I ❤️ Beirut
I Love Beirut is an online concert and a charity project Mika and his team put together after the explosion in Beirut in August 2020. Mika was born in Beirut and has always felt deeply for the city. Just in a couple of days after the explosion he expressed his support and in only a few weeks he and his team created something exceptional to gather money for different charities.
The original thought was to stream an intimate garden gig. However, other artists joining and with a film team in Beirut the original idea quickly expanded and the amazing result included a full, pre-recorded Mika show, several well chosen guest performances and a touching footage of people and their life in Beirut during and after the explosion. Like with everything Mika does, it's hard to find an exact way to label and describe the concept. The meaningful project turned out to be a combination of a concert recording and a documentary film done in an elegant, artistic way. As always, Mika got support from his family. He did the project together with his partner, film-maker Andreas Dermanis, who was in charge of editing and producing the film and his sisters took care of styling the theatre and the artist himself.
The film premiered on Youtube on September 19th. It started with a poetic intro and Mika talking about his relationship with the city and for me that was the most touching part of the film. I felt his affection and pain. I felt empathy. I felt connected with him and the city I had not even visited, I felt connected with those people I had never met. His words were sincere and warm, the tunes on the background pretty and pure. It all went directly to my heart and I think that was the purpose of the project, to make people see what Beirut is going through, to understand what the people living there are going through. It impressed me it was possible to feel the connection. It impressed me that with an empty theatre, with several teams around the world, everything throughout the documentary was still managed to keep personal and intimate. It was clear the initiative was important to Mika, that he genuinely wanted to make it happen, that he really wanted to help.
The small theatre in Italy decorated with warmly colored carpets and curtains, a huge chandelier and numerous little lights on stage, created a cozy atmosphere for Mika's own performance. Every guest performance was equally stripped-down and in line with the same simple yet extremely elegant style. The guests were stunning, their each song or poem like a beautiful jewel, yet only a part of the night. Mika was the main star and the host of the night which is exactly how I wanted it to be, just didn’t dare to hope anything in advance. Obviously, the goal was to provoke thoughts and to collect money for charity. Eventually, all that was done and in good balance. The final result exceeded all my expectations and the money collected exceeded all the goals set for the night.
The film was launched on different time zones and I watched it several times during the launching weekend. Even afterwards it's almost impossible to choose my favorite parts. After the intro Mika started with Origin Of Love the same way he might start any live performance and seeing that brought tears in my eyes. This time period we are living without live music, without concerts and gatherings is weird. I miss seeing Mika on stage, just seeing him starting his show made me cry. Happy Ending after that made my feelings even stronger. Any Other World was dedicated to the victims of the explosion and included footage from Beirut and the performance was extremely powerful. During it everything suddenly became real even to us who are safe and far from where it all happened. The set list after that included the biggest Mika hits and with guests and covers also several surprise elements.
I liked each and every guest performance. Usually I prefer the show to be focused on Mika but this was a charity effort. The guests brought visibility and I enjoy being able to honestly tell I genuinely liked them all. We heard words from Lebanese poet and writer Etel Adnan: "The only answer for barbarism is the determination for culture: poetry, literature, music, arts." We heard meaningful poems performed by Salma Hayek and Fanny Ardant. We saw a duet performance with Danna Paola during which she and Mika performed not only their latest single Me, Myself but also an incredible cover of It Must Have Been Love. We saw an emotional performance with Louane, her part being filmed in Paris showing familiar views on the background. We saw collaborations with Italian Funk Off band for Lollipop and with Lebanese Mashrou' Leila for Promiseland the latter one being one of the most magical moments of the whole night. We saw gorgeous Laura Pausini performing at beautifully lighted Rome Colosseum, stunning stunning stunning Rufus Wainwright playing piano and singing powerful Agnus Dei and Kylie Minogue performing a lovely pure version of her song Say Something.
Promiseland with Mashrou' Leila was a mind-blowing performance. Mika has casually mentioned Arabic collaborations but I guess I hadn't thought his words that much, I guess I wasn't sure whether they are only thoughts or real plans but obviously something has happened and I absolutely love the result. Arabic tunes combined with Mika's voice and especially this particular song sound magical and I can't wait to hear more. I was impatient to hear Rufus Wainwright as he is one of my favourites and his performance was as powerful as I thought it could be. The biggest surprise for me was Kylie because her music is not familiar to me. I loved how stripped-down her performance was, so simple and elegant, and I loved her song which I didn't know in advance.
After watching the story of Baby George who was born during the explosion and his parents I had tears in my eyes. My husband who was next to me watching the streaming with his own device suddenly and spontaneously took my hand and simply said “it’s been so easy for us” and I couldn't have agreed more. Being able to give a birth feeling totally safe felt suddenly such a privilege and I felt so deeply for those brave parents and their little baby and wished them the best from the bottom of my heart. If that kind of empathy was one of goals it was certainly achieved. This concert documentary was a beautiful, beautiful project for a good cause and in a form of a film it's something we can enjoy for years to come.