Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
As part of her Neon Nature Tour, a colorful theme that combines both glowing neon and earthy elements, Marina and the Diamonds performed at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on November 7. After falling in love with her song “How To Be A Heartbreaker” just last fall, three years after its release, I’ve always considered Marina and the Diamonds to be a personal favorite of mine for pop music.
Though I was early to look for tickets in the summer, Marina fans made sure to buy theirs even quicker and with the show sold out, I was left with a saddening realization that I will have to go years without seeing her live. Yet, thanks to the grace of Joseph DeBrine ‘18, who told of me of an extra ticket that his friend had, we were able to go together and live out our dreams of seeing her perform.
As I recollect my thoughts and feelings through writing, it feels exactly like that: a colorful dream.
The theme of Neon Nature stems from the title of Marina’s newest album (and also my favorite), FROOT. With its neon rainbow lettering set against a background of space, FROOT offers a unique visual experience of shiny, bright neon lights with fruit set as the representation of life and decay, a cycle that captures the presence and absence of happiness. Marina’s set-up at Electric Factory continues to run with this theme, with constant use of vibrant colors that are only toned down when the pace of song slows down.
But Neon Nature was more than the performance of FROOT. From the beginning to the end, Marina led us through her own personal journey as an artist in chronological order of her discography. It began with Marina’s first album, The Family Jewels, continued onto Electra Heart, and ended with FROOT. While the concert held onto the vibrant remnants of FROOT all throughout, each act also contained elements unique to that album’s era. From album to album, as Marina changed to a different costume backstage, the screens displayed a gradual transformation of Marina’s face that matched her album covers.
After a somewhat boring opening act by Wyllys, the only moment in the concert that I had to force myself to enjoy, Marina stepped out amidst blue and pink neon lights wearing an equally bright, neon pink jumpsuit. Crowning the top of her head sat two large, neon pink diamonds, signaling the beginning of The Family Jewels act. With a beginning shriek that sent shivers of excitement throughout the crowd, Marina started with “Mowgli’s Road,” a strong start that established the energy for the rest of the night. “I Am Not a Robot” was the first of her slower songs where, instead of singing with the mic in her hand, she stayed in place using a glowing mic stand.
Standing in place or using the entirety of the stage though, there was never a moment in the concert where Marina’s energy faltered. Her constant lengthening and flowy movement of arms, a signature technique apparent in her live performances, continued to keep the audience captured through her upbeat and slow songs.
“Hollywood” marked the end of The Family Jewels era and with that, Marina walked backstage. “LIGHTS THEY BLIND ME,” lyrics from her album-naming single, flashed on screen and the black-haired Marina on screen transformed into the silver-haired, heart-on-cheek Marina that is iconic to the Electra Heart era. The crowd cheered for what might arguably be Marina’s most well-known era and roared when the beginning sounds of “Bubblegum Bitch” played. Wearing another pink jumpsuit, this time with the shine on its silver sleeves, and with two pink pom-poms in hand, Marina officially began the Electra Heart act. Known for its dramatic depiction of the ride that is teenage life, from bitter love to melodramatic melancholy, Marina performed the songs of the album that best expressed this spectrum of feelings. “How To Be a Heartbreaker” made us feel powerful and “Lies” ended the era, leaving us longing for our lost loves.
On screen, the Marina from Electra Heart returned to her usual black hair color, lost her heart-on-cheek, donned the bright red lipstick, and became surrounded in space and the neon lettering of “FROOT” set behind her. The second, higher stage above where Marina was formerly performing lit up in blue light and her band played a funky, spacey tune to match the screen. With the beating of the drums building up, Marina walked out in a green, flowy jumpsuit and a headwear spelling out “FROOT” in thin, bright red letters. The energy of the crowd lit up for the final act of the Neon Nature concert and Marina began to sing the album-naming single “FROOT.” With its showing of bright, 2D fruit on the screens and rainbow neon lights shining below, on, and above the stage, “FROOT” was easily the showiest performance of the night (though not the most touching).
After finishing “FROOT,” Marina returned to the lower stage where she had been performing and followed up with four more songs from the album, all displaying a variety of different melodies and tempos. Though “Immortal” was officially her final song of the FROOT act and signaled the end of the concert, Marina preluded the song by informing us that it was the “final” song of the night, using air quotes to signal an inevitable Encore.
While the crowd seemed a bit unfamiliar with the concept of the Encore and the necessary passionate energy that they must emit, Marina still returned to perform the final two songs of the night, “Happy” and “Blue.” It seemed almost like divine justice to see these two songs performed as the finale of the Neon Nature concert. Essentially, both describe the process of finding happiness in one’s life after time spent living in its absence and it’s this very characteristic that distinguishes FROOT from the past two albums (and makes it my personal favorite). With this final note on finding happiness, Marina thanked us for coming out and gave her final goodbye.
It’ll probably be a few more years before I see her perform live again, but I know that no matter what happens, I cannot miss any opportunity to see Marina and the Diamonds. The Neon Nature Tour left me with lasting remnants of both “Happy” and “Blue,” reminding me that I will live through constant cycles of happiness and sorrow, a natural quality of life, but through it all, I will live and bask in neon light. I will live in happiness because I’m worth it.
Or better yet, as Marina puts it, I’ve decided that “I don’t want to be blue anymore.”
Photos by Brandon Torres ’18/The Daily Gazette.