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CONCERT REVIEW: Marina & the Diamonds w/ Young the Giant @ Opera House (Sept. 8, 2010)

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Marina and the Diamonds / Young the Giants
Opera House, Toronto ON September 8
By Whitney Tam

Marina and the Diamonds (she is Marina Diamandis and her fans are the “diamonds”) has already established herself as an up-and-coming pop artist in her native UK, selling out shows and garnering a nomination for this year’s coveted BRIT Critic’s Choice award. With her first gig in Canada and her only stop in the country this tour at Toronto’s Opera House, Marina showcased the best The Family Jewels had to offer.

It would be easy to say that California’s Young the Giant are your typical indie rock band, but their lush arrangements, catchy guitar licks, and infectious energy were right on point to get the crowd hyped for Marina and the Diamond’s set.

The stunning raven-haired Brit sauntered on stage with a deadpan stare, shades, and an air of mystique that immediately commanded the full attention of the audience. She and her four-piece band opened the show with the appropriate “you-think-you-know-me-but-you-really-don’t” track, “The Outsider,” a sort of invitation to fans to really get to know Marina during the stretch of the show. Fan favourites like “I Am Not A Robot” and “Shampain” had the usually stiff Toronto crowd of 20-somethings jumping up and down and singing along word for word, while solo, piano-accompanied performances of “Numb” and “Obsessions” highlighted her unique brand of vocals (which are now stronger, steadier, and much improved).

Midway through the set, the band jammed to an instrumental build-up until Marina reappeared decked out in the infamous all-American letter jacket, dollar-sign glasses, and two (stuffed toy) burgers, signalling the jump into “Hollywood”―a humorous take on the starry-eyed, tabloid-obsessed society that is America.

Drilling through 12 of the 13 witty, radio-friendly tracks off her debut release, The Family Jewels, the show ended with a fitting two-song encore that summed up what separates Marina and the Diamonds from the never-ending crop of pop artists: her ability to flip pop culture on its head and create something new, honest, and unexpected. Stripped down to only a simple piano melody, she transformed 3OH!3’s raunchy “Starstrukk” lyrics into a subdued ballad (that if not executed properly could have been disastrous; luckily it wasn’t) and ended the night with chirpy “Mowgli’s Road,” the first single off her debut.

A true performer in all respects, Marina and the Diamonds put on a show that kept the audience captivated from start to finish, questionable dance moves and all. The entire set was laced with her distinct falsetto and signature high-pitched howls, yelps, wails, and cuckoos, and proved that she isn’t afraid to be quirky. Like she said in “Hollywood,” she isn’t Shakira or Catharine Zeta; she’s Marina. And her Diamonds were sparkling with her all night long.

This review was originally published on

CONCERT REVIEW: Metric w/ The Stills @ Centennial Hall (Oct. 23, 2009)

Emily Haines

I hate Centennial Hall – with its dingy, cramped balcony seating offering horrible views, its overpriced beer, and its less than stellar sound system.

Yet in spite of it all, Metric put on a spectacular show Friday night at London, Ontario venue.

Set openers, The Stills, played to a less than half-filled hall who didn’t seem too interested. They failed to impress the audience with their typical-sounding indie-rock. All their songs seemed to mesh together and none of them were even that catchy, except one which featured ‘nice’ harmonies. Needless to say, I was less than impressed and ready for the real show.

Metric hit the stage full of energy and opened with “Twilight Galaxy”. However, the Centennial Hall’s sorely lacking sound system prevented Emily Haines’ true vocal ability from being fully showcased. (The vocals, especially in the beginning, were hazy when she pronounced s’s and t’s, but got better towards the end). Haines rocked out with her signature dance-moves, her body twitching from side to side, as the crowd cheered her on. The show was sold out, but for some reason the back half of the bottom floor (general admission) was scattered with only a few people; Centennial Hall was definitely not at full capacity, but Metric didn’t seem to mind. Haines, ever the enigmatic front-woman, coaxed the crowd – from general admission to either sides of the balcony – to “stand up at some point” because it wasn’t a baseball game (or something to that effect).

Since the release of their fourth studio album, Metric has gained a much more mainstream following, which probably explains the crowd last night peppered with aging men and their wives all they way down to seven-year-olds with their parents. I guess anyone can appreciate a little Metric in their lives. The band on was on their A-game last night. Haines kept up the energy all night long with with manic dance skills and shaking her head (because “it’s empty”), and the rest of the band followed suit with a contagious energy of their own.

The played every track – except for “Front Row” –  off their latest album, Fantasies, as well as scattered fan-favourites from their entire catalog, like “Combat Baby”, “Monster Hospital”, “Poster of a Girl”. Standout performances were definitely “Stadium Love”, “Satellite Mind” as well as the acoustic encore of “Combat Baby”, which allowed for Haine’s soft vocals to envelope the entire hall.

If you haven’t caught Metric live, yet. I suggest you save up and buy a ticket to their next concert in your area. And if there are seated tickets – don’t even think about it – go for general admission because their energy-filled set list will have you on your feet the whole night. No more seated balcony tickets for me; I’ve learned my lesson!