El Rey in Los Angeles, US 20/4/2022

We saw the fourth North America spring tour gig on April 20th at the El Rey theatre in Los Angeles and even though I had seen the venue 9 years ago I had totally forgotten how lovely and tiny it is, this beautiful traditional style theatre venue offered absolutely perfect circumstances for a warm and intimate gig. The stage was so tiny the band could barely fit on it and I’ve seen front of stage photography areas bigger than the whole El Rey general admission area, the capacity of the venue is only 700-800 including vip areas and balconies.

 Incredible circumstances and an incredible performance. The gig was small and that way intimate but the first word that comes to my mind to describe the show is still professional. The performance was very professionally done, it was very considered, and that surely correlates to how I see LA as a city. It’s an important city for the industry and as usual Mika had celebrity friends and influencers in the audience and I can imagine it felt particularly essential to deliver them pure high quality. The set list started in an already familiar way and included the following songs in more or less this order:

 Lollipop / Origin / Tiny Love / Relax / Ice Cream / Big Girl / Blame It On the Girls / Underwater / Tomorrow  / Modern Times / Happy Ending / Popular / Elle Me Dit / Grace Kelly / Love Today / Tiny Love Reprise / We Are Golden

One of the songs that impressed me most in LA was Ice Cream. I was astonished looking at Mika’s dancing and performing and kept thinking when did that happen, when did he learn to dance like that. Ice Cream is not one of my usual favourite songs but this time it was definitely a true highlight. Another song that is not my usual favourite but what I particularly like on the new setlist is Lollipop. The version is so totally different than ever before, slow and theatrical. I know it’s surprising I mention these two songs but I’ve definitely enjoyed them during this tour more than I usually do.

 A typical thing for Mika’s North American shows is to see extremely loyal people who come to see him again and again even though there’s often years between the shows. I met the guy who gave Mika a cap he used for the special photo shooting with Peter Lindberg, a family that had filmed a cool video for the We Are Golden competition more than 12 years ago and several familiar people who I always see at gigs in the LA area. Mika spotted familiar faces and showed people he recognised them and before Grace Kelly he shared the story of Marvin’s (the hat guy) hat. 

 I particularly loved Underwater and Tomorrow and at the same time looked forward to Modern Times and would have been extremely disappointed not to hear it. Luckily we heard it and I immensely enjoyed it and the performance was the best we have seen so far which is not a surprise, every song evolves when performed several times. After the show in LA we heard also another new song - Mika’s next single - not performed but played on the background. Apparently the song was played also after the San Francisco show but there I left quickly and didn’t listen to the music that was played afterwards.

When I heard the song in LA I understood why I necessarily wouldn’t have paid attention in San Francisco. I couldn’t automatically recognise Mika’s voice in the new single. The sound must be somehow processed and for a moment that totally confused me. Why would they do something like that. The song is extremely catchy though and when I later listened to my recorded clip my thoughts went very quickly from “confused” to “the catchiest song I’ve ever heard” which was an interesting experience. 

The new songs are less melodic than I had expected and for that reason the first impression of them is slightly superficial. However, their theme, topic and message in the lyrics is actually very deep and that kind of contrast is definitely Mika’s usual style. People often mistakenly see his music all happy when there’s a lot of darkness in it and I can imagine the new music can at first give superficial vibes but the topics about today’s world and relationships in it are deep and thought-provoking which for me is an important part of the music experience. Personally I can say I do like a lot what we’ve heard so far.

I find the themes in both Modern Times and Yo-Yo extremely interesting and I find it interesting Mika chose them and I wanted to write more about it but with travelling and in a good way distracting Coachella excitement it’s a bit difficult to focus on that. I keep thinking of these new songs though. I hope we will hear them during the Canadian part of the tour and I wonder what’s the goal behind them, whether they are a fresh way of self-expression or intentionally planned to attract a new group of people because that can happen. I would be surprised if that kind of catchy music didn’t attract new audience.

I was extremely happy to see Mika performing at tiny, intimate venues like El Rey just before seeing the major colour and energy explosion at Coachella. That’s basically what we will see also during the Magic Piano Tour in Italy and I can already tell it works and will be a huge experience. Obviously this time it just happened, in the future the concept will be clear and carefully planned and considered. 

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