This past Monday night Marina and the Diamonds played a private showcase on the rooftop of the Mondrian Hotel in SoHo to celebrate her sophomore release “Electra Heart.” The hotel stands tall between the Canal subway stop where every storefront is written in Chinese, mixed with your American landmarks like Subway and Burger King and one of the best shopping districts in New York City. After doing my own shopping at the British Topman, I made my way to the hotel. My name is checked off the list and me and a few others are squeezed into an elevator together. Instead of your usual elevator music, Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” is playing and my heart is swooning. It isn’t until the elevator refuses to go above the seventh floor that my heart stops swooning and begins to drop. Anticipating an acoustic Marina set while in a claustrophobic elevator with a bunch of strangers does things to your anxiety level. Thankfully, Lana’s voice is keeping me calm. We end up back on the ground floor and two of us are asked to step off. It seems as though there was too much weight in the elevator to bring us to the rooftop. Two people volunteered to step off and we made our way to the top of the building.
The elevator doors open and we are greeted by an employee of the hotel and a table full of fruit in glass bowls. The rooftop is smaller than I ever imagined. I felt I was on the roof of a Brooklyn apartment building but instead of satellite dishes and chimneys there is faux-grass everywhere and an actual penthouse with all white interior. It’s beautiful up here. Soaked is a beautiful space, and I understand why Marina wanted to perform here. The sun is already beginning to set and there is this humid foggy glow all over the city. I order a beer from a friendly bartender who pours it into a (plastic) beer goblet. It’s refreshing on this hot summer night in the city. There are many people up here and it’s quite crowded. I’m not sure where to go.
I see lighting is being installed and a microphone stand and a keyboard is set in one corner of the rooftop, so I find a good spot to stand over there. I’m just behind the front row of photographers who have marked their territories with their black bags, tripods and wires. At 8pm someone from Atlantic Records excitedly introduces Marina and the Diamonds. There is only a small amount of applause, which was rather awkward. Despite the quiet audience, I was jumping up and down inside.
Marina looks fantastic as she steps behind the mic stand. She is a “bottle blonde” (like she sings on “Teen Idle”) and is allowing her dark roots to grow in. It’s a gorgeous look for her. She looks stunning. The lack of color in her outfit matches her blonde hair and she really stands out on the faux-grass with the city as her backdrop. “Well, this is a lot different than London,” she says while looking around the rooftop. I’m not sure if she is referring to the crowd, the “green” landscape or the weather. I’m not sure it really matters. She opens the short set with my favorite song off of her new album “Starring Role.” I am always smitten by slower jams. I’m also a sucker for anything acoustic. Some of the best pop songs sound so much better quieter and stripped down to just vocals, piano, and an acoustic guitar. As one of Marina’s “diamonds” (what she calls her fans), I’m very familiar with her quieter side. I’ve always enjoyed the acoustic versions of her songs. This is where I originally fell hard for her. This was where she showed me her true musicianship.
“Starring Role” sounds flawless. Once the song ends, she jokes about how quiet the crowd seems. “I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be rowdy,” she says. I wondered the same thing. I think there might have been too many industry types there to really get the crowd going. She introduces her next song “Primadonna” and says, “Please sing along to this one. I know some of you might want to,” as she looks directly at me. I feel outed; but not in a bad way. I apologize I couldn’t keep my calm, collected, cynical blogger attitude together when Marina is standing two feet away from me. She is much more playful during this song. She pulls the microphone off the stand just as the breakdown hits and she struts through the grass. Hand movements galore and lots of eye contact.
“This next song is called “Lies” AKA the most depressing love song ever,” Marina informs the crowd. I will never be able to listen to this song again without thinking about this performance. She stands still at the microphone which rests on its stand and the song sounds more somber than it ever has. With every song Marina sings, it’s getting darker and darker out. Her hair is blowing in the wind while her voice follows the chords on the piano. At one point she walks away from the crowd with her back turned. She stands near these potted hedges as she looks over the roof at New York City. She turns around to face the audience and glamorously rises her hand up in the air as she sings the last few verses. It was a really surreal moment.
Her two bandmates take a break as she takes a seat at the keyboard to perform “Teen Idle” alone. This is probably one of my other favorites off her new album. Hearing this song acoustically really emphasizes the lyrics. They seem much darker than they sound on the album proper. “Wish I’d been a prom queen, fighting for the tile. Instead of being sixteen and burning up a bible. Feeling super, super, super suicidal.” This chorus has been haunting me since last night.
“Feeling super, super, super suicidal…”
The band take up their instruments again and she returns front and center to play her last song which is “How to Be a Heartbreaker.” I have never heard this song before and I’m not sure why. All I know is that I have been missing out. She blew my mind with this song. Marina was at her most playful here and it was a great song to end her set.
Since the rooftop was so small it was very easy to rub elbows with anyone there. So, a few us decided we would talk to Marina and maybe get a photograph with her. When it was my turn to approach her, I was so nervous. I mustered up enough courage to tell her that she was amazing and that I would see her Thursday night at Webster Hall. She was so charming, sexy and thoughtful. She thanked me wholeheartedly and told me to “Bring it!” on Thursday.
After my encounter with Marina I needed a few minutes to recuperate and calm down. As I was leaving the Mondrian hotel, Lana was playing in the elevator again. This time I was sharing that claustrophobic space with not strangers but with Marina fans. The guy standing next to me told me he saw me moving around in the crowd while she was performing. I thought he was going to make a joke about my dancing skills, but he thanked me because he felt as if he was the only other one smitten by Marina. She definitely has the “Starring Role” in New York this week. A few “diamonds” are descending down from the faux-grassy rooftop to the streets of Manhattan, preparing ourselves for another Marina and the Diamonds experience at Webster Hall later this week.
SETLIST: Marina and the Diamonds / Mondrian Hotel (NYC) / August 13, 2012
• Starring Role
• Teen Idle
• How To Be A Heartbreaker