Mika Symphony Pop
"For me this show is about transformation. I believe that songs are just recipes and interpreting them in different ways is what gives them life." (Mika / OSM interview)
Symphony concerts are my very favourites of everything Mika does. There’s nothing better than being able to totally focus on his performance and the symphony environment is the best way to do it. I love the drama and intensity he adds to the songs, I love how clear and strong every emotion becomes. I feel the music in my whole body, I feel transferred to another place, whatever it is in the song. Everything in the story is suddenly happening for real.
February 10th 2015 and the first night Mika performed with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) in Montreal, Canada, was by far the most amazing thing I had ever heard or seen. Mika did a magnificent performance, his voice was simply perfect. The orchestra itself was a mind-blowing experience especially to someone not used to symphony music. It was huge and made Mika look tiny on stage. However, he handled his role so well. His songs deserve to be performed this way. Conductor Simon Leclerc is the person to thank for the wonderful arrangements and I loved watching him and Mika on stage, their chemistry worked incredibly well.
I can’t even try to list every magical moment, the concert was pure firework from the beginning to the end. After the first symphony concert I was absolutely overwhelmed by the new and surprising elements and also physically exhausted after being nervous for hours before the show. Mika must have been nervous as well but we really couldn’t hear it. He just breathed between the songs, was smiling a lot and also surely touched watching how much people loved him.
In addition to three new songs Mika performed six, seven songs from both Life In Cartoon Motion and The Origin Of Love and two songs from The Boy Who Knew Too Much. He started with Toy Boy - always a lovely treat - and continued with Underwater which felt an obvious choice with an orchestra and was as beautiful as I had expected. The first new song was called Last Party and it was my favourite of the new songs with dramatic and tragic lyrics. Overrated was definitely the biggest highlight and Heroes outstanding and so suitable to be performed this way. Boum Boum Boum and Drunk were lighter and funnier in the middle of some serious songs and Happy Ending probably his best ever performance and the audience rewarded it with a deserved standing ovation. My personal favourite was Relax and I was surprised and happy it was kept so gentle.
February 11th was another incredible night watching Mika with OMS. He came on stage wearing a navy, letter appliquéd suit, Ida Falk Winland and Max Taylor located on his left side, Ida looking breathtakingly beautiful in her magical, flower decorated white dress. My seat was in front a bit on the right side and I could so easily watch the performance and observe Mika and the peculiar little movements he does with his fingers when he is concentrating on his singing very carefully. I saw he was somewhere deep in the story while singing the songs and it was incredibly wonderful. I already knew what to expect from the night and could therefor enjoy the concert even on a more detailed level than I did on the first night.
With a symphony orchestra every song becomes like a little painting or a small film. The orchestra illustrated every single song; I could literally see proper landscape images in my head while listening to it. The wavy sea and burning sky during Underwater. Dying autumn nature at the very moment the first snow arrives on Over My Shoulder. I’m lacking words but the whole experience was incredibly powerful and special and seemed to have an effect on Mika as well, he was clearly putting his soul into every song. It must have been tiring to that way give his everything and I loved seeing how Ida gave him supporting smiles whenever needed. She’s wonderful and I was so happy to see her on stage again.
Underwater was if possible even more powerful than it was on the first night. I gave special attention to Any Other World, Karen and Origin as I wasn’t concentrating on them enough on the first night and really enjoyed them all. I was extra grateful for hearing Overrated and Heroes for the second time as those felt the most important songs on the symphony setlist. My personal favourite along Relax was Last Party and it was extremely sad and depressing yet pleasant at the same time. The French speaking Montreal audience loved Boum Boum Boum and Elle Me Dit and Mika was thrilled to perform Drunk with an orchestra the same way he is always thrilled to perform Billy Brown in a church.
I felt so proud watching him. I know Mika is amazing and incredibly talented and I never doubt it but sometimes the world doesn’t seem to know it and I want him to feel valued and supported and a big part of the joy during the OSM concerts was the atmosphere and being able to feel how the whole audience was holding their breath and following every detail he did, listening to every single note and spontaneously showing their appreciation to him throughout each night.
On the third night in Montreal on February 12th the setlist was naturally the same as on the previous nights. Toy Boy was again a gentle start, the change to the original version isn’t that huge. He continued with Underwater and the song got even better night after night. Then Boum Boum Boum which was one of my favourites on the third night. Ida was rocking, I loved it! During Rain I was mentally preparing myself to Last Party, my absolute favourite new song that totally took over my mind. I loved everything in the song: the dark lyrics, the melody, the atmosphere and the way it was performed.
Then Karen which is one of my favourites even without an orchestra and finally Overrated, one of the biggest surprises and highlights of the Montreal week. Any Other world, Drunk and Ordinary Man. Ordinary Man is a thoughtful, pondering and mature song but even though I now heard it for the third time I still felt I need time to learn to know it better. Before the break Heroes. So strong, so powerful. After the pause Grace Kelly. Not my favourite with an orchestra but Mika's best-known song and we could see how the audience liked it. Over My Shoulder absolutely perfectly performed.
Then Good Guys and I loved the song more and more. Then Make You Happy and outstanding Happy Ending with Ida once again. Origin and after that Relax with some tears in my eyes. So grateful Relax was done this small and fragile way. In the end partying with Elle Me Dit and Love Today and as an extra treat Toy Boy and Elle Me Dit one more time (the audience was allowed to dance). Then massive applauds and hugely smiling star. Super special week and brilliant arrangements by Simon Leclerc.
All three nights in Montreal were equally good in their own, slightly different ways. I got my dream concerts. Nothing – absolutely nothing – was disturbing the experience. Not on stage, not in the audience. Eagerly waiting for every future tour, acoustic settings, theatrical elements, imaginative outfits and wild party in the audience but I had my dream come true in Montreal: listening to Mika without slightest distraction. I thought in advance a giant symphony orchestra on stage can be a bit distractive. That was not the case. Amazing that more than 100 musician can play in such a harmony. Not a single disturbing sound, pure bliss to my ears, so easy to separate Mika, Ida and Max. Wonderful acoustics. Never ever experienced anything like that. This is how Mika described the orchestra dynamics in the interview published in the OSM booklet:
"The most amazing thing that I have had to get used to is the dynamics of an orchestra. It is not quiet, it is not loud. ... It sounds with texture and incredible detail, without any interference from a speaker or electronics."
The experiences in Montreal and in Como later the same year were slightly different for natural reasons. In Montreal Mika was a guest, he respected that and closely followed the nature of the event. At Teatro Sociale in Como on 24th October 2015 his performing wasn’t that controlled, it was more relaxed, even playful and every way more his own style. Maybe for that reason the concert in Como made me even more touched and emotional. His singing was breathtaking, I literally forgot to breath when the music took over me and I had tears in my eyes half of the concert without any need to think anything.
The audience in Como was too loud but I knew to expect that and Mika handled the situation quite well. Simon Leclerc told people off for clapping twice with his small hand gesture – I sent him grateful thoughts for that – and Mika gave shouting people patient smiles and chatted even a bit too much while keeping the audience in control.
Mika’s voice and especially the lower parts of it filled Teatro Sociale in the most emotional way and living through his performance created the most touching musical moments I’ve ever experienced and I could see every fan and every true music lover at the theatre had an equally powerful experience. Toy Boy in the beginning was nervous but Underwater after that the best and most emotional version I had heard. I suddenly noticed my eyes are full of tears and I can’t even explain why, the performance was simply strong enough to make that happen. Boum Boum Boum wasn’t as powerful as it was in Montreal with Ida but I love this song performed live and a symphony orchestra gives it a different, intense tone.
After that Rain and I had to wonder when was the last time I could really feel I hate days like this and I couldn’t remember. It was wonderful to get the song back. Then a powerful version of Last Party. I felt overwhelmed already and almost missed Overrated and Any Other World. Drunk was light and playful and together with Ordinary Man calmed me down. Then outstanding Heroes and I absolutely loved it how Mika’s deeper voice filled the whole theatre and I had tears in my eyes just because everything felt so right and made justice for the song and was so well deserved in every way both for the song and for Mika. Extremely impressive performance.
Then it was time for a break. I jumped from my seat and walked around the lower floor and gave people a few hugs just of happiness and then returned back to my middle of the audience seat. Mika started the second part with Grace Kelly and continued with stunning Over My Shoulder. I always love this song, I’m happy to hear it at all kind of gigs but the symphony version is outstanding. Just like in Montreal I could suddenly see the whole autumn, early winter landscape in front of me, it was spectacular and something that happens only with the symphony version.
The amazing version of Good Guys was a true tribute to the persons mentioned in the song riding towards the sunset. Make You Happy and then Happy Ending with a standing ovation, well deserved at this point of the concert and after the brilliant performance. Origin was done with the usual hearts and dancing which made the vibe feel particularly relaxed. Gentle Relax, two high-energy songs, beautiful Stardust in English and Toy Boy once again, a lovely way to end the show.
Mika looked stylish in his most beautiful decorated Valentino. In the end of the concert at Teatro Sociale he smiled happily, thanked the audience and nodded friendly to some young fans holding big posters and wrapped one of those ugly sheets around Simon Leclerc who showed some disapproval. Very, very special night.
After seeing all the six symphony concerts I've noticed that every concert is different, special and magical in their own way and I enjoy the fact they are all different. Just the venue itself has its own effect, the modern music halls in Montreal or Florence can’t compete with the breathtakingly beautiful old theatre we saw in Como, a piece of art itself. The Canadian audience was calm and that way exactly my taste but on the other hand the organization at the opera in Florence could control the audience surprisingly well. The crowd was restless and a bit distracting but at least people stayed still until the last song which, believe me, wasn't easy to achieve.
There are other elements as well. I like Ida a lot and I missed her in Como and really enjoyed having her back in Florence and think her pure voice added something special to many songs. She sounded stunning and she and Mika have always a lovely chemistry on stage.
Every symphony concert depends naturally mainly on Mika and how he feels and where he wants to focus on that particular night just like at regular gigs. If he is calm and careful he pays more attention to every nuance and I think he did that more on the second Florence night on December 31st 2016 compared to the first one, being still very expressive as well. And I literally can’t breath when he performs like that, the experience is incredibly beautiful. I almost can’t believe I’m there to witness it all and try very hard to catch everything and always wish my musical ear was better so I could remember every detail afterwards but of course I can’t. I can only remember how amazingly wonderful it was when it happened.
If he is excited to tell the story and focusing on the meaning of the song he adds theatre in it and while doing it seems to suddenly to get even more excited, just for the childlike joy of performing and being on stage and that makes my heart burst. First there’s the emotion of the song. In seconds I’m transferred to another emotional state and to a new imaginary environment which is always very intense. Then there’s the feeling of having so much love in my heart because I love watching him on stage.
The first Florence night on December 30th 2016 was extremely emotional to me. I had looked forward to this night for a long time and had almost forgotten how well these symphony versions work, how real they feel. Mika was very theatrical since the beginning. He started with Toy Boy and suddenly I was in a nursery, I had hardly time to understand the transition. I could see the colours and textures and all the toys. After Toy Boy he changed quickly to Underwater and made it extremely dramatic, the water was everywhere and it was stormy and green. He has really found his acting side and he made the song even more emotional and powerful than it usually is. This is how he explained the process in the OSM interview:
"Music, especially symphonic music is like animation. It has total freedom to change landscape and narrative from one second to another. It is loosely attached to reality and that is why it can transport us so easily. "
In Florence Boum Boum Boum was intense compared to the gentle gig version I got used to during the Heaven tour, Rain emotional as well and then it was Last Party already and I tried really hard to keep up and jump from one song and emotion to another one, very quickly not to miss any of the songs, something that I found difficult during the earlier symphony concerts but gradually learnt to do. I feel every emotion with my whole body and every muscle and it’s hard to relax and feel “nothing” between the songs and get ready to another one, there’s very little time. Last Party was as lovely as it always is and the version from second night somehow amazingly carefully done, beautiful and detailed.
Next on the setlist Overrated and Any Other World, both wonderful symphony songs, and then Love You When I’m Drunk so cheerfully I had to wonder what is so funny in it. Then Ordinary Man. I wasn't in love with this song when I heard it for the first time in Montreal but I learnt to love it at gigs, it sounds different and more vulnerable without an orchestra and done in a smaller way. This time the song was my biggest favourite during the first Florence night and one of the favourites second night as well. I loved it so much, a wonderful experience. Then Heroes, one of the very best symphony songs.
It took me time to adjust after the pause and I was grateful the first song was Grace Kelly and not Over My Shoulder yet. With Ida Over My Shoulder is even better than it usually is. It’s a dark but still calm and peaceful song and l loved it how Ida’s voice gave it a tiny bit hope. Songs like that can take over my mood for a long time period and a little bit of hope makes everything easier. Lovely Good Guys and then Make You Happy and surprisingly my another big favourite both Florence nights but especially on the first night. Mika kept repeating the line and suddenly I started to believe him, it was very convincing. I had totally forgotten how much I like this song. Happy Ending is always stunning but on the second night it was extraordinary and I’m sure time stopped for a tiny moment. With Mika it sometimes does and on the second Florence night during Happy Ending it certainly did.
In Florence Origin was powerful with the big choir. I loved the choir in many other songs as well, it had an impressive effect and it added a lot of extra. Then Relax, one of my most important songs and lovely, gentle and natural both nights but particularly on the second one. Elle Me Dit and Love Today are not my orchestra favourites because the audience can’t stay still and there’s too much distraction and that always shifts my mood but Stardust after them was still lovely of course, even the audience was too restless at the time. There was an extra song both nights, Grace Kelly on the first and Underwater on the second night. The crowd was in chaos in front, everyone taking pics and vids but I didn’t care, just felt happy and thankful, overwhelmed and exhausted.