Thursday, November 26, 2015

Concert: Marina and the Diamonds

Cambridge Corn Exchange, 20th November 2015

I've been to a handful of rock and pop concerts this year (and yeah, I've neglected to blog about them), and one thing that's become obvious is that high-quality, presumably back-projected video screens have now become financially entirely accessible to, well, a lot of the sort of bands who play the Corn Exchange. Marina and the Diamonds are using theirs to show some pretty good pop-art-flavoured visuals during their current tour, but I suspect that the system isn't entirely bug-free, and may have been the cause of the dread Technical Difficulties which generated about an hour's delay between the support act (who didn't make much of an impression on me; I think they could do with something to fill the sonic space between the thud of bass and drums and the ping of synthesisers and falsetto of the singer) and the main event. At least, the screens once or twice displayed giant Windows menu bars in that time, which I take as a sign of glitches. Add in a notable amount of time spent queueing outside before the doors opened, and, well, things ran a bit late. Then, it turned out that the lighting designer had decided to silhouette Marina herself with a full-strength white spot, angled up from behind her, for some songs. Which would be fine if it hadn't meant everyone in the balcony going "Aaargh" and shielding their eyes...

All of which techie wobbliness was rather unfortunate, because it was actually rather a good gig. Marina Diamandis combines a genuine talent for writing good old-fashioned catchy choruses with a certain amount of stage presence and charisma. This in turn meant that, although she had assembled a highly competent band for this tour, she genuinely didn't need to hire any backing singers; when she wanted vocal filling, all she had to do was point her microphone at the standing audience down at the front and tell them to supply it. (Diamandis does say that the "Diamonds" are her fans, after all...) This approach did leave her slightly more restrained and introspective songs, such as the rather cool "Immortal", looking a little out of place, but overall this was an effective pop-as-in-popular performance. Diamandis manages to be a plausible feminist while wearing three different glittery costumes, one including cute mouse ears, in a ninety minute show, too.

It has to be said that Diamandis's songs aren't as clever as they maybe think they are; the message in the likes of "Savages" is hardly subtle. But then, it's pop music, and its heart is absolutely in the right place. Worth a little waiting and some being dazzled.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Expand, Contract (48)

Hmm, I didn't follow up the previous post. Well, The Wars of Atlantis did appear (and still looks nice). But anyway, the other significant thing is the appearance of Transhuman Space: Bio-Tech 2100, my latest TS product, as a PDF from Warehouse 23 - an extended analysis of the place of biotechnology in the world of 2100, in both historical and game-mechanioal terms. Other stuff is still waiting. Print buying can evidently be a big job these days.