o-o-t. La, la, la, la, la…! In what was undoubtedly a tribute to her favorite Bubblegum Bitch Britney, she also served up some chic choreography – or at least, armography – throughout, which only added to the charm.

During “Hollywood,” Marina and her dancers gleefully cheered around the stage with pom-poms to celebrate the mess that’s America. (And oh, how #ItGotMessier in her absence!) Also, not to be too superficial, but…Marina looked stunning. Like, distractingly gorgeous. When she sang the “No, no, you’re Catherine Zeta” line, it was like: actually yes, Marina. You literally do look like a drop-dead beautiful, glamorous actress. Oh, and the whole crowd roared along to “Actually, my name’s Marina.” (Her “It’s Britney, bitch,” if you will.)

She gave attention to all of her albums pretty much equally, performing Froot‘s “Blue,” and – much to my heart’s delight, sitting down at a piano for a touching rendition of The Family Jewels‘ “Obsessions,” her first-ever Neon Gold release, as she explained to the crowd – and also the song that sold me on Marina all those years ago. She pumped the crowd right back up again with Electra Heart‘s surging anthem “Primadonna” – resulting in the night’s most explosive dancealong – “Bubblegum Bitch,” and “How to Be a Heartbreaker,” which, as we know, is the Old Testament to Dua Lipa‘s New Testament, “New Rules.”

And, in the middle of all that, a splash of something new.

Introducing BroodsGeorgia Nott to the stage, Marina told the crowd that she would be performing a new song, called “Emotional Machine,” which she teased many months ago.

The production on the new track is more delicate and moody than most of the bigger, bouncier numbers she served up during the showcase – it’s Broods-ish for sure, but actually reminded me a lot of Drake and Rihanna‘s “Take Care,” at least in the verses – armed with an immediate, oh-so-Marina chorus: “I’m a machi-i-iiiiine!

Also: so you admit it, Marina? You are a machine? This is her confession to us that she is, indeed a robot, after years of lying. Should we call you Machina now?

If there was anything to be taken from the set last night, it’s that Marina’s ready for this comeback. One tantalizing taste of her new sound was enough to know that she’s got something good brewing. And, based on her performance, she’s never been more assured or content with the material or her artistry. As someone who has openly struggled with the idea of not quite fitting the mold of a pop star in the past, Marina’s seemingly found her groove in just doing Marina. It’s very exciting to think of where she’ll go next.

Oh, and guess who else enjoyed the show?

Yes, that’s my dear friend, Carly Rae Jepsen. Yes, I demanded new music just as you would expect. Yes, she’s very excited about putting it out. And this is crazy…but I have a feeling you’ll hear something from her before the end of the year, maybe.

The NGX party kept on going, including a fun set from The Knocks, who just dropped their album New York Narcotic on Friday. Plenty of Neon Gold stans stuck around to dance late into the night, plus some other familiar faces. Maggie Rogers was hanging out, too! The whole night was an indie-pop cool girl paradise, basically.

Once again, congratulations and lots of love to Lizzy and Derek for hitting the 10 year mark and cultivating a community while doing so. It felt like an extended relative-filled family reunion: a way to celebrate the past, the present and, most excitingly, what’s coming next.

Photo credits: Memo Jimenez / @memourl