I moved to New York for my love of music and the thrill of seeing my favorite artists perform live. Mika at Terminal 5 in January 2008 was my first show after moving here, and the energy of that show and the enthusiasm of the crowd dispelled any second-guessing about my decision to relocate here. He was intoxicating — his music so infectious, his spirit so youthful, and his lyrics so honest. Sugary pop confection is a great way to describe many of his songs. And fortunately for me, I have an insatiable sweet tooth!
This year, Mika is back supporting the release of his second studio album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much. Venturing way up to Washington Heights (175th Street), Mika has sold out the United Palace Theater. I have never been to this venue and didn’t know what to expect. Originally a 1930s movie and vaudeville palace, the theater is spectacularly ornate. I felt like I was in Thailand when walking through the lobby. I later learned that it’s described as “Cambodian neo-Classical.” Wikipedia describes it as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco.” Or in other words, “New York.” Mika could re-christen the place, “We Are Goldleaf!”
The stage is set with a red sofa, floor lamp and flat screen TV. Mika’s band members enter one by one and playfully gather on the sofa when Sir Ian McKellen appears on screen as a news anchor covering a rocket ship launch. As the ship ascends into the heavens, it explodes. I’m SHOCKED he used actual footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. My heart drops a little… and Mika runs out on stage with a suitcase to “Relax, Take it Easy.” The palace erupts with the screams of lots and lots of teenage girls. He then moves into “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful),” an anthem for many of the girls (and some of us guys) who made the trip to upper Manhattan. The suitcase, btw, is full of puppets, hats, boas and other props he uses throughout the show.
Mika continues to play many of the songs off his first album, Life in Cartoon Motion, including “Stuck in the Middle” and “Billy Brown,” and most of his new material, “Dr. Jones,” “Blue Eyes,” “Rain,” “One Foot Boy,” “Toy Boy” … hmmm, lots of songs about boys … and Ian McKellen appears to be a fan. Perhaps that why teenage girls have such an affinity for our 26-year-old, shaggy haired Mika.
The BEST moments included my favorite song off The Boy Who Knew Too Much, “Touches You.” Just brilliant, as is the infectious “Blame it on the Girl.” He also played my favorite song off Life in Cartoon Motion, “Happy Ending,” and his monster hit, “Love Today.” At the climax of that song, the entire joint was pogo-sticking. From the lower loge, I could feel the entire balcony vibrate and bounce. Slightly scary — I kept praying, “I hope this place is up to code!!” Another great moment was the performance “I See You,” a gorgeous, dramatic ballad about the insecurity and fear of approaching someone you like, and all the self-confidence issues we all share. The crescendo of strings and piano riffs prompted another round of goosebumps. This one hits home!
Rounding out the show was his best-known hit, “Grace Kelly” and his newest single, “We Are Golden.” I have to say, Mika has a knack at writing HUGE hooks in his songs. This song should be covered by those Glee kids. “Teenage dreams in a teenage circus, running around like a clown on purpose. Who gives a damn about the family you come from, no giving up when you’re young and you want some.” That’s got Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz and company written all over it!! Bring it!!
Of course, “Lollipop” closed the show with giant balloons bouncing over his fans, accentuating the spheres above the stage. At the end of the night, I realize that Mika is so much more than Big Girls and Lollipops. He’s at the center of the modern pop music universe, and he has something to say. His voice is grabbing the attention of teenagers, twenty-, thirty- and forty-somethings because his message is positive, hopeful and honest.
Thank you, Mika, for making me feel young in heart and spirit. Come back soon!!!