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Mika, Berkeley Square, London

Cautionary Wife

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By Simon Price

11 February 2007


Outside the giant tent erected in Berkeley Square, the trees are illuminated pink and officers of the Metropolitan Police are holding back scores of fruity freaks in veiled toppers, ballgowns and feather headdresses. Inside the big top, circus sideshows (acrobatic tumblers, a silver ring juggler, an aerialist on a giant ribbon, a balloon sculptor) and unlimited free toffee apples, popcorn, candyfloss and booze have been laid on. But they're superfluous: even without them, the carnival atmosphere would still be here. There's a tangible crackle in the air that you only encounter when you're in the presence of an artist whose moment is now. This isn't just a celebration of the release of Mika's debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion. It feels more like a coronation and coming-out ball (in whichever sense you prefer). Or, as he puts it, "the 10th birthday party of my dreams".


In a few short months, Mika has shot from being a MySpace phenomenon playing small gigs to a cult following, then bypassed the normal staging posts of critical acclaim and hipster approval and leapfrogged straight into the hearts and minds of the Radio 2-listening mainstream. Mika is very good indeed. It tells you something that the worst song tonight is a cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'". The falsetto disco opener "Relax, Take it Easy" is effortlessly memorable, and the lanky troubadour - looking equal parts Gilbert O'Sullivan and Little Alex from A Clockwork Orange, with his tousled locks, white clothes and braces - never looks back. "Billy Brown" is the stompalong tale of a gay dad hiding behind the "beard" of a wife. Even better is "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)", an exuberant cocktail of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls", Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" and Scissor Sisters' "Tits on the Radio" which - much like the women it addresses - wishes to have its cake and eat it. Ostensibly a sincere chubby-chaser anthem joyously urging the listener to "find yourself a big lay-dee", it also has the air of a sly mickey-take and one can imagine it being adopted by playground bullies. But Mika, flanked by a pair of stunning zaftig cherubs in stetsons strutting their funky stuff, has the charisma to get away with having it both ways. Similarly, the encore of "Lollipop" bravely resurrects the neglected genre of singalong skipping-rope songs (Shirley Ellis, Malcolm McLaren, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes), and floors you with its sheer audacity. As he leaves the stage, Mika picks up his discarded shoes and waves them. They're silver.





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