The Los Angeles stop of Marina and the Diamonds’ Neon Nature tour began with an animated monkey’s journey through some sinister trees across a trio of massive screens. Cute but not gratingly so, and a little weird without alienating, the surprisingly fitting intro set the tone for an evening starring an artist who mixes pop and indie stylings. Once Marina Diamandis finally took the stage in a sparkling, purple jumpsuit and matching mouse ears, the Greek Theatre erupted in a deafening roar of high-pitched shrieks.
At the Greek on Monday night, Diamandis unleashed her full pop diva mode. Throughout the 90-minute set, she stormed across the stage’s purple AstroTurf with the determined confidence that comes with being a star that drops jaws, all while backed by a four-piece band standing above giant screens displaying animations, emojis, and vintage Betty Boop.
She began the Neon Nature show where it all started — with a five-song first act dedicated to her debut album, The Family Jewels. Early singles such as “I Am Not a Robot” and “Obsessions” sparkled as if they had been consciously, or subconsciously, composed to one day be played on such a large stage to a flashy production.
When promoting and touring her second album, Electra Heart, Diamandis adapted the persona of a cartoonish, bleached blonde pop star of the same name and then killed off Electra with sleeping pills. In the years since Electra Heart, she’s spoken out about the compromises that came with writing pop songs by committee for the album.
Rather than burying the past by skipping that era in her set, Diamandis instead owned and repurposed it for a five-song second act. After briefly stepping offstage, she resurfaced in a pink catsuit with hearts cut out of the legs to turn “Bubblegum Bitch” into a bona fide pep rally, complete with pom poms.
The perplexing, often contradictory nature of Marina and the Diamonds peeked through during the performance in moments such as “Radioactive”. Between the radio- and rave-ready beats, Diamandis’ performance unveiled sharper lyricism and more formidable vocal workouts than expected from such a banger. As an added bonus, she juxtaposed the apocalyptic storm unfolding on the screens with shots from a bubble gun.
For the show’s third act, Diamandis donned a blue, sequined bodysuit, matching cape, and blue cherry headpiece. Clad as a Froot-tastic superhero, she proved that the Neon Nature show was saving the best for last.
The likes of “Blue” and “Froot” revealed Diamandis’ masterful mix of catchiness and quirkiness, while the emotive “Happy” brought down the house to a sea of cell phone lights as only the most potent ballads can do. Before exquisite show highlight “I’m a Ruin”, Diamandis asked the audience to wish her father to get well soon in English and Greek for a recorded video message in a disarming and endearing moment.
During her career, she has gone from self-taught singer-songwriter to collaborator with the likes of Dr. Luke and Shellback and then back to artistic independence with her latest album, Froot. A curious phenomenon in the realm of pop, Diamandis is an ideal artist for those of us who need the catharsis that comes with good pop songs, but are disillusioned with the dark side of it. Marina and the Diamonds’ Neon Nature show is an experience that’s all pleasure and no guilt.