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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
MIKA The Borderline, London, August 30th, 2006
“Listen, you’ve just got to get tickets for this gig. It’s supposed to be awesome. Mika is going to be the next big pop sensation, another Freddie Mercury and Queen. Everyone’s going to be there, and it’ll be the last gig he ever plays in a small venue. You know, it’ll be one of those nights that in ten year’s time people will say, ‘I was there’”. Hard sell or what? So I checked out this Mika on that priceless source of music chatter, Popbitch. They said, “This Autumn, Island records unveil the artist who should be the breakout superstar of the next few years”, adding that “His sound is like nothing else on the market”. Further investigation revealed an engaging but pretty thin story about a boy born in Lebanon, brought up in Paris and London, who was lost in angst but rediscovered himself through music, who learnt his singing skills in the chorus of the Royal Opera, who was mentored in song writing by American composer and producer Jodi Marr, who wowed the people at Universal Music who signed him to subsidiary Island (though his forthcoming single and album will be on the old Disco label Casablanca), and then recorded his first album in LA under the guiding hand of veteran Canadian producer Greg Wells (he also produced Paris Hilton’s new album). His surname is a mystery (but I can tell you now he shouldn’t be confused with Finnish accordionist Mika Väyrynen, or Indian bhangra artiste Mika Mehndi). And although he’s obviously talented, quite how he pulled all of this off is a bit of a mystery too. Did I tell you that he has “an American father, whom he describes rather vaguely as being ‘in finance’”? (continued...)
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We’re packed into the Borderline like sardines. It’s hot, excited, noisy and unpleasant. Everyone seems to know each other. There’s a huge family contingent, and a lot of braying smug and self-satisfied record company types, who seem to think that the mere mortals who actually paid for their tickets are second class citizens. They display what can only be called, with apologies to all my porcine friends, the manners of pigs. There are also fans – very excited too (“I thought the boys at the front were going to ejaculate” said the Photographer as we left), a lot of them clearly underage, and under the influence of a bit too much beer (hey Serge, did you know that Sol is cool again – how did they manage that?). Outside there are members of Mika’s Secret Society (“I take it you want to go to my gigs for free and get all sorts of cool things and be a part of this...epidemic?”) – actually I think it’s what you would normally call a Street Team – handing out Mika rosettes and lollipops. They’re practically peeing themselves too. In fact everyone is so excited that they’re not paying the slightest attention to support Mara Carlyle, who gamely tries to play through the overwhelming noise with her accompanist on guitar, while she sang and played the ukulele and saw. We were quite impressed. (continued...)
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Mika’s band appears to be another mystery, so I can’t tell you who they were. But they were good (“but were they good enough?” I asked myself afterwards), even though they were obviously as nervous as hell at the start. Mika is a tall young man with a mop of curly hair who oozes self-confidence and charm. His voice is quite remarkable, a falsetto that is very reminiscent of the Bee Gees, but with a range that takes him easily down to Freddie Mercury. He flops and dances round the centre of the stage in a rather camp fashion, and thanks us between each song “for coming out”, and at one point for “making all this happen, it’s been a remarkable two weeks”. He sings, unless I miscounted, six songs, and having come on stage at 9.10 pm is off by 9.40 pm, no encore. Songs included opener ‘Love today’ (“après ski Euro pop trash” yelled the Photographer, “but bloody good”) ‘Billy Brown’ and ‘Relax take it easy’ from the forthcoming single, ‘Big girl’ (that must have been the two who stood in front of us and eclipsed the stage like a pair of two huge moons, or do I mean morons?) ‘Lollipop Girl’ (which a mind-numbingly asinine refrain), and Mika’s ‘anthem’, ‘Grace Kelly’, a witty and knowing piece, brilliantly performed, with a huge debt to Queen. (continued...)
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Yes, he was good, but was he good enough? And if he’s the next Freddie Mercury, then where’s his Brian May? And does he have the depth and substance to go beyond a relatively small number of highly polished tunes? And will his backers have patience with him if he fails to deliver on their up-front investment? Actually don’t even bother to answer that one. And how long will it take for his fans to see through the crassly insincere Myspace marketing? But I’ll tell you one thing. The day after the gig I read that he’s playing at Dingwalls in November. Listen, you’ve just got to get tickets for this gig. It’s going to be awesome. Mika is going to be the next big pop sensation, another Freddie Mercury and Queen. Everyone’s going to be there … - Nick Morgan (photograph - not banners - by Kate)
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