My earlier report about the first week of the The Voice France blind auditions is here, now some thoughts about the second part of the auditions last Monday and Tuesday. This time I had a couple of mornings to spend in Paris and really enjoyed having time to walk around. On Tuesday it was sleeting but Paris looked as pretty as ever and I walked in Montmartre and saw mothers with their babies and school groups and people walking their Dachshunds and as the weather was quite awful had my nails done in a funny old ladies place. It made me smile and I thought maybe I can go there also next time, maybe it can be my new routine.

Recording days are not always he same, they are all different depending on the songs and the general mood and for many other reasons. This time Monday was a little bit boring compared to the other days. Maybe too many slow songs in row, maybe a bit less interaction between the coaches. A bit weird atmosphere that is hard to explain, everyone somehow distracted. Tuesday on the other hand was extremely entertaining including numerous funny details and a lot of interaction between the coaches. It was the last day of the blind auditions so every coach had to complete their teams and use their blocking options and they were teasing each other in a nice way, creating many hilarious moments especially between Mika and Jenifer and it was all fun to watch. During a break Mika gave his little nephew a small tour on stage again and it was cute and it gave me a warm feeling to know his family is there to support him.

This year we’ve seen interesting guest singers who usually perform their songs three times each (once before the coaches arrive and two more times in front of them to make sure every detail is recorded) and without exceptions I’ve enjoyed watching them all. This time we saw Zazie, Slimane and Frédéric Longbois on Monday (the last one not as a guest but making an appearance) and Soprano and the guy from Fréro Delavega (his name, anyone?) on Tuesday. I was impressed by Soprano. I couldn’t understand the lyrics but heard the story translated and thought it was different than I had expected and now I look forward to hearing also Julien Clerc to learn to know his style and naturally pray that this year we will also see Mika on stage. I can’t tell if the guest artists really are that much better than previous years, it’s possible they are now more familiar to me and for that reason I can enjoy them more.

The level of contestants is generally good and clearly much better than it was last year. I’m curious to see which contestants Mika will keep. He has a lot of good material and can have a very good quality team and I’m curious to see which way he decides to go, obviously there are several options.

Just a few words about the contestants without giving too much information. At least a couple of times I expected contestants to choose Mika thinking they were extremely lucky to have him turned his chair but eventually the talents chose someone else. That didn’t make any sense, knowing Mika is particularly interested in their genre or style. I can’t tell if it wasn’t an independent decision from them or if they just weren’t smart enough to choose him. A couple of times contestants had very special singing techniques. These cases sound always too special for me but on the other hand, Mika loves them and I enjoy watching him being genuinely interested and having a sharp look in his eyes.

A couple of times contestants performed those songs I always think no one should ever perform in a talent show. This time it was songs like Nothing Compares 2U and Wicked Game, both very complicated to cover. There’s a time period in my youth I can hardly remember. I remember nothing until I hear Nothing Comparers 2U and random little images start to flow into my mind and it must be the same for everyone in the audience old enough to remember the original songs. No one wants their personal memories to be connected to a wrong version of the song. Performing Sinead O’Connor or Chris Isaak or maybe Sia from more current names is rarely a good idea. Surprisingly I wasn’t that annoyed to hear Nothing Compares done by a talent show contestant, first time that has ever happened.

After the last recording night Mika said thank you to people who had come to see him in Paris, many from far away. It was after a long recording day and he probably couldn’t wait to have some rest and some private time, yet he made the situation look very relaxed. In my experience Mika is always in a hurry. He has always a minute schedule and he is always busy moving from one commitment to another or has worked hours in front of people and just wants to get away from them (which we all understand very well) or is simply hoping to be somewhere else, having so many things to do and so little time. On Tuesday he made it look he’s not in hurry at all and I thought it was the sweetest thing to do. Very sweet indeed.

Thanks again everyone I met in Paris and who helped me in so many ways, translated and kept company. Hope to see you all soon X

The crowd at Cirque d’Hiver was exceptionally good to be a private gig audience and was dancing, clapping and singing along considerably loudly. I was thankful for my possibility to be there and hardly breathed and also kept my camera in my bag so I have only a few mobile vids to add in my post. Basically everyone in the audience was filming with their mobiles and have been sharing pics and vids on Instagram so I decided to share my small clips as well. I really wanted people to see them, Mika sounded and looked stunningly good and it’s important people are aware of that while waiting for new gigs in the future. It’s easier to be patient knowing something is surely worth waiting.

It was wonderful to see him on stage again. The gig was joyful and made me incredibly happy. I was smiling and then had tears in my eyes because everything was so beautiful and then smiled again and was relieved I could finally remember how it feels to be that happy about live music again. It’s a magical feeling, like it could fix everything. Like there were no worries in the world at all. Mika is in great shape. His voice tells he has been both exercising and practicing fiercely, I could hear he’s in excellent physical condition. He moved beautifully on stage and I heard from the sound he and the band are experimenting some new things for the old songs like always between tours so people can have new interest in them. At Cirque d’Hiver he did 11 songs which was a proper amount for a corporate gig like this one.

I’ve been a bit frustrated to read about his many private gigs lately. I’ve felt he’s not on a gig break like he says, I’ve felt he’s just choosing his audiences and it has made me sad not to be good enough to hear his singing and to be in the audience. Now I kind of saw what I have of course on a rational level always known. Artists would be mad turning down these gigs when offered to them. Private gigs mean more money with shorter gigs and less commitment with the audience and must be generally easy to fit in their schedules. The usual audience is so much more demanding than this more general crowd was.  At private gigs there’s no stress about rare songs or new music. Basic, energetic setlist is enough. To develop and improve his shows further he will (well just my opinion) need his own audience, crowds that are genuinely into his music and react quickly to changes and new details.

The gig started in French with Un soleil mal luné and continued with Relax, Blue Eyes, Big Girl, Boum Boum Boum, Grace Kelly, Underwater, Lollipop, EMD, WAG and Love Today. Approximately in that order, please correct me if needed but at least these were the songs we got. Loved it that we heard Blue Eyes and absolutely loved Boum Boum Boum – I love the atmosphere and Mika’s voice in it, it’s such a strong favorite for me – and burst in tears during Underwater after waiting to hear it such a long time. Not surprising these were the biggest highlights for me. I loved Relax and the three energetic songs in the end. It was hugely emotional to see Cirque d’Hiver again and watch the round center in the middle of it, it’s been 9 years since the last two gigs I saw there 2009, it’s such a special venue and I loved watching Mika using the circle shape of the stage to reach every corner of the audience with his microphone (see the Underwater video).

A couple of videos below. I might have also some smaller clips and will add them to FB or somewhere. Thanks everyone who made this possible and who kept me company! X

It was time to start The Voice France season 8 so I flied to Paris on Monday morning to watch the first four blind audition sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It was good to be back at the studios and gave me a warm feeling to see the chairs and Mika’s name on one of them. I’ve seen these recordings many years now and they feel like a part of my annual schedule. Mika had earlier commented that everything is different this season and the new coach setting looked totally fresh indeed: we saw Soprano, Mika, Jenifer and Julien Clerc (in that particular order).

Jenifer hasn’t been my big favorite previous years but now I suddenly really enjoyed seeing her there. She looked familiar, tiny and cute and someone I can somehow predict in advance. Soprano is a rap artist and I had seen him on stage only once before but knew that many people like him and that he’s generally described as a “nice guy”. During the first audition day he wasn’t as entertaining as we could later see but still immediately gave an impression as a pleasant and smiling person and his interaction with Mika who was next to him looked natural and easy and I soon noticed his candidates are much in line with his own musical style.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think about Julien Clerc. He’s a French singer and songwriter and his audition style is clearly different compared to the others and he has chosen to push the button only after very careful consideration. He seems calm and controlled and talks in a long, considerate way and as I have to rely on translations and base my perception (of the coaches) not only to their comments and words but also to their gestures and decisions it was harder for me to observe him.

During the three recording days Julien gradually started to show also his softer side. He kept his strict line but a couple of times totally surprised the audience and maybe also the other coaches pushing the button very last moment to a candidate everyone else seemed to ignore. He chose a boy who was obviously nervous during his performance and another one who did a small, delicate performance (apparently of one of Julien Clerc’s own songs) that didn’t get attention from the others and both times I thought what a nice thing from him to do to push the button. Of all his candidates I can remember clearly only these two as all the others in his team were the same, more specific type. Of course, I couldn’t help but paying attention to Julien’s little son who run to give him kisses during breaks causing cuteness reactions in the audience.

Mika was his usual self yet still totally different than previous years. He still requires not only good talent or potential but also something that excites him, something that is different or unusual and can somehow be distinctive. He’s kind as always. He says his honest opinions in his kind, caring way offering candidates something that can be genuinely useful to them. However, this year his strategy seems different than before. He pushes the button a lot and with that I mean a LOT and to many kind of talents being very successful with what he’s doing. He is gathering material, leaving nothing last minute. He hears something exciting, his eyes start to sparkle and his fingers do a little dance and sometimes he seems to push the button just because he wants someone to turn their chair – without thinking if his own team needs another talent or not – like it was his personal responsibility to prevent a tragedy where someone who deserves an opportunity is not chosen.

After winning his fifth contestant during the first session the production gave Mika a small reminder not to be too enthusiastic. Actually I can’t know if that happened for real as we can’t hear what the production says but that’s how it looked and he really was extremely enthusiastic with the button. Soon after that we heard a young female contestant with an unusual and quite strong voice and saw Mika struggling to control his fingers and trying to give signs to other coaches to push the button and finally he pushed the button himself wanting to give the girl a chance. That was my favorite moment that day. He genuinely seemed to do that just to be fair to the girl in the situation where he already had gathered a full amount of contestants for one session.

He now has a colorful group of contestants in his team and just editing what he has can result a good, strong team. Both of my two own favorites were chosen on Wednesday and are exactly the type I like in candidates and artists in general. They are male, have a strong unusual voice and a lot of passion in their performing. Of course I need to see my favorites performing again to be sure they really are as good as I thought but I still already hope at least one of them can make it to his final team. On Wednesday Mika won also a good female candidate but even though the girl was energetic and comfortable on stage I didn’t find her interesting enough simply because I think there are already too many singers like that in the music scene.

The level in the competition is better than last year but from a huge amount of candidates only a few stayed on my mind after the first hearing. There’s a duo in Soprano’s team that is interesting and has a good energy and one of the contestants in Jenifer’s team has a touching story on the background (and these personal stories can have a meaning in the concept).

A couple of candidates stayed on my mind for negative reasons and for their rude, pushy behavior. Unfortunately the first one ended up in Mika’s team. First I wasn’t sure if the girl is a comedian or if she behaves like that just to get attention but I guess it was the latter one as she wasn’t funny in a good way and made Mika uncomfortable. Of course, Mika did push the button and he also continued talking making the girl to choose him. Another, very pushy candidate ended up in someone else’s team and I was relieved about that. In addition to these I can clearly remember only a few more candidates but won’t write more about them as all of them were quite unusual and difficult to describe without telling too many details. Let’s just say we saw some colorful show elements and outfits! Otherwise it’s hard to remember each talent only after one hearing, the days were long and full of performances.

The system has a small change in the rules. Every coach has now a possibility to block one other coach one time preventing them to get the contestant even if they’ve pushed the button. Mika used his possibility almost as soon as the recordings started. I found that quite surprising as the new rule could have been used as a tactical move later but was now used just for fun. Turned out Mika might have not known this in advance, it’s possible he thought there’re still two possibilities left (to block the two other coaches). However, the production made it clear for him and now he knows his only blocking option is used and it can be better this way. Now there’s no need to think or plan that option any more.

I really enjoyed these first recording days. We saw interesting guest performances including Pascal Obispo, Jenifer, Claudio Capéo and Kendji Girac who’s still my favorite of all Mika’s earlier talents. So pleased that one of his discoveries started such an incredibly successful career. We saw the coach team performing their song at least six times and I loved it and almost cried when heard Mika giving an example of his voice behind the curtains before coming on stage. I miss his singing so much it hurts my heart and loved it that we could at least have a tiny taste of it. On Wednesday Mika brought his little nephew on stage and let him sit in Soprano’s chair and the whole situation was adorable and naturally caused quick admiring sighs in the audience.

I especially enjoyed the new relaxed atmosphere among the coaches. There are four totally different personalities, the whole group dynamics has changed, everything is fresh. I like it that there’s no visible tension and nothing visibly threatening. I like it that Mika can breath knowing his role is desperately essential. The production could replace any of the other coaches and it would still be fine but they couldn’t possibly replace him, it wouldn’t work any more, it wouldn’t be interesting enough any more and I like his position this way.

The coaches can’t obviously communicate with the audience much but I could see Mika made extra effort to be thoughtful and patient with people during the whole week and it was very sweet of him. I was back home on Thursday and was asked if I enjoyed seeing his face again. Can’t even describe how much I did. Had such a good trip, thanks everyone who made it so lovely X

I arrived Florence on Friday night so I had the whole Saturday to do whatever I liked. I was happy to be back. My husband and I visited Florence on New Year 2016 to see the symphony gigs and fell in love with this beautiful and historical small city. I wanted to revisit some of the places we saw that time. I like building routines in foreign places, that way it’s easier to learn to know the city and I feel I can have a proper relationship with it.

I woke up early and headed to the Boboli gardens and had the most beautiful start for the day. The weather was sunny and hot for September but the morning was still fresh and the park was practically empty and I almost felt I was there alone, saw only a handful of runners during my walk. I got the similar feeling I get when I walk to the Montmartre Hill in Paris early in the morning, like it could be possible to feel the essence of the whole city just by going to one particular place. I walked in the park at least two hours and took some pics. I made special effort to find the green little building I could remember from our last visit. I think it’s an old coffee house, sadly not open for public anymore, and my imagination goes wild when I see it, a very special and pretty small building.

After my morning walk I took care of some practical things. I went to Palazzo Vecchio to get my wristband for Sunday and then walked past the Duomo, officially called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, to a travel agency to book a guided tour in Uffizi for the afternoon. It would be impossible to visit the Uffizi Gallery without buying a tour, the place would be too crowded, and I thought a small lecture could be useful. I needed something gluten-free for lunch and googled a small gluten-free pizzeria right next to the Duomo and had my lunch there.

After the lunch I decided to return to the book cafe my husband and I discovered during our previous visit. The place is called Todo Modo and it’s cozy and full of books and the kind of place I would visit every week if I lived in the city. Most of the books are in Italian but they have also a collection in English and different kind of notebooks available. I bought a small traveller’s notebook and had a chat with the guy behind the desk. He told the place would be crowded during the afternoon as filmmaker Terry Gilliam (who was talking at the Wired event that day) would be there signing his books and I decided to be back a bit later after my Uffizi tour and have something to eat as well.

I continued my walk to meet Federica. She is one of the Italian girls and lives in the center of Florence and was organizing an animation festival at Theatre Odeon next to the Palazzo Strozzi that day. Fede came to meet me in front of the theatre and invited me in to see the building – Odeon must be one the most gorgeous old film theaters in the whole Europe – and then to listen to international lecturers they had that day. I felt a bit embarrassed to disturb her as she was obviously busy hosting their guests but she just kindly said “you come, you come” and took me to follow a Q&A at the big theatre hall where John Pomeroy, known for Disney films like Pocahontas, answered student questions and talked about his career and some highlights and future prospects of it.  After that I joined Fede and her team for coffee and then listened to another lecture.

I so much enjoyed this possibility and can’t thank Fede enough for being so kind and generous in the middle of her busy day! It’s things like this I find most interesting when I travel, meeting people I’ve met during my concert trips, being able to see their every day life and work and even having a possibility to learn something totally unexpected, this time secrets of animation.

The second speaker was Victor Navano who has worked for Pixar and done animation on numerous films like Monsters inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo – just to mention a few – and he talked about characters and their goals and obstacles and generally the basic structure of the film scene. As an example he showed a raw scene from the film Finding Dory, analyzed the characters in the scene and pointed out the challenges in it and then showed the final version. I’m not very familiar with the animation genre and found it interesting to notice there is not only equally much but maybe even more analysis behind the characters than there is in regular films. When the film is done well it’s easy for the audience to momentarily forget the structure, the analytically built characters and the work behind every scene and just enjoy the story.

Naturally that same goes with music as well and listening to the lecture made me think of this old interview Mika has given for Wired at the time NPIH was out about writing music and building a show and the science behind it all (the article and translations inside the link).

I left the film theatre to be on time for my Uffizi tour and was glad I had my ticket bought, the place was so crowded it was difficult to even find my group but finally saw the right person and got my ticket and an ear piece to listen to the lecture. An obviously very experienced tour guide took our group and started to spot suitable possibilities to see as many of the most important paintings as possible and I was pleased to receive a lot of information and listen to the lecture which was as much about the Medici family and the history of the time as it was about Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

This was only my second visit in Florence so it was good to hear the facts again. I’m horrible at memorizing details, dates and names. My mind works differently, it looks for connections and analogies. So it was not only Flora’s dress in Primavera or that cute tiny baby foot on Raffaello’s painting that reminded me of something familiar, I paid attention also to wavy patterns in colorful angel wings and small buildings that looked exactly like the time machine at Casa Mika and I felt a bit guilty my mind wandered that way. I was looking at classical art after all and many of the topics seemed somehow holy. Of course it wasn’t all holy that time either. The artists painted their patrons in the paintings as well. There’s always been a connection between artists and important, influential people, there’s always been money or privileges involved.

I spent wonderful and extremely informative two and a half hours in Uffizi and after that felt quite exhausted. I walked next to the river back to the book cafe and saw the bridges, all of them but especially Ponte Vecchio, crowded that time. I asked the nice lady at the cafe a glass of pleasant wine and something gluten-free to eat and she smiled and brought me both including hummus and some gluten-free snacks and I just sat there an hour watching books and thinking how lucky I was to spend that Saturday in Florence and hoped everything would go smoothly the next day (and it did, see my report here).

Below a few pictures of Grazia magazine that Grazia (also one of the Italian girls) kindly carried to me to Florence. The whole special edition magazine is both in Italian and English so the interesting conversation between Mika and Pierpaolo Piccioli is easy to read. Special thanks to Grazia not just for carrying this giant magazine all the way but also patiently answering my questions on Sunday during the Wired event. Hope to be back in Italy soon X

The Wired Next Fest digital media, technology and innovation event was hold 28th-30th of September in Florence and Mika was scheduled to speak in the evening of the last day of the event. I had booked the whole weekend for other commitments months in advance but eventually changed my plans to travel to Florence. I hadn’t seen Mika the whole summer and thought it would be good to see his face again but also wanted to travel for other reasons. I’ve spent a lot of time comfortably at home lately and thought traveling would do me good and give me some energy and sharpness and I also wanted to visit Florence just to feel the atmosphere again. Mika has spent there time this summer recording his album and it’s many ways an inspiring and sophisticated small city. I was right with my decision and spent there an enjoyable and interesting weekend and have a lot of thoughts to share. A small report about the WNF event below and more about Florence in my next blog post.

Earlier this year the city of Florence awarded Mika with the keys to the city making him an honorary citizen of Florence which was a well deserved honor after his collaborations with Opera di Firenze. The ceremony was hold in Palazzo Vecchio and the award was given by Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence. I couldn’t be there to see the award ceremony but the Wired event was hold in the same impressive building and Dario Nardella was one of the speakers and even that was a random coincidence my mind made a small connection between these two events.

Wired Next Fest was free and open to everyone but an online registration was required and to make sure things would go smoothly on Sunday I did my registration in advance, picked up my wristband on Saturday to have it ready and went to Palazzo Vecchio in good time before the doors were opened on Sunday morning. I saw maybe 20 people waiting, joined them and soon after that saw more familiar faces. The doors were opened, we could go in and the event started exactly as scheduled. The timetable for the day was extremely tight without any breaks but worked well as planned which impressed me (we were in Italy after all). Below a pic we took before going in with some of the Italian girls I know.

I went to the Wired Next Fest just to see Mika but as a pleasant surprise the whole day was much more interesting than I had thought in advance. On Sunday two guests spoke in English: Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, and interface designer John Underkoffler, known for inventing the data interface for the science fiction film Minority Report. Both were obviously experienced public speakers (see their Ted profiles here and here).

Vint Cerf was a charismatic gentleman in his grey beard and a stylish hat and his speech well structured and easy to understand. He went through the history of the internet and pointed out issues important in the future, most of them something everyone knows yet no one can (yet) solve. The final impression he left was optimistic. There are still issues related to safety, reliability and preserving the data that need to be considered and kept in mind. For example, an insane amount of mobile photos is taken every year and none of us knows what will happen to them in 15 years. This is a topic I’ve given a lot of thought and the reason why I want to do manual archives in our digital age, I simply can’t be sure what will happen to my digital archives in the future.

John Underkoffler’s presentation was entertaining and a bit Hollywood style. He showed a Tom Cruise scene with holograms and either that particular scene or similar scenes from other movies are familiar to everyone. We think the holograms we see are futuristic special effects but for designers all that is future reality and according to John Underkoffler the future user interface needs to adjust space and motion and collaborative use, just to give a few examples.

Some of the italian speakers we saw would have been interesting but unfortunately the topics were too difficult for me to understand in italian. However, generally the schedule before Mika wasn’t still boring at all. We saw some music performances and I especially liked the first guest, a singer-songwriter called Dente, and found his acoustic performance very relaxed. We saw film, youtube and television persons and I add a couple of photos of Alexandro Cattelan below because his face is familiar to everyone who has followed Mika’s career in Italy. Cattelan was on stage with Andrea Delogu talking about social media and the images from their Instagram accounts showed on the background made their talk easy to follow and to put in context even it was in Italian.

Finally it was Mika’s turn, watch his interview here (I hope there will be a translation on his fan club page and will add it later). He talked about his new album, about his stay in Italy and the country in general, about using social media and also simplicity which was the main topic for the whole event. I was happy to see his face again. I could follow his answers about music and the album quite well because my mind could put things in context and his words made me curious and impatient and to wish I could hear the album immediately. I couldn’t understand his talk about the house because I couldn’t see where he was going to (I think nowhere, it was just chatting) but the talk about social media felt obvious as he has many times clearly said he doesn’t like it.

I can understand him very well. Real life events are important to me because I want to feel the atmosphere in my body. When the atmosphere is relaxed, my body is relaxed, when it’s tense my body feels tense and I need to be there to experience these things. Sometimes the aggressiveness in social media is so strong my body can feel it even online. The upper part of my stomach starts to hurt and I can’t breath. There’s a huge difference between occasional, sharp sarcasm and constant bickering and judgmental comments. If people want Mika to use social media as a person and not only as a brand they should remember he reacts as a person. Negative pressure and repeating the same complaints can be too much for everyone.

After the interview he was finally asked to sing. Obviously the piano was left there for this reason and I had hoped it would happen. He didn’t look that enthusiastic but walked to the piano. I hoped he would do Boum Boum Boum, I thought it would be suitable even it’s in French and that he could play the intro and easily sing it. I think only a part of my telepathic message went through and he got only BB instead of BBB as he did Billy Brown instead and I was happy with that as well. I put down my camera and just enjoyed the song and it was beautiful.  A short but lovely moment. After that he waved to the audience and disappeared backstage.

I knew in advance the event would be crowded meaning I probably wound’t see him from close enough to say hello. I also knew that even if I saw him I couldn’t actually talk with him, there would be too many people around him, so I had just in case made a small thank you card with a note to give him. He left quickly though and I waited for the girls and started to ask questions and translations and we went out all together. The whole area outside Palazzo Vecchio was full of people leaving and we walked around the corner to see even more crowds.

A man was opening a car door so I stopped for a moment to give him space and suddenly realized he was opening the door for Mika. In two seconds he was in front of me, saw my face, smiled and said “hi how are you” and I stood there astonished by this incredible timing. The man who opened the door took the card I was holding in my hand and then the car was gone.  Everything happened so quickly I barely had time to think “this is what they call the flow and perfect timing”. I don’t know what happened to the card but it doesn’t matter, I did my best delivering it to Italy. I went to have drinks and snacks with the girls and then back to my hotel to get some rest before traveling to Finland.

I was a bit too far away to get good pics, sorry, but added still some to give the impression how it was and how smiling he looked. Thanks everyone, it was good to see you all again xxx

I’ve not yet figured out how to organize my magazines and newspaper clips in a creative enough way but I wanted to blog about another, similar type topic and show how I organize my music related collectibles. I prefer collecting experiences rather than objects but have still built a small collection during years and have a glass vitrine where I keep my favorite items so they can be a part of my everyday life.

In addition to albums and vinyls I’ve collected some of the colorful items Mika and his sister Yasmin have designed for their design collaborations. I used to store all my collectibles in an upstairs cabinet. I loved the idea of having these objects at home but didn’t know how to mix them with my own color scheme. Going to a concert meant stepping into another, extremely colorful world and was a huge, very strong and powerful experience for me. At home my life had less colors. Also, as an adult it felt weird to put for example tour posters on my walls, I hadn’t done something like that before.

Then things changed. I noticed the botanical illustration in the Montreal symphony poster and the mix of different dark blue colors in the China Tour promotion poster were exactly my taste. I looked at them at home and neither of them looked out of place at all. I had the posters professionally framed and the result looked so gorgeous I immediately wanted to find a place for them. Also, I understood that if people want to disapprove me they have plenty of bigger reasons than posters on my wall and to be honest, I didn’t care at all. My relationship with everything material had become different than it used to be as well. I wanted everything at home to be something I can either use or at least think and that way enjoy all the time and having things hidden in upstairs cabinets didn’t serve this philosophy.

First we built a small library in the middle of our house and organized all our books there and even it looked really colorful I absolutely loved it. I put the framed China tour poster on the opposite wall of the library and the colors fit perfectly. The place in the middle of the house was suitable for the poster also because my husband and I traveled to China together so it’s a special memory we share together and I must say I enjoy seeing the poster there every single day and it makes me remember both the concerts we saw and people we met (the second pic below is from Shanghai).

After noticing how much I enjoy having my books visible I wanted to do the same for my collectibles and bought a glass vitrine and located it in our bedroom. So pleased how pretty and fresh it looks there! The cream color vitrine is metal and glass and it’s inexpensive (from Ikea) but very suitable for the purpose and a practical solution to collect together many extremely colorful items in a way that is not too much or not too distractive. It’s like a small colorful gem in otherwise light room and I think the flowery Montreal poster will look beautiful next to it.

I couldn’t fit everything on only three shelves but chose the most important ones. There’s a signed pic I got in mail after sending some illustrated Moomin books for Mika’s birthday 2008. There’s a copy of Songs For Sorrow EP/book from 2009 and a tour book from 2010 and a signed cover art print for TBWKTM (that one is very special for me). There’s a Mika coke bottle designed 2010, three tofu dolls and naturally all three Swatches (two of each so I can wear one if I want to and have one safely stored at home), Pilot pen boxes, some vinyls and Korean magazine edition albums.

It’s interesting to see all these items from the past ten years at one look. I can see almost similar masks in the Happiness Coke box from 2010, in Kukulakuki and Kukulakuku from 2013 and in Mumu from 2016 (all three Swatch designs) and wish I knew the whole story behind the mask.

I bought an Imaginarium tour poster with a mask in Berlin 2010 after a fantastic, very energetic gig and had a short relaxed and smiling moment watching Mika sign it and that made me think Berlin has good vibes so I was back there 2017 to see Mika receiving his Golden Rose award. And I surely couldn’t see that coming the time I bought the poster but now my mind puts these things together and I can’t help but thinking how unexpectedly yet still quite amazingly things sometimes turn out.

Also, makes me smile to see the signature dedicated to “Mina” written on the Imaginarium tour book after the second show at Bercy in Paris. The result didn’t look correct that time but now it looks it was meant that way because it makes me remember the moment so well (I think Mika either misheard my name or the combination of Nina and Mika was somehow confusing for him). Above the tour book is a Mumu box from Lisbon 2016 and a small heart in the box has my letters as well, written correctly and only a few days before another big concert at Bercy, six years after the previous two. (I noticed the heart only when back home and thought what a super sweet thing to do, I didn’t ask for it and Mika was still overwhelmed after the biggest audience he had ever had.)

So rather than collectibles these items are something that help me to put dots on the timeline and that way see things in time perspective. Of course they also represent someone’s career and give me a possibility to see a piece of the world I usually experience only at gigs also at home. They are colorful and pretty but watching them gives me a warm feeling also because of the memories attached to them.

I couldn’t fit in my CDs or DVDs so I still need a colorful hat box to put on the top of the vitrine. It will look pretty and there will be space for new CDs as well. I’m looking forward to new music as much as everyone else and just wish there wasn’t so much pressure for it. It would be nice to think Mika has space to breath while writing and choosing new songs so the album will tell what he wants it to tell. I’m curious to hear the atmosphere in it.

Every album has special themes and tones. From LICM my mind picks the kind of strong, extreme emotions people often have at younger age, not just joy and energy but darker emotions as well. In TBWKTM I can hear insecurities and vulnerability. Songs like Rain or Toyboy or I See You where the person is too afraid to even talk to someone. TOOL is all about freedom. In the notebook I had with me at the album listening party I wrote “Origin makes me feel I can fly” and I still feel that way when I listen to the song. NPIH is the saddest album I’ve ever heard. I cried a lot when I heard it for the first time. It was the first time I realized how much sadness there is and how well Mika’s voice can transfer it. It’s still my favorite one of these four. The NPIH vinyl, see pics below, looks amazing and is one of my favorite things just to hold in my hands, love it  xxx

Mika is turning 35 and I wanted to celebrate it organizing a small library party. Library party means cake, flowers and chat about books and is my usual way to celebrate everything worth celebrating in life. I needed a theme and thought nothing could be as suitable as a Moomin garden party. I’ve been re-reading Tove Jansson stories to my son this summer and The Exploits of Moominpappa (1950) and especially the description of their fantastic garden party made me immediately think of Mika and different fantasy elements in his shows and how much he – at least I imagine so – would enjoy a party like that.

A journey through a green wild flower garden. A beautiful, blue lake and explosions and showers to wet the guests in their little boats in the middle of it. A giant fake spider built to scare the whole crowd. A merry-go-around with white horses, an orchestra playing on the background and an egg-hunting lottery with golden painted eggs. Some lottery prizes meant for lazy ones, some that can be found with methodical search and some asking for a certain amount of imagination. The last group naturally meant and available only for the most creative ones!

Tove Jansson’s biography Tove Jansson Life, Art, Words by Boel Westin  is a description of Tove Jansson’s life and career not only as seen from outside but also using her own words and thoughts as written in her numerous personal diaries and detailed letters she wrote throughout her whole life. It was not a coincidence Tove Jansson became the world-known author and illustrator she was. As a daughter of a sculptor and an illustrator she knew from an early age she wants and will be an artist and wrote and illustrated small books since she was 6 and published her first story at the age of 14.

Despite of battling between art and responsibilities, the growing Moomin business expanding her duties, she always knew what is important. Her art. Her art and pure, honest joy. Young Tove Jansson attended several art schools in different countries and even after that never stopped learning. She constantly practiced new methods and techniques. She traveled, learnt from books, filled a notebook after a notebook with her texts, illustrations and research. She lived and spent time in her beloved Paris breathing the atmosphere and inspiration, pictured Italian landscapes from her trips in her stories and drew her sharp political observations in hundreds of political caricatures.

Even though Tove Jansson loved traveling, a small quiet island near the town of Borgå was her special place and she spent there summers writing, fishing and doing ongoing research on the sea and nature, making notes about colors and textures to later use in her books like Moominpappa at Sea (1965) and Moominvalley in November (1970).

One of my favorite Moomin books is the short story collection Tales from Moominvalley (1962). It starts with Snufkin on one of his many adventures. Snufkin, Moomintroll’s dear friend, stays in Moominvalley only summertime, otherwise he’s away. He needs his alone time and loving Moomintroll stays in the valley sitting at home, waiting and longing for his friend, trying to be brave, trying to accept that Snufkin must go away. Makes me a little sad to think about loving Moomintroll and his terrible longing but as Moomin wisdom tells “you can’t ever be really free if you admire somebody too much” and while walking Snufkin writes his spring tune and I always wonder if writing songs is like that in real life as well.

“It’s the right evening for the tune, Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part of expectation, two part of spring sadness and for the rest, just the great delight of walking alone.”

The other short stories in the book include the story of Fillyjonk who feared an unknown natural disaster, then faced a storm and experienced a weird feeling of freedom after that – when the worst has happened there’s nothing left to be afraid – and the heart-breaking story of the invisible child. When children are treated badly they eventually become invisible and no one can see them anymore and takes a lot of time and good care and learning to fight for them to become visible again.

The first Moomin book The Moomins and the Great Flow was written 1945 in the end of World War II to create something innocent after the depressing war years and the second book Comet in Moominland was out a year after that. As an opposite to cheerful Pippi Longstocking by Swedish Astrid Lindgren (equally familiar to many generations and published at the same time) Moomins bring the war, the darkness and fear, natural disasters and people leaving their homes for everyone to see. The both authors had a nontraditional, even bohemian perspective to the concept of the family. Pippi lives alone accompanied just by her monkey and horse. The Moomin family is enlarged and includes friends and foster children and the door of their originally round-shaped house is always open for everyone in need of warmth and comfort.

The Moomins and the Great Flow describes how Moominmamma and her son Moomintroll look for and eventually find both Moominpappa (who had gone away with hattifatteners) and a peaceful place to live in Moominvalley. Comet in Moominvalley offers a full range of dark, scary things. The comet that many ways can be seen as a symbol of an atomic bomb is coming and the red glow in the sky looks day by day more and more threatening. Everything is covered by grey dust, the ocean disappears and the dry bottom of it is soon filled by refugees who’ve been forced to leave their homes. In the middle of it Moomins try to hold on to small familiar things.”But first I should like to have some coffee.Oh I want to dance! Couldn’t we dance?

Many characters in Moomins are inspired by people close to Tove Jansson: her family, friends and lovers, both male and female. Moomintroll and later Toft (from Moominvalley in November) are said to be her own alter egos even both are actually male characters, Moominmamma ja Moominpappa have features from her own artist parents. The real life role model for Snufkin was Tove Jansson’s friend and fiancé Atos Wirtanen, a Finnish intellectual and journalist and, using Jansson’s words, “an enfant terrible” in our parliament. Tiny duo Tingumy and Bob in Finn Family Moomintroll (1948) refers to Jansson’s short but passionated relationship with theater director Vivica Bandler (characters are originally called Tofslan and Vifslan referring to Tove and Vivica) and energetic Tooticky in her red and white striped shirt is based on her long-time partner Tuulikki Pietilä, one of the most influential people in Finnish graphic arts. Moominland Midwinter (1957) where the two characters meet was written soon after the couple started their relationship in real life.

Year 1947 Tove Jansson painted herself and Vivica Bandler on a fresco ordered by Helsinki City Hall and in the biography Westin sees that something that can be compared to Tingumy and Bob opening their mystical suitcase, something that showed the couple’s love to the whole world. In Moominland Midwinter Moomintroll finally finds his inner freedom and Jansson writes in her personal letters how she’s finally arrived to the person she wants to be with, how she’s finally found the peace in her world. Sometimes the line between the fiction and real life is hard to see and according to the (biography) author it’s supposed to be like that. The reality fed the story and the story fed the reality and it’s hard to tell where something ends and something else starts and I find that astonishing. How someone’s personal life and art, their current time and the surrounding world could be integrated that way is fascinating beyond words.

People often read Moomins to children but the stories and wisdom in them are equally interesting and important for adults and that’s how Tove Jansson meant them. In the beginning her publisher was careful and said “the books might amuse also adult readers” but during time it became more and more obvious Moomins are not just for children and in some countries it was asked if they are suitable for children at all. Well of course they are.

Age is a complicated thing. I know from my own experience children are capable of very advanced thinking and on the other hand, the essence of us stays the same throughout our lives. What is deep in us was there already when we were children, it never really goes away. I know I can be as adult and mature as ever needed but when no one is asking or demanding anything I choose to do the same things I did when I was a little girl, I spend time with my dog and stay in my own thoughts thinking about different themes behind the books and music I love. I can’t always see the child in people, I can’t always see their real passion, maybe because our society often wants us to leave that behind. Lucky for us for artists it’s different. Their inner child is connected to creativity. Their inner child accepted, even encouraged.

I baked a berry cake to celebrate this special day hoping Moomins would approve it. I didn’t send any birthday gifts this year, there are no gigs at the moment and it felt appropriate to donate money to refugees instead. A lot of people are forced to leave their homes today the same way people were forced to leave their homes the time when Moomins were created. Happy 35th birthday to my favourite singer and one of my very favourite people. Have some cake everyone xxx

I’m not a collector type. I don’t hunt every rare magazine or mind if my collectibles are always signed or not. Concerts, experiences and live situations are more important to me. I love documenting though so of course I buy interesting looking magazines and newspapers if easily available and also save bits and pieces from my trips and clips people sometimes send me from abroad.

Unfortunately my home archives are a mess. I’ve made travel journals and tour books but not in a systematic way which I seriously regret now and in the future want to do things differently. I believe that documenting my trips and even my everyday life in an organized way could make my mind more organized as well and I’ve read a lot about the topic and different journaling techniques lately. I’ve started to organize my archives in time order and if I can ever find a creative enough way to put them together I will show it here.

I took a few pics while going through different magazine articles, partly just for fun but partly also because some of these clips are newspaper quality and after several years quite fragile already so it’s good to have them also in digital form.

The newspaper photo above was taken on the first Cirque d’Hiver night during 2009 Songs for Sorrow Tour and it’s one of my favorite pics. It was such a wonderful night. I enjoyed the gig so much and made me smile to see the newspaper pic day after the show. There was a full audience around the circus style stage and I was just a random person standing there, yet in the pic it almost looks like I had a meaning, like I was some kind of a character representing the audience (no one else can be seen clearly, even my husband sitting next to me is in shadow) and I found that funny and the newspaper clip a heart-warming memory.

A copy of the Songs for Sorrow book happened to be in the middle of my favorite  magazines so I looked it through the other day – I hadn’t done that for a while – and thought once again what a fantastic, artistic project it was. Just looking at it made me so emotional I almost cried. What a hugely creative project to do at that young age – Mika was only 26 that time – a beautiful collection of illustrations from many different artists.

I can remember that tour so well. I absolutely loved it. Everyone I know who was there loved it. Acoustic setting at super special small venues like Cirque d’Hiver in Paris and Passionskirche in Berlin. Several new songs. Energetic Mika in his white shirt and his friends Ida and Alex on stage with him every night! And yet I feel the idea (EP, book, tour) didn’t get the attention and publicity it deserved. Maybe it was too small-scale. Maybe it wasn’t what media was expecting from him that time. Maybe none of us understood the full value of it that time – we were all so eagerly waiting for the album and a bigger tour coming in a few months – but looking from the perspective I have today it was an incredibly creative, special thing to do.

The detailed picture on Spin magazine  from October 2009 with Mika on his bed introducing his favorite objects like a miniature theater and original Mad magazine cover art is somehow super fascinating and makes me realize Christian Louboutin was designing him shoes already back then. Almost ten years ago! We have seen many of these objects (Union Jack tapestry, Chinese wish pig) later on his Instagram or in different magazine interviews. I can still remember how thrilled I was to read new interviews about Mika, to learn new things about him thinking that way his music would make even more sense than it already did which was true of course.

The opened magazine below is Italian Max from 2010 and it looks like an ordinary magazine but the size is actually way larger than A4 which makes the photos in it look even more fabulous seen in real life. The style of the magazine is slightly pornographic, in an “artistic” way, and makes me laugh to see Mika jump out in the middle of it.

The colorful photo shooting for Observer Music Monthly from 2009 in the beginning of this blog post (and also in the featured pic) is one of my very favorites of all the photo shootings Mika has done. I really love the pictures and the idea of making a mess with paints. Below the cover and a page from the interview Mika did for Instinct Magazine 2012 when the third album The Origin of Love was out and it has special value as it started a new, more open era both in his music and public image.

Below some setlists I discovered in my piles. Most of the times I just take a photo of the setlist after the gig or write it down so I can remember the songs for my blog but every now and then I have one of the originals to keep and these were such a happy discovery as I actually have a setlist from every gig  I saw during the Intimate US tour 2013. I remember it as my favorite ever tour, such a beautiful and special experience. Just look at the songs we heard.

The photo with pleased looking, widely smiling Mika in the middle of all his creative siblings taken for Paris Match interview 2014 is somehow really cute. The group in their colorful outfits is obviously posing for the picture but this kind of family photos including his all three sisters and one younger brother are still rare so the impression is very intimate. A couple of pics in the gallery below are from Korean magazines, always gorgeous (but also very photoshopped style). The photo shooting for Korean Elle 2015 is especially interesting for me as I could visit the cafe where the shooting was done during my visit to Korea. Thanks to the Korean fans who took us there, such a cool visit and made me see those photos in a different way than I earlier did.

The cover of L’Uomo Vogue from 2015 and the photo for the article in it are taken by photographer Peter Lindbergh and I love the strong and magnetic stare in Mika’s eyes in the both of the photos and all the photos Peter Lindbergh has taken of him. Spectacular! In the latter one Mika looks like a man who has a vision. And is staring at it. I wonder what he was staring in the actual photo shooting situation.

These Italian Vanity Fair cover photos are very familiar but I wanted to collect them together because that looks so pleasing to the eye. The dancer theme is my favorite and I especially love the photo in the otherwise empty theater just a small group of dancers on the background – very thought-provoking isn’t it – but the red, black and white color scheme in the other two issues is extremely classy and elegant and I like them both as well.

I have kept brochures from different festivals and events but these two from symphony concerts are naturally more important and valuable than any other ones. The Montreal booklet includes a long and interesting interview also in English (not something to take for granted) and the Florence booklet contains the lyrics and more intense photos taken by Peter Lindbergh. This quote about the dynamics of an orchestra is from the Montreal booklet:

The most amazing thing I have had to get used to are the dynamics of an orchestra. It is not quiet, it is not loud. In pop and rock concerts we are used to the sheer volume of amplified sound and bass. With an orchestra the dynamics are totally different. It sounds with texture and incredible detail, without any interference from a speaker or electronics. It is a sort of reset for the ear.

Seeing Mika during the rehearsals on Friday was a rare treat, it was a wonderful, relaxed day and we all knew Saturday wouldn’t be relaxed that way. The piazza would be absolutely packed, we would have to come there at dawn to get a decent spot behind the vip area and to keep the spot spend 12 hours under the sun without toilets or eating or even much drinking. It would be very hard and all my friends told it would be too much for them and that they would rather listen to the concert outside the main area and I could understand them very well.

Spending the whole day in the heat for a short performance in the evening was a lot. Some people had booked places at terrace restaurants in advance to have a view over the crowd but I wasn’t clever enough to do that and traveling all the way from Finland to Milan and not seeing the event itself felt somehow wrong. I had to spend the day at the piazza, I would meet my friends after that and we could have dinner together.

I arrived to the venue early and joined some people I knew in advance. The gates were opened at 10 am and I hurried my way to the barrier being well aware that standing the whole day without it would be impossible for me. It was a sunny, burning hot day. The area became full in a short time and had no toilets inside of it so it was clear we couldn’t use one until the late night after the show. That meant drinking as little as possible (even water was available as much as people needed) and in that heat not drinking enough made people dehydrated and the medical group carried fainted out one after another, not just 5 or 10 but dozens, during the whole day.

I’m not used to heat but I knew I wouldn’t faint, I would just feel exhausted and have a headache from lack of coffee. Young girls in their orange and yellow shirts worked for the event and kept offering sunscreen and hats and quite early in the afternoon things on stage started to happen and that kept the crowd entertained until it was time to officially start the concert around 8 pm. I was not next to anyone I knew in advance but the girls on my both sides spoke English so I could ask if needed any information.

The day was hot and tiring but the organization for the event worked much, much better than the one in Naples a few years ago. In Naples basically no one helped the audience (no water, no security, nothing) and this time I could see dozens and dozens of people just taking care of the crowd. If someone wasn’t feeling well they could get help immediately, at least around the area where I was, and everything was that way very safe. Also, even I was tired and had a headache later during the day I could still enjoy watching everything that happened on stage a lot.

During the past few years I’ve visited Italy many times and learnt to love the country. I love the art, culture and history. I love the food and especially the coffee. I know people from all over Italy and because of Mika have visited several corners of it. My personal favorites are places like Naples and Catania – I love shabby places with volcanos and in south I can easily find food suitable for my gluten-free diet – but every part of Italy has their own special features and it’s always interesting to learn to know them.

After all my trips to Italy I feel it’s becoming familiar to me the same way I feel in France even these two countries are otherwise so totally different. I can watch an event like this concert in Milan and recognize many artists and songs because I’ve seen them at Casa Mika or other events related to Mika and I enjoy that even I might not be into every artist or genre myself. I can’t explain who Beyonce is yet I can immediately give a list of at least 5 Italian rap artists and that’s just insane. In a twisted way it’s somehow cool to learn to know all these random things and that way be able to get a familiar feeling in a foreign country.

What surprised me most was how incredibly well people knew the lyrics for most of the songs. Many of the songs were catchy indeed, I still have songs by Ghali or Thegiornalisti playing in my head and can’t seem to make them stop. Also, I especially like the Italian way to give credit and show respect to older artists with long careers. In my country people don’t really care if someone is older or respect their age or the work they’ve done and it feels wrong and it often warms my heart to see how different it can be in some other countries.

The vip area in front of stage started to fill late afternoon and the beautiful view we had was gone. I knew to expect that in advance and can understand the system very well. The companies promoting and advertising at free events want value for their money and giving a special experience to their customers or influential people at the vip area is one way to get it.

The line-up was long. My headache got worse and I wasn’t feeling well any more and even I enjoyed watching different artists at some point I just wanted to see Mika on stage. After several rap artists it was turn for Fedez. I’ve seen him a few times but never really understood what’s the thing with him. His face and gestures give the impression that he knows his worth if you know what I mean by the expression.

It’s hard for me to see any difference between these numerous Italian rap artists, but on Saturday I saw several of them in row. And something changed the exact moment Fedez came on stage. Every single person around me raised there hands and mobiles at the same time. Suddenly everyone was awake and there was electricity in the air. I could feel it in my body and I could finally understand what’s the thing with him. He looks like he knows his worth because he knows his worth. He has this weird, incredible status and as a foreigner I don’t know where it comes from but it was interesting and impressive to see how people react to him.

Then it was finally time for Radio Italia World and Mika. Mika was wearing a colorful, glittery jacket and looked smiling and very happy, his performance was absolutely beautiful and the reception to it warm, appreciative and loving and I enjoyed being there and experiencing it all. During Stardust little sequins in both Mika’s and Chiara’s outfits sparkled making a lot of little lights (like in one of the pics below) and it was somehow so suitable. In the end of the performance he surprised the audience with L’Italiano, the song by Toto Cutugno that was released the same year Mika was born and actually even translated in Finnish that same year (it was a huge hit in my country as well) and his Italian audience loved it and I, as a foreigner, loved it. We saw a beautiful and charming four song performance.

After Mika’s performance I wanted to leave the crowd as quickly as possible to meet my friends as planned. I was tired and worried that I wouldn’t manage to get through the giant packed crowd so I asked the security guy at the barrier if i could go that way and he was kind and helped me over it. The problem was I had no idea how to go back to the audience on the other side and had no battery in my mobile left to call my friends but I was happy to leave the pushy crowd and thought I would figure something out. Luckily, there seemed to be an easy route to the other side and I could be there in a minute.

Except it wasn’t that easy. A security lady told I wasn’t allowed to use the route and that my only option to the other side was to walk around the building next to the concert area. I thanked her and did as told but by walking around the building also exited the official area and wasn’t let back in. I explained to the security guy stopping me that I was supposed to meet my friends and was only following instructions given by his colleague and very politely asked if he could let me back in. The guy said no. I saw my friends and tried to shout their names but they couldn’t hear me.  I had no battery in my mobile so maybe the guy could shout their names, his voice was surely louder than mine? The guy said no.

Without my mobile I couldn’t find my hotel as the street I earlier used was closed and it made me worried and extremely politely I explained that one more time. The guy said no one more time. He wasn’t interested in my problems, he told he couldn’t care less. I saw my friends walking away, probably to the restaurant where we were supposed to eat but had no possibility to reach them and just stood there practically in tears after the long and tiring day.

Finally I saw people who knew my friends and could call them. One of them arrived immediately and told they were already waiting for me inside of the restaurant and not to worry any more. She would explain the situation to the security and we could have dinner together. And she did explain – in Italian and in an extra polite way – and asked if I could just enter the restaurant, that I wasn’t going back to the concert (which was free btw) and that I had just lost my way when coming to meet them. The guy said no. So I didn’t join my friends for dinner.

I tell the  story because it’s small things like this that make me think Milan is an unfriendly place. It was disappointing that moment but fine in the end. I stayed with the girls who had helped me and waited until my friends had finished their meal and then finally met them all. They were all happy, smiling and in a good mood and I would have loved to chat with them longer but after everything that had happened felt better to return to my hotel. The whole group insisted walking me there and before saying good bye sang L’Italiano just for me and it was all very sweet of them.

This is how Italy is, everything is so extreme. It makes you love in a big way and it makes you annoyed in a big way. Milan has offered me many fantastic Mika moments and this weekend was one more to add on that list. What will stay strongest in my thoughts is things like Mika singing Beautiful Disaster watching Duomo di Milano, his Stardust performance with Chiara sequins in their outfits sparkling like little lights, L’Italiano in the end of his performance and my friends singing the same song after that. The other side of the experience like the burning heat, headache, people pushing or security guys using their tiny, tiny power in a wrong way will be just “something adventurous” and that way a part of the dear memory.

I can’t describe how good it was to see Mika on stage again, it filled my heart with love. Thanks everyone xxx

I hesitated a moment before traveling to Milan for a free concert at Piazza Duomo. Free summer events (this one was organized by Radio Italia) with big crowds and the burning sun are physically hard. The line-up for the concert was long and for that reason Mika’s performance expected to be quite short. Flights and hotels were insanely expensive and generally, Milan is an unfriendly place. On the other hand, the city has offered me some of my dearest Mika moments and the event on Saturday was going to be the only gig for the summer, maybe for the whole year. I couldn’t miss it, I would awfully regret if I did. Of course I had to travel to Milan.

I arrived Milan Thursday evening.  The location of my hotel was perfect and I had only a short walk to Piazza Duomo and I went there right after checking in my room. The first thing I saw at the piazza was a huge stage next to the cathedral. What a special place for a gig! I was thrilled just seeing the stage and could feel my adrenaline level going high. I had so missed that feeling. I watched a few artists doing their soundcheck on Thursday night and hoped to see more on Friday.

The audience was allowed to watch the rehearsals from distance and on Friday we stayed at the piazza the whole afternoon located on the left side of stage (seen from the audience) between the stage and the cathedral and saw almost the whole line-up doing their soundcheck. I loved watching how the artists walked to a certain specific part of the stage and suddenly paid attention to the view opening to the cathedral and how their faces expressed admiration in very similar ways. The stage view must have been amazing, one of the most impressive in the whole world for sure.

In the pic below is Mika watching the view. This was the moment I had looked forward to most: Mika watching Duomo di Milano singing Beautiful Disaster. Below that Fedez watching to the same direction and below that Fedez promoting his shoes the cathedral on the background (in his photos, not in mine).

Watching rehearsals is a different experience compared to watching the gig itself and something I find really, really interesting and being able to see what happened on stage on Friday made my trip much more special than it would have been without it. The vibe is always different compared to the gig afterwards. Gigs are done for the audience, rehearsals are done for other reasons, to prepare the show and to make it as good as possible, so the atmosphere is often more serious. This time rehearsals were open to the public and every artist was aware of that and took a little bit contact with the crowd and said ciao and grazie tutti after finishing but stayed still mostly focused on the soundcheck and on working with the musicians and the stage crew.

My photos are taken from very far away (the area near the stage was reserved only for groups with special passes) so they are not good quality but I still add them here to describe the day better. The photos are taken with a big zoom and for that reason look like weird paparazzi pics but they were not in any way secretly taken. People were free to be there and take as many photos as they liked. The event was also streamed and I want to thank the organizers for doing it this way. Because of the location it was probably difficult to do in any other way but I still appreciate they didn’t try to make it harder for people and I really enjoyed watching everything on Friday, maybe even more than I did on Saturday. Being able to watch rehearsals is rare and during the concert the vip area around the stage was full so it was much harder to see anything at all.

Made me smile to see Mika and Fedez in their matching black and white outfits, Mika having a black jacket with butterflies, Fedez a black shirt with a gun pattern, and I immediately wondered if they had planned it that way, as a joke to describe “their personalities” or if it was just a coincidence and described their personalities. I love the butterfly jacket, it must be one of my favorite Mika jackets. On Friday Mika came on stage after Fedez around 9 pm and they did Beautiful Disaster together – twice – and that made me very happy. I had specially looked forward to the song. It felt an obvious choice and I knew to expect it in advance and it had been playing in my head the whole week.

Stardust performed together with Chiara felt as obvious as Beautiful Disaster so it was not a surprise to see her on stage after Fedez. Stardust is not one of my biggest personal favorites but it’s still a lovely song and it was sweet to hear it again after such a long time and again, twice.

I had hoped to hear Underwater, it’s a powerful song for big crowds, but maybe because of the nature of the concert the third song on the setlist was Grace Kelly. A few more photos from the rehearsals below and more about the event in a separate post. The jumping pic is poor quality but it was a funny discovery among the other pics. It was beautiful to see Mika on stage again. It was just like the old days, like there was no time between at all.

I bought my ticket to see the Top 14 grand finale as soon as Mika announced performing after the game but been busy with different family things and couldn’t be sure about being able to go until a couple of days before the event. I decided to do a short 24 hour trip and still managed to have a few hours to spend in Paris before going to the stadium. I walked up to Montmartre like I always do and had lunch with the girls at my favourite crêperie and it all felt like a lovely day off I had needed and the best part was of course coming at Stade de France in the evening.

We arrived to the stadium quite late and the game had already started when I finally entered and found my seat. The place looked giant and I was sitting far away but exactly in the middle and above the presidential area and the journalist/television space (see the first pic below). I had a beautiful symmetrical view, it gave me a lot of pleasure to watch it even of course it was more important during the gig than during the game. I couldn’t much follow the rugby part. I had tried to learn the basic rugby rules in advance but was still totally unable to focus on the game. Finally the match was over and it was time for Mika and his show.

Preparations started and a big, heart-shaped stage with wings was brought in the middle of the field. I loved it and thought this giant show element had an important role during the show. The impact wouldn’t have been the same with an ordinary stage and the heart made the setting look Mika style since the beginning.

148D1A16-BD64-4628-B0EE-922C34B20A30

What a fabulous show it was. Everything was huge and I immensely enjoyed watching it all. It was good to see Mika on stage again. Generally, a stadium size venue is rarely a flattering background for any artist to use. Giant, cold and impersonal space is always difficult to fill and this time the situation after the game was even harder as the audience was naturally not on the field like during ordinary concerts but all distantly seated and far away from the stage. This was a great opportunity to perform to a large audience though and to build a colorful show in the middle of the field and I could easily see what a big team of people had worked for it and genuinely thought every part of it went as well as possibly could and that it all was incredibly impressive. A fantastic, big-scale show, I couldn’t stop smiling watching it.

I added some small clips of my favourite parts on FB, nothing great quality, just tiny video clips I had on my mobile to give an impression what I’m talking about. The show started with a rugby inspired dance intro for Relax and then the song continued with a beautiful light show (the pic above). I think both the dancers and lights worked really well during the whole performance and for example glowing outfits and pink M formed by the dancers during EMD created a cool detail and the lights and fireworks during WAG an impressive surprise. My biggest personal favourite was “let’s talk about love” – a part of Origin – added in the middle of the songs and as always Underwater felt the most powerful song in circumstances this massive.

The majority of the crowd stayed for the music show even the game was already over and I had totally not expected that. I haven’t read any feedback afterwards but the reactions in the audience around me were very positive. People were listening and focusing on the performance (not always the case if they didn’t particularly come to see the artist) and seemed impressed by it. A stage this big and a venue this gigantic must be challenging as an environment (because it means moving a lot) but in the live situation I didn’t give that side any thought at all and was only admiring how well the combination of music, energy and show elements managed to fill the giant stadium.

It would have been a pleasure to watch Mika a bit longer – it’s too rare to see him on stage these days – but the show was meant as a highlight after a rugby game and as that it was generous, not just a couple of songs but almost a half an hour real mini gig and I felt so happy to be able to be there. I wish I had proper photos to share but stadiums don’t officially allow cameras and I wasn’t sure I could sneak in mine so left it home. Thanks again everyone I met in Paris xxx

8447363F-478E-44B5-BB23-53D711DAE755

Back home from Paris and The Voice after the third live show week (I think this one was called ”demi-finale”) and a quick update about the show. This time my focus was purely and only on two teams and three contestants in them meaning Pascal’s and naturally Mika’s teams and more specifically Xam, Frédéric and Casanova as the talents. I hoped Xam to show to the television audience that he’s clearly better than Ecco who’s the other talent in Pascal’s team and to be chosen for the final week, he’s smart and the only contestant I personally find genuinely interesting this year. Also, I wanted to see Mika’s team doing well and even I wasn’t sure which one of his contestants would continue in the competition I was curious to see them on stage and had high expectations as the both of them had been evolving and showing us better and better performances each week. Raffi Arto and Maelle from teams Florent and Zazie felt obvious finalists from their own teams and they both made it to the final and I thought and still think they both deserved their places being finalist or even winner level but for some reason wasn’t interested enough to really look forward to their performances this week.

Ecco started with Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and I knew as soon as heard the song title that Xam will have good possibilities because the song chosen for Ecco felt too big for her and it was that indeed. She did well but wasn’t impressive and it made me wonder if the song was chosen on purpose just to show the difference between these two contestants. After Ecco it was Xam’s turn and he did – like my local friends described – this ”monumental” French song and I loved his performance and of course didn’t know the song well enough to put it into perspective but could see just watching my friends’ faces that they loved it as well and knew to expect Xam to continue in the competition and he did. The first goal for the evening was that way achieved.

We had to wait Mika’s team until the end of the show but we could see his contestants when the teams gathered together on stage in the beginning. I noticed my two favorite teams stood out even in that situation and looked different than the other two teams. Xam in Pascal’s team could hardly stay still to be in the group and Mika looked adorably protective and proud holding his talents on his both sides Frédéric looking tiny on the other side and persistent Casanova who had been fighting against the expectations since the beginning on his other side – and I loved watching them and found the whole setting very Mikaish. I naturally also knew that despite of his small size Frédéric has both a big voice and personality and that even Casanova hasn’t been a favorite in any way he has two important advantages for a contestant. He’s eagerly learning and well using the coaching and advices given to him and also extremely likable. For those reasons he had already previous weeks won over and convinced both the voting audience and Mika, simply by doing better in each performance and being easy-going, easy to like contestant.

Mika’s team performed and Frédéric’s Nessun Dorma was wonderful and somehow done in his very own style which I didn’t know was even possible for the song and Casanova’s French meaningful song balanced and very pretty performed together with a young talented dancer boy. Frédéric is a better singer but Casanova pushed his way to the final the same way he had done every week and it felt deserved because like in life in general things happen when people want them and work for them enough. Mika’s face when he realized Casanova is going to the final show was absolutely priceless and even neither of his contestants did the best performance of the show the sum of the their solo performances was still better than for any other team and team Mika’s group performance definitely the best of all teams being genuinely funny and not forced at all. The second goal for the night was achieved.  All the success for Mika’s team is due to the coaching and the decisions and choices made during the competition and thinking that makes me happy and pleased for him and I think he can be very pleased with his work as well no matter what the result for the final week will be.

Everything seems open for the final show. I still think Xam is the best and most interesting of the talents but would naturally be happy to see Casanova and team Mika doing well or even winning. I also assume Maelle is popular among the voters but have no idea what the numbers are and feel that anything can happen depending on the songs and how everything eventually goes during the last show. No pictures of Mika or his contestants to share this week, sorry. I had no possibility to take any and just saw the show xxx

I started to read Uncommon People by David Hepworth while waiting for the 2nd The Voice live show and the book is full of interesting, funny and sometimes even dirty anecdotes about the biggest ever rock classics and it made me laugh out loud as I could almost hear Mika’s the Art Of Song voice in my ears while reading it.

The forewords for the book claimed that the age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. But the idea of the rock star, like the idea of the cowboy lives on. There are still people who dress like rock stars and do their best to act as they think rock stars would have acted in an earlier time…

I mention the quote because that was my first thought when I saw Xam from Team Pascal on stage during the auditions. That boy wants to be a rock star. He had the rock star attitude and gestures, he did his best to do them all, and I thought he immediately branded himself with all that and was clever and consistent while doing it. He was a good performer since the beginning but I wasn’t sure whether I will like or be annoyed by his possibly calculating attitude. Then I looked at his face. Such an innocent looking, young face. I can’t help it, I hope that kid can be a rock star and on television two more weeks until the final show.

We will see how it goes next week. This week Ecco was the audience favorite in Pascal’s team and can be too much for Xam to win. She’s a good singer and very sweet. The whole Team Pascal was super cute, see the pic below. Betty Patural was not bad at all either, just unfortunate to be in the same team with these two distinctively good other contestants. Xam’s performance was everything it was supposed to be, he was wearing leather pants, hanging inside and on a giant cage, singing, screaming, dancing and jumping like a rock star.

After Team Pascal came Team Florent Pagny and Raffi Arto was as awesome as he was during the previous rounds. He’s my another favorite and someone I would be glad to see winning as well. I love his style and why wouldn’t we all like this smiling and energetic young boy. Personally I didn’t like the Elvis song chosen for him because that kind of vibrating singing hurts my ears a lot but he did very well and both the audience and all the coaches seemed to appreciate his performance and he was voted to continue in the competition.

Otherwise I found Florent’s candidates a bit boring. During Hobbs’ performance I had my focus purely on the dancers. I turned my head on the left and saw Isa doing the same and then on the right where the coaches were sitting and it looked to me Mika was watching the dancers as well but I can be wrong of course and have imagined it all. Florent had to choose between Hobbs and Yasmine Ammari and he chose the girl to continue in the competition with Raffi Arto.

This time I didn’t know what exactly to think about Mika’s contestants. I knew both the audience and Mika likes Frédéric a lot. Casanova is smiling, charming and very pleasant and could be voted also for that reason and after the two previous performances Guillaume was my own favorite and I hoped him to continue. Mika’s team felt the most unpredictable of all the teams. I took quick pictures of his candidates earlier and they all impressed me being extremely nice and polite with everyone around and kindly agreed to have their photos taken (I was a bit shy to ask that).

During the live show I very much liked the songs Mika had chosen for his team. Frédéric is so theatrical that his every appearance is like a small scene and it’s almost too much, so the song without any extra show elements was extremely suitable for him and made him the audience favorite. Guillaume did well but maybe had too much happening on stage during his performance (I felt a bit distracted) and eventually Mika chose Casanova over Guillaume. He explained his decision, unfortunately I couldn’t totally catch it but he seemed very proud of what Casanova did after demanding so much from him. Obviously there’s a language barrier between us and I miss many details but I still try to enjoy the show and performances.

With Zazie’s team I didn’t have any strong opinion in advance or even during the show. I knew Maelle is popular and she was again voted safe by the audience and after that Zazie eliminated Eduard Eduard and B Demi-Montaine will continue in the competition.

I enjoyed watching the show. People often tell they don’t like talent shows and my first reaction to that is to ask why anyone would like talent shows. I find most of them boring and I haven’t even had a television in years. However, after all these years The Voice has become something much more than a talent show. It’s a world of its own and I enjoy following it. I generally like watching how recordings and especially live shows are done and I like it how familiar everything has become. I can recognize a half of the audience, not only those who come to see Mika but many other groups as well and of course people organizing, filming, doing technical stuff, styling etc. The organization is always nice to the audience and it’s something I appreciate a lot. I can’t know how it is for Mika and the other coaches to work for The Voice because we can’t see that side and there must be a lot of pressure behind the scenes but for us the atmosphere is good as long as people behave nicely and follow instructions and we all do our best to do that.

I tried to spot some special details during the night. Nikos had a lovely blue jacket and blue shoes instead his usual grey outfit and I liked them a lot. Zazie had amazing comfortable looking red shoes as an opposite to the female host who is very pregnant and was still wearing insanely high red heels. I felt for her so much. The funniest moment was Mika putting his brother to sit in his chair instead of him wearing his jacket and I was wondering if they’re planning to joke with that during the show but Fortuné escaped last minute before the filming started. We were not allowed to have our mobiles inside so no photos from the studio but below a couple of photos of Mika talking with the crowd. There were people between us so I had to crop the pics but I still add them so we can remember how he looks. Don’t you just love that hair?

Back at the Voice studio this weekend and it was exciting as always to see the change that happens in contestants between the battles and live shows. On television it’s just a week between, in reality it’s been months since the previous phase and the talents have gone through many – both external and internal – changes. I often think them going through a “machine treatment”. Styling, receiving coaching, practicing, getting confidence and getting used to the idea of this new possible career.

Young talents experiment with styles trying to find their own, older contestant stop holding back, show more of themselves and possibly hope to sharpen their original style to finally break through. Either way, the difference is always huge and fun to watch, not forgetting the rest of the package: familiar faces, live show excitement and busy atmosphere inside of the industrial looking studio building.

This time our international group was lucky to be located in the camera corner nicely close to the chairs and we had to stay focused and ready to move every time the camera man moved his equipment. I was surprised to realize our group of six represented six different countries (Poland, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Korea and Finland). I hadn’t met my Korean friend Jieun for a while so I felt grateful for this good timing and for having a possibility to spend some time together.

The coaches marched in and I loved the outfits Mika and Zazie were wearing, a golden embroidered jacked for Mika and long grey/blue silk shirt for Zazie. I didn’t pay attention to what Florent and Pascal were wearing but Pascal made gestures to make the audience yell as soon as he arrived whereas Florent was quite quiet the whole evening and also furthest away from our corner.

Zazie’s team started with Maelle, then Eduard Eduard, Liv Del Estal and B Demi-Mondaine. Maelle and B Demi-Mondaine were selected by the audience votes as expected and Zazie chose Eduard Eduard also as expected meaning Liv was eliminated. Maelle is an interesting singer and seems quite popular already, B Demi-Mondaine has a strong character and style and Eduard Eduard is a charming showman. Very curious to see what will happen in this team next week!

Pascal’s team continued first with young, talented and very pretty, tiny and cute Ecco who sang Eurythmics and then with Xam and his French song. They both took my attention already during auditions and I must say I find it surprising if Pascal doesn’t win this year considering this is his first year and considering how good his contestants are. Crazy Xam is as much a rock cliche as a young contestant can be and at first I wasn’t sure how much it will bother me but I’m warming up to his performances and he seems smart so I’m already starting to think him as one of the four final contestants and kind of hope that will happen (but not sure about that yet Ecco being that talented and that pretty, tiny and cute). The third contestant in Pascal’s team was Betty Patural and fourth the electro duo who was eventually selected out (also as I expected).

Florent’s team started with very young and energetic Raffia Arto who I could easily remember from his Johnny Hallyday performance and who kept me awake with Blues Brothers this time as well. The rest of Florent’s team made me very sleepy and I can’t remember details, I just can’t remember. I checked the names and also Jasmine Ammari and Hobbs will continue in the competition.

Finally it was the turn for Mika’s team! Sherley Paredes started and Mika looked genuinely happy to watch her performance. Then Casanova and Frédéric Longbois who’s starting to show his super theatrical, funny side more than he did earlier and as the last one Guillaume who became my favorite in Mika’s team after Mennel was out of the competition and after hearing Guillaume’s version of the Harry Styles song which I liked very much. This time the audience result was different than I had expected. I expected Frédéric and Guillaume  to be selected by the audience votes, maybe Mika did as well. That way he could have chosen Sherley as the third contestant.

However, Frédéric and Casanova were selected and to keep Guillaume – which felt an obvious thing to do as Guillaume was the best contestant in his team this week – Sherley had to be out. I thought this was totally fine, I prefer male voices any way but not sure this was what Mika wanted. He looked sad for her elimination and comforted her with kind gestures.

An entertaining night in many ways. My favourite part was the small dance group seen quickly in the beginning of the episode. We could watch the group rehearsing before the show started and it was very impressive even the official part was over so quickly. After the show I took my bag and continued to the airport with Jieun who had an early flight as well. I spent a few days in Paris before Saturday so I collected a few Paris pics from my mobile below. Blog wise it would be more interesting to discover some new things during every visit but I’m not that kind of a person, it’s the possibility to have routines in foreign places that makes me happy.

I booked a hotel near Sacre Coeur to be able to climb the hill every morning and often also day and evening time. It’s hard not to feel grateful and very blessed in life while watching gentle morning colors and the beautiful view over Paris. I spent time with the French girls whom I’m very fond of (love the pic of us at the photo booth). I visited the English book store and bought 4 or 5 books like I always do (that’s my limit as I carry only a backpack). I chose a museum and this time it was d’Orsay which is one of my favorites the building included. I sat in cafes. Small things. Very much enjoyed my week, thanks everyone xxx