Mika’s the Mr Marmite of pop, isn’t he? People seem to either love or hate him. His summer gig as part of Somerset House’s Summer Series of open air concerts offered the chance to see if he would be as divisive in the flesh as he is on record.
That it was a beautiful evening at this most picturesque of venues wasn’t going to harm him. An advance request that we wear “fantastical fancy dress” was greeted with dread and the grouches who ignored this edict were surrounded by fairies, pirates and angels. The party atmosphere was stoked by candy floss sellers and some truly superb stilt-wearing balloon model makers.
Meanwhile Patrick Wolf was contributing a good supporting performance. Jumping around in shorts and bare feet he may have made a few new fans as he ended with a rousing Stars and The Magic Position, leaving the crowd ready for this year’s other camp young pop star.
Strangely the music Mika chose to bound on stage to was the excerpt from As Heard On Radio Soulwax Vol 2, when Independent Woman mixes into Nine To Five and then Royksopp‘s Eple. But then his show began and he kicked off with Cutting Crew sound-alike Relax (Take It Easy). Although his falsetto grated a bit, his voice stayed on top form all night.
With debut album Life In Cartoon Motion making up his entire back catalogue, he played every track, but managed to mix things up a little by adding a couple of cover versions. That he chose two of the most melodic pieces of electronic pop from the last 25 years in Eurythmics‘ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and a banging version of The Source‘s You Got The Love said a lot about where his music comes from.
His larger lady dancers turned up for Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) and ballads Any Other World and album highlight Happy Ending were both recreated superbly for the big stage. The set ended with power pop trio Love Today, Grace Kelly and finally Lollipop accompanied by a zoo-load of cute furry animals, perhaps borrowed from The Flaming Lips, and a huge explosion of ticker tape and streamers.
Mika has some really good songs and on balance he is a genuinely good thing for pop music. He writes his own material and plays live beyond summer roadshows. But as with the album something wasn’t quite right. It’s almost as if everything about Mika is great, apart from Mika. There’s ultimately something insubstantial about him. He’s camp, but in a strange asexual children’s television presenter way rather than in a glam, funky Jake Shears way. Yet he knows who his fans are and he works them well and, if you like him on record, you’ll like him live too. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next the current album has a short shelf life and if he’s capable it would be great to see him follow his electro influences and find some edge.