TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht, Netherlands 10&12&13/2/2020

I bought a ticket for the first announced Utrecht gig as soon as they came on sale. Of course I did, the venue looked smallish and it’s generally rare to see gigs in Netherlands. However, announcing two more gigs for the same venue, for the same week made me particularly excited. It meant a wonderful opportunity to see several gigs in row at one venue and that way a possibility to follow how the vibe evolves during the week depending on Mika’s mood and the crowd there on different nights. 

TivoliVredenburg is one of the most practical venue complexes I’ve ever seen. It’s smallish but offers everything anyone can possibly hope for: a cafe/restaurant open the whole day and late night, toilets, wifi, warm space to spend time while waiting and an extremely polite and friendly staff. A very enjoyable experience and such a contrast after all the arenas. Even the biggest hall Ronda that was booked for Mika is small and cozy. 

Watching the audience before the first Utrecht gig was refreshing. I could see unusually many young people with different colorful styles. My first thought was how pleased Mika would be to see that many fresh faces in the audience. Majority of the people in the queue looked so young they must have either grown up with Mika’s music or recently discovered it and I liked those both thoughts and hoped Mika would like them as well and all that made me look forward to the gig even more than I already did. I was happy to be in Utrecht. The storm made it hard to travel and I had changed my flight to an earlier one to be in Amsterdam and after that in Utrecht in good time.

The gig started and to be honest it wasn’t automatically extraordinary. The supporting act Charlotte had already told us how close it was she didn’t make it on time because of the storm. Mika came on stage and he started well with Ice Cream, Dear Jealousy and Relax, continued with Origin, Platform Ballerinas and Big Girl and then Tiny Love and Underwater and everything went well and was beautiful but also felt busy and after Mika’s story of his scary flight and last minute arrival I could understand why.

As a special detail I loved seeing how during Big Girl the audience’s reaction was totally different than anywhere else, well at least different than it has lately been at the gigs. Practically no one cared that he walked past them from a close distance. People were not following him, no one was touching him. A few people got excited and filmed when he was coming closer, many people put actually their mobiles away and just watched and enjoyed the situation. It must have been a weird experience for him.

Mika was chatty and funny and the performance got better song by song but the vibe was still a little bit rushed. At some point Mika took his chair, sit right in front of me – my location was lucky that way – and started Blue. I love Blue. It’s a beautiful, calm and meditative song and it’s difficult so it can’t be done in a rushed way and suddenly the time stopped. Everything else disappeared. I couldn’t hear or see or think anything else, just the performance, and it was perfect in every possible way. There was only that moment and I felt only pure, calm happiness. It wasn’t my usual “this is why I came to see this gig” feeling, it was even more, a special kind of happiness.

After Blue everything felt incredible. Just listening to Mika talking in English instead of French or Italian between the songs was incredible. His stories are either funny or touching and I had forgotten how amazing it can be to actually be able to understand what he says. He dedicated Paloma to a little girl who was also called Paloma and told a long story about the night when his sister had her serious accident and it all was extremely touching. He highlighted the beautiful side of the topic and made it also clear that dedicating the song to the girl was a beautiful thing to do and that the girl made him smile which was sweet and sensitive of him. However, the story itself was serious and the song after that exceptionally moving.

The whole mood for the gig had changed and Happy Ending was particularly pretty and somehow more fragile than it usually is. Mika wanted to be totally focused on the song so he guided Tim’s playing during the ending part by holding his hand and even though the moment was so breathtaking I couldn’t help but smiling while watching that and seeing how Tim responded being totally still and after that quietly disappearing, making sure not to break the atmosphere.

The intro for Lollipop is getting so dirty it’s almost looking for boundaries. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and Mika laughed while telling his story as well, it was crazy. The intro for Love Today was even funnier, I had never thought the fisherman’s weather could be seen sexy that way and neither had the rest of the audience, the speech was clever and funny. Generally, every moment was either sweet or funny or genuinely touching and I enjoyed it all. I had really forgotten how it can be, to be able to have the whole experience, every part of it.

The setlist was fulfilling, I don’t know how else to describe it. After Blue we got also Popular song and as an extra surprise Sanremo and those both are songs I particularly love performed live. In the end we saw the spotted suit as a cherry on the top. The final part was lovely and I enjoyed it how even after the high energy songs and the short break Tiny Love reprise still continued the special mood of the gig.

The vibe for the second Utrecht gig on Wednesday was different than it was on Monday for the first gig. It was totally different. The atmosphere was clearly more cheerful and party style compared to the first night and instead of touching or serious songs the focus was on more energetic songs. Mika didn’t do Blue, he skipped Paloma and added Elle Me Dit and even Happy Ending that was on Monday done in smaller way was now fierce and powerful. I wouldn’t say one show was better than the other, they were just totally different style. Personally I prefer the style we saw on Monday, simply because Blue and Paloma are my two favorite live songs. However, what I particularly loved was that these two shows were so different, that’s what I came for.

The biggest surprise of the night came quite in the middle of the show when we heard the first notes of Last Party. I could hardly realise what was happening, it never came to mind to expect that song. It’s been so long since I heard Last Party and it had been a while also for Mika since he performed it. It was a beautiful surprise to hear one of my all time favorite songs, literally a (positive) shock. The biggest highlight of the show was still to hear such a fierce version of Happy Ending and I immediately thought of Happy Ending I saw in Dublin 2010 that had the same fierce vibe. The a cappella part we heard on the second night was one of my favorites during the whole Revelation Tour. I almost couldn’t believe I was there and had a possibility to experience it and the whole Utrecht audience seemed to feel the same and rewarded the moment with giant applauses.

Mika was less chatty than he was on the first night but after Origin we heard a lovely story about writing of the song. Mika has talked about this Montreal writing process earlier in some interviews but now he added more details and told about being on a break in his relationship that time, about working together with Nick Littlemore, writing the song while “breathing smoke and eating muffins” and it was really funny to imagine it all. I loved the story and it felt a gift to the audience the same way as hearing a rare song like Last Party. The crowd on Wednesday was a bit different than on Monday, I think. Surprisingly many children in the audience.

I liked the idea that all of these three gigs were totally different and the setlist was different each night. On the third night Mika skipped Platform Ballerinas and Paloma and added Blue and Billy Brown. During the gig I couldn’t see that consistent the same way as the changes on Monday and Wednesday when the mood was clearly directed first to focused and serious and then to more relaxed and cheerful but when I think of it later I can see those songs replacing each other.

Both Blue and Underwater were particularly beautiful on the third night. Happy Ending got a lighter final part than it usually does when Mika and Tim had a small funny guitar playing session. The audience followed instructions to join during Relax and Underwater and sang along spontaneously during several songs like Popular or Happy Ending. The atmosphere on Thursday was different than on Monday or Wednesday as well. The mood was unexpectedly sharp. The chatting was “jokingly” witty and usually I love Mika’s wittiness but this time he didn’t sound purely joking and his tone made me think he wasn’t totally happy and after the gig I didn’t feel good the same way I did after the two previous gigs. Many people around me seemed to find the night really funny though and obviously the whole idea was that the mood is different each night. 

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