Zenith d’Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, France 26/2/2024

I learnt Clermont-Ferrand is one of the oldest towns in France. The Zenith d’Auvergne is a short car drive from the centre of the town and close to the plateau of Gergovia (famous for the battle of Gergovia between Vercingetorix and Julius Caesar) and while waiting for the gig at the arena we could see the plateau and admire Puy-de-Dôme, the volcano that gives the name to the department. The town itself is quiet but the bigger volcanic area with Chaîne des Puys seems absolutely interesting and would definitely be worth a longer visit. This time, however, my thoughts were focused on the new Apocalypse Calypso tour. 

On the first day of tour I had no idea what to expect and I just couldn’t wait for the gig and finally seeing the new show. The first gig of any tour is always a special occasion. It’s the starting point for the tour and after that the show will still sharpen and evolve a lot. That way the gig in Clermont-Ferrand reminded me of the first Imaginarium night in Belfast 14 years ago. It offered an opportunity for Mika and his team to test different show elements and details in front of the big audience. The first gig of the tour has a special, even vulnerable “first night vibe”. It feels one of the kind and we all, the artist included, are stepping into something new. Generally the atmosphere in Clermont-Ferrand made me think of the first Heaven Tour gig in Rennes 9 years go. The excitement was enormous. I hadn’t thought in advance I would still be that excited. 

 The first thing for the audience to see after entering the venue was the colourful stage curtain with the “face theme” (eyes & huge open mouth). The same image and different other colourful images are represented in the new merch. We could easily walk around and go to toilet after entering and I got myself a pale blue sweater and a white t-shirt from the merch desk and love my purchases, very good quality. 

 The show was full of emotional fireworks one after another. Surprising elements were brought on stage as a continuous stream and every time I thought we are coming to the end that was not the case. There was another big surprise and yet another one and then almost an ending and the final ending after that. The setlist was more generous than anything I had seen before.  A show this long must be extremely tiring for Mika to perform. I love watching a long show, it’s a dream for the audience, but I want him to keep his strength as well. Doing an arena show night after night is consuming. The setlist we heard in Clermont-Ferrand included many new songs, songs I had hoped to hear and songs I didn’t even dare to hope. A fully satisfying combination of songs. In the middle of numerous new songs I had flashbacks from the past and many details in the background animations and outfits reminded me of different details from the previous tours.

The biggest theme throughout the whole show was wings and feathers which my mind first connected both to angels and birds. With Mika it’s not always totally clear, the elements can be a surreal. The opening character in the dramatic red suit and wings had a devilish expression on his face and reminded a fallen angel but was locked in a bird cage and the photo description from the tour book told that the story is about a firebird. The scene was extremely dramatic and mesmerising and definitely my favourite show element during the whole show. The wing covering the white piano looked an angel wing but could represent an elegant white bird as well. The gorgeous blue toned feather outfit during Love Today was definitely modelling a very fancy bird! Stunningly beautiful outfits. We have seen feathers before yet nothing as stunningly elegant as these. Winning pieces and flamboyant in the exactly right way. In addition to feathers the distinctive look for the tour is created for example with short jackets. 

 Another theme that appears again is the rainbow. The white piano opens and reveals a huge rainbow which is kind of a new version of the giant red heart we saw coming from the piano during the Revelation Tour. Also, there’s an enormous rainbow coloured “Club Apocalypse” sign that comes from the ceiling and clearly follows the example of the Heaven sign that used to go up and down during the Heaven Tour. This time the difference is Mika standing high up on the sign! I immediately wanted to know if he has any security equipments and no worries, he does.  

Otherwise it’s a lot about background animations and there are some familiar patterns appearing as well. We see hearts and even flowers with eyeballs (as a flashback from the Imaginarium Tour) and the ending is done with full scale flower power. Shortly put many themes from the previous tours are recycled and put in a new form which is exactly how I love it. I love seeing familiar elements and admire how they can be put in a totally new and impressive form and find it rewarding for someone who has been following Mika’s work for a long time.

Using animations on the background instead of physical stage backgrounds can bother someone but personally I loved the colourful stories and images on the background of everything else and saw some as a reference to the Imaginarium backgrounds and already loved the flowers at Coachella. During this first show of the tour in Clermont-Ferrand I immediately loved the rich flowers in the final We Are Golden, the gorgeous theme video in Feels Like Fire, the pink apocalyptic scenery in Apocalypse Calypso, Jane Birkin madness and of course the elegant simple water lilies and other blooming flowers in Any Other World.

The show can be seen as a story where the firebird gets its freedom and faces the world in an apocalyptic atmosphere and there are numerous surreal and symbolic details to discover on the way. However, it’s not necessary to try to make sense of the full chaotic story, we can focus on the values and the message of the Mika world and use the two hours resetting our life. Just leave the real world outside and experience all the colours and emotions available.

 The setlist in Clermont-Ferrand included incredible 20 songs:

  •  Bougez 
  • Apocalypse Calypso 
  • Talk About You 
  • Sweetie Banana 
  • Feels Like Fire 
  • Underwater 
  • Relax 
  • Yo-Yo 
  • Jane Birkin 
  • Moi, Andy et Paris 
  • Big Girl 
  • Popular 
  • Elle Me Dit 
  • 30 secondes 
  • Grace Kelly 
  • C’est la Vie 
  • Happy Ending 
  • Love Today 
  • Any Other World 
  • We Are Golden 

 I will go deeper in each song after seeing the performances again. Every song is thought-provoking with added details, costumes and backgrounds. The opening is amazingly impressive and will be even stronger and more powerful over time. It has a classy suit, gorgeous wings and totally focused and extremely intense attitude and opening the cage gives a shocking start and opens the show in full force. Just thinking of it afterwards releases adrenaline.

 As you can see from the setlist many regular songs were left outside of it. I don’t mind that to be honest. This is the area where drastic changes can be good. I wouldn’t skip the biggest hits Relax and Grace Kelly. Also, songs like Underwater, Love Today and We Are Golden are strong and solid base elements to build around and makes me very happy that Mika finally brought back Any Other World to complete the group of his important, essential songs. We saw stunningly beautiful animations on the background of Any Other World, done in an impressive, stylish way that feels suitable with this timeless, serious song. The new Happy Ending performance has elegant pink backgrounds and a pretty, delicate ending. Love the ending! Yo-Yo was luckily kept on the setlist. I miss the acoustic part but the song works well and if the energy in the crowd is already good it can raise it even more. 

My absolute favourite song in Clermont-Ferrant was Feels Like Fire. The performance was wonderful and alone would make any gig anywhere in the world worth travelling. Gorgeous backgrounds, gorgeous vibe, gorgeous strong yellow colour in the suit. I keep watching the clips I filmed at the gig and think this song is an incredible live song, one of my all time favourites I would even say and I really, really love it. Absolute highlight!

I enjoyed all the new songs fully as well.  Bougez is as impressive as I had thought in advance and even has some extra intensity I didn’t see coming. Jane Birkin has that exact light mood I had thought it would and works incredibly well. C’est la Vie has been a success since the beginning and has now new, massive show elements. A few older songs are clearly on the setlist to please the mainstream crowd and now it makes me happy to see that also new French songs like Sweetie banana and 30 secondes create an immediate good mood and are clearly appreciated by the big crowd as well. The language issue can be complicated but even though I’m not French-speaking I’m looking forward to hearing the new French music as much as possible. One of things I found particularly delightful in the new show was beautiful transitions between the songs. Small pieces of recognisable tunes, symphonic clips and little fresh sounding intros. 

We started a new journey in Clermont-Ferrand. The first gig of the new tour was wonderful and full of excitement. There’s a beautiful mix of music, creative elements, outfits and other details to discover (a few pics from my mobile below).

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