By Jeff Walsh
Mika stormed through San Francisco again on Tuesday night, toward the tail end of his ongoing tour supporting his amazing first album, "Life in Cartoon Motion." This was his second time in our fair city, and I was also at his first go-round at The Fillmore back in June.
As you would expect, the show was completely sold out and, as you'd also expect, the set list included his entire debut album, as well as a few new songs and his seemingly obligatory Eurythmics cover. Last time he was here, he played Sweet Dream (Are Made of This), but we got "Missionary Man" this time around.
Since it's the same tour, it's pretty much the same set list, in the same order (not to mention, the same set-list as the live DVD that I previously reviewed). Of course, the fun of a Mika show is the energy of the crowd and Mika feeding off of one another. The venue becomes a big club and, aside from everyone facing one direction, looks like a fun, erupting dance floor.
One of the biggest elements that changed was the addition of more theatrical elements. For "Big Girl," a 25-foot inflatable plus-size woman filled the back of the stage, an element that would repeat with a pig-tailed girl in pink holding a lollipop for, of course, "Lollipop."
The Fillmore show had the same exuberance from Mika and the same love from the audience, but it was more of a concert, whereas tonight was more of a show. For the opening number, a fluttering sheet was lit and filled the back of the stage, so that when Mika ran out to hit the first high notes of "Relax (Take It Easy)," he was in gorgeous silhouette. Then, the sheet was pulled down and the big girl began inflating. When he played piano, it was whisked in from the side of the stage on a platform with a huge candelabra and the same Technicolor flowers found all over the stage. So, just a lot more technical showmanship and cues throughout.
The new songs were well received. The first was performed with the entire band lined up at the front of the stage, Hee Haw-style, with the drummer playing a washboard and other such down-home instrumentation. The other new song (I don’t know the name of either) was more up-tempo and had guitar looping that reminded me of early U2.
After Happy Ending, Mika wearing all white, came out with a white umbrella (no Rihanna cover occurred), as large white confetti fell from the ceiling, and they were all lit with bright white light. As he was awash in white, a big 20-foot tall Dias De Los Muertos skeleton approached him from behind. When Mika turns around and sees the skeleton is bearing down on him, the moment of horror takes a different turn as he hugs the skeleton. For someone who doesn't like talking about his sexuality, I'm not sure how else one can account for such a Cirque Du So-Gay moment in a show.
(Strangely enough, I had flashbacks in this moment to a show I also saw in this theater more than a decade ago, when Marilyn Manson on his Antichrist Superstar tour had a moment where white feathers fell down onto him like snow, where he was just covered in the stuff by the end. No other similarity exists between the shows or the artists, though.)
After Love Today, Mika and his drummer faced off near the front of the stage banging on a makeshift drum set-up made of various garbage cans. I mention this not because I'm a fan of drum solos but because Mika was shirtless the entire time. For the first time in my concert-going life, the length of a drum solo was never questioned.
For his encore song Lollipop, Mika pulled out all the stops. The band starts by rallying another mini-community. The gays pretty much have the whole show. The fat girls get one song. And for the last song, the band comes out in huge animal costumes, to boost Mika love amongst, of course, furries. Again, the costumes made an appearance at The Fillmore show, but last night, there was a curtain with a white backlit scrim that let the costumed band do a little rehearsed shadowed shtick before beginning the song.
When Lollipop kicked in, dozens of huge balloons filled the air of the theater. Then, the confetti started, and at the very end, the crowd was hit with streamer cannons for the final hit of the song. From my vantage point, it was almost difficult to perceive of Mika on the stage there was so much "stuff" happening in the venue. Although, you have to hand it to him, when you close a show like that, it's pretty definitive. No one stayed on to see if there was another encore after that dramatic finish.
So, after the show, I get to meet Mika backstage. I'm chatting him up, telling him about Oasis, and the differences between his two San Francisco shows. He said that the tour is wrapping up, and while he is looking forward to getting back in the studio to give us another album, he's also keen on returning to another familiar place he hasn't seen in a while: his living room.
Relax (Take it Easy)
Big Girl (You are Beautiful)
Any Other World
Stuck In The Middle
Missionary Man (Eurythmics cover)
Love Today (with drum duel at the end)
(Note: Picture is actually Mika performing the night before in Los Angeles, taken by gay film/animation wunderkind Q. Allan Brocka.)