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Mika, Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona (review)


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Caspar Llewellyn Smith

Sunday November 11, 2007

The Observer





Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona



An old recording of 'The Teddy Bear's Picnic' is blaring across the auditorium as behind a giant scrim, four figures in animal suits start copulating. Giant balloons are bouncing across the crowd, glitter is blowing through the air, alcohol is flowing in the veins, and a question is forming on the lips: can 6,000 Catalans really be wrong?

A life-size bunny karate chops the animal figures, only for an alligator to push him off stage who then emerges stage front, wrestles out of his costume and - lo! - it is Mika. The band kick into 'Lollipop', with its nursery-rhyme melody and suggestively ambiguous lyrics, and then speed it up so it sounds as if it's being sung and played on helium. Sheer delirium reigns on a night of shocks.


When Mika arrived in Barcelona this morning, halfway through his European tour, he was expecting to play the 3,000-capacity Razzmatazz, but demand from his Catalunyan fans has meant the gig has been shifted to the Palau Sant Jordi, built for the 1992 Olympics, which looks like a spaceship from the outside and can accommodate twice that number. This reviewer first saw the 24-year-old singer 12 months ago, at his second-ever gig at Ronnie Scott's, in front of a crowd of record industry suits; it was clear even then that he had the chops and the tunes to play stadiums, but no one was expecting his rise to be quite this dizzying: a number one artist in 10 countries across the globe, everywhere from Estonia to South Korea.

Of the three million-plus copies that his debut album has sold, over 820,000 have been in the UK, although it's back home that he's most widely viewed with suspicion. Alexis Petridis nailed it for many with his review in the Guardian: 'the showboating becomes wearyingly relentless... listening to Life in Cartoon Motion is like being held at gunpoint by Bonnie Langford.' Nor was Mika helped when Brian May of Queen leapt to his defence on the blogosphere.


Perhaps it's because there's something quite un-British about the Beirut-born singer's lack of self-consciousness - his self-confidence even; and perhaps it's a funny thing to say of an artist whose show is introduced by Dolly Parton's '9 to 5', but Mika Penniman isn't actually that camp. Sure, he channels the spirits of Freddie Mercury and Elton John (who, uncharacteristically, given his mutual sucky-upness with the Scissor Sisters, has never publicly supported his fellow pianist); the point is, he does so without winking at us.


Instead, there's his exuberance: he bounces around the stage for the opening 'Relax (Take it Easy)' in Tigger-ish fashion (and makes a better job of wearing a white suit than Johnny Borrell ever will); 'Billy Brown' has the whole crowd singing along to its Beatle-esque horns and melody, while 'Grace Kelly' sees pogoing, no less, en masse; 'Love Today' might finish with the refrain 'Love love me!', but there's great generosity in the whole performance.


There are also hints of a quirky indie sensibility reminiscent of a group like the Polyphonic Spree in some of the staging (not a charge that could ever be levelled at Take That, who play the same venue the next night) and suggestions of darkness, particularly when it comes to 'Lollipop'. Like he says, backstage after the show, 'It's very easy to misinterpret what I do because I play with a lot of cartoon references, and there are the animals... and people think it's just candy. But there's always something sinister in anything so childlike.' (It's not certain that any other act rejected by Simon Cowell, as Mika once was, would have thought things through to such an extent.) Reflecting on the show, he says with refereshing candour: 'Playing a room like that... the feeling of it is amazing. It justifies the side of your character that you felt was always what made you a c***!'


So maybe he is a show-off, but he's a charmer, too, addressing the crowd throughout in pretty perfectly accented Spanish. 'Last time we played in Madrid,' he says at one point, and is interrupted by long and loud boos '...there were 800 people, so thanks for the 6,000... it's a real surprise!' And when the show finally winds up, the crowd still want more, only then to realise that - as yet - his repertoire remains limited. So 'let's start all over again!' he yells and they revisit 'Relax'. Even the worst cynic would have had his cockles warmed.


· 'Live in Cartoon Motion', a DVD, is released on 12 November; Mika tours the UK from 17 Nov.


THANK YOU :blush-anim-cl:


That's quite possibly one of the best things I've read about Mika ALL YEAR. It is spot on. I absolutely loved reading it, it has made my day.


Thanks again :biggrin2:

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You are all most welcome. It really is a wonderful review :cheerful_h4h:



:thumb_yello::biggrin2:... I didn't know you were such a cynic. Maybe there's hope for the others then?

sadly..yes I was:mf_rosetinted:

And I would recommend {like I do with my italian fellows} to all the critics who keep denigrate Mika to go to his concert before express silly prejudices


I so like this article, finally reporting something different from gender issue or absurd comparisons:cool:

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