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I felt the need to travel to Portugal to see Rock In Rio Lisboa so I did. Lisbon is not a practical destination from Helsinki but I found a suitable flight and had a day in Lisbon to walk around. Lisbon is smallish and easy to move around. I stayed in a small guest house and I got help with directions and arrived to the venue around noon. I met a large group of Queen fans and a couple of Mika fans from France. Iona from Australia arrived as well and we couldn’t see Rose from the UK in the crowd but found her later inside the venue (in the pic below Manon, Camille and Iona).

Queen supporters were loud and cheerful and sang together while waiting. Many of them had dressed for the occasion and everyone had at least a T-shirt to show their dedication. In the queue we got cold drinks, sunscream (promotional stuff) and cute frogs for the competition. First one inside with the frog would be the winner. We took our frogs but the distance from the gates to the stage was long and the best places were obviously taken before we finally entered. We stayed front row side to have a barrier even we couldn’t see so well. The stage was huge!

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The Rock In Rio musical started and after that we saw the first performer Fergie in her leather underwear. I didn’t like her music but her performance was entertaining and she was nice to the audience chatting and moving around to let as many as possible to see her.

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Then it was time for Mika and he did an energetic and good festival performance with some special details like having local musicians for Over My Shoulder which was my favorite part of the show. I wasn’t close enough to take any good photos but took a few for the blog and to remember new, impressive backgrounds (done together with Studiojob I assume).

One of the highlights for me is always listening to Relax and suddenly in the middle of song we saw a plane landing flying very low over the audience (the airport is very close to the park) and I loved this unexpected detail and even Mika joked during Underwater how cool the audience with their lights would look if another plane happened to fly over it that exact moment. The crowd was absolutely massive, never seen anything like that before, and performing in front of it both an honor and a huge opportunity and I felt lucky to be there to witness the event even it wasn’t possible to experience the show the usual way because of the giant stage and crowd.

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I took part in a competition on Rock In Rio FB page and won a visit to backstage with a short meeting with Mika. When the performance was almost over I fought my way out of the crowd and met a group of other competition winners near the back stage entrance. It’s very rare for fans to visit the area and I was curious to see how the situation was organized. A friendly girl from Rock In Rio took care of us and explained everything and told us how busy and stressful the situation was and we waited our turn quite a while and were asked to go backwards twice not to disturb Queen before they walk on stage.

I realized it must be extremely hard for Mika to focus on meeting a lot of people right after performing when the pressure is hardly over and the adrenaline level still high. He was still patient, polite and sweet. I had originally planned to give him something to wish all the best for the show in Paris but there was no proper line and I decided just quietly stay behind the others in case the time runs out for our group. I still eventually ended up in front of him, we took a pic and I got something kindly signed and it was all very generous. I said a quick thank you and then his attention was already needed elsewhere and our group was on our way out.

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We went back to the festival area and I stayed up on the hill listening to Queen, watching the massive audience and chatting with one of the English speaking winners. The performance was convincing and felt funny to know every single Queen song even I’ve never properly listened to their music. The event itself was the biggest I’ve seen and definitely worth experiencing and in the end of the colorful day I was more than pleased with my decision to travel to Portugal. Taxi queues were hundreds of meters long but shortened quickly and I had Iona as my company while waiting.

I flied to Riga day after the festival and smiled when saw Mika coming to the plane and felt weirdly calm and safe after that like nothing bad could ever happen to the plane if he is there. We didn’t talk (I don’t like disturbing him) but he laughed when saw my face after the flight and I had to wonder if he can guess how irrational people’s thoughts are. Gigs in Baltic area are always a good experience, now in Prague, will write more about these gigs as soon as I can find time. X

Writing this on my way home from Grenoble. I saw three concerts during my trip, the two last gigs in Marseille and Grenoble were cancelled. I had planned to write a proper report about every gig – taking a bit different point of views and telling about the show and the new setting, the current set list and everything happening around the gigs – but the tour schedule is tight and I didn’t have time for that so I’m gathering some thoughts about my week here.

The new set list is the longest Mika has done and as already said really satisfying to the audience. It’s also hard and tiring to sing. He tried to save his voice a bit before cancellations – skipping a song here and there, making the audience as a part of the show, using the band – but kept the set still long and gave his everything during every show so no surprise he was vulnerable enough to catch a cold (like we all during every single tour) and has now issues with his vocal chords. Maybe pushing himself too much in Madrid? Marseille was cancelled and I was happy the same was done in Grenoble even it meant we missed the gig and even it must be frustrating for him. Too much to risk for one or two random shows just before several important events.

Fans are understanding with cancellations like this. Of course everyone was a little down and worried in Marseille. I suddenly realized I’m sick (now lost my voice like to show my sympathy), over-tired, hungry enough to have hunger tantrums and all other things we never notice in our gig high. I felt homesick but couldn’t find any reasonable way to shorten my trip so I followed my original plan after Marseille even expected Grenoble to be cancelled as well.

A few thoughts about the shows in general. We didn’t see the full stage set at every venue. The Heaven sign and gate can fit also to smaller stages, the caravan and globe need both width and heigh. The beautiful gate – to heaven or to hell – is my favorite part of the set (starting a song behind it looks incredibly cool) and absolutely love the glittery globe! I’ve enjoyed seeing variations and shows with smaller setting, that way it’s easier to focus on the performance and the full set stays fresh and special for bigger shows.

The supporting band Citizens! has been a huge hit! Practically everyone loves them and they are good indeed. I’ve been listening to their album but like their rock live sound even more. They are not so well known (yet) so they make an effort to be nice to everyone and have always time for little chats with fans. Their performance makes me in a good mood before Mika starts meaning I don’t need to adjust my mood during the first Mika songs and I can fully enjoy the whole gig.

About the set list. It’s slightly changing and I really appreciate it. There is a basic structure but the order is changing a bit. My neural system is programmed to expect a certain order, it’s useful to be woken up by unexpected songs and after seeing several shows little changes give a positive, surprising impact. The beginning medley is still exciting. It feels irrational (meaning I can’t connect it to anything) but I like the clips and purple lights behind ”Purple Rain”.

A few random thoughts about songs.

No Place In Heaven fits with the theme, I just wish Mika wasn’t covering and hiding himself during the song. He is dressed in a coat and hat and the audience’s attention is in the caravan (unless the stage is too small for caravan and the song is done in the middle of the stage) and the true meaning of the song stays somehow hidden. First I thought I can’t focus on the song enough. No, the problem is I can’t see that Mika I want to focus on. He is in the middle of the theater scene covered by a secret agent’s outfit. NPIH is a personal and honest song. I would love to see it performed in a personal and honest way, softly and wearing sweaty, wrinkled shirt.

Sounds silly but I’m not joking. There can be a big difference in the atmosphere, just see how amazing Ordinary Man became when he was brave enough to do it in a smaller way. Love love love this version from Bordeaux:

He is doing little changes in his old songs. I’m especially pleased he is doing something with Relax. Not sure I like the result (yet) or can explain what he is doing with it but I like the idea he is giving his attention to Relax, it deserves it. The new beginning of Grace Kelly I already like a lot. Lollipop can always raise again. Love Today is phenomenal! Very impressed he can make it better year after year. Big Girl is a crowd pleaser. I would prefer Century Man as a high energy song but of course everyone enjoys BG and it’s a good, standard option in the beginning if photographers are disturbing the show.

Boum Boum Boum has become an entertainment number so the song is a bit lost in the middle of boxing gloves, funny glasses, hats, jokes, fans and dancing scenes. It gives a suitable moment for entertainment and chatting so I totally understand why it’s done that way but miss the old version I loved so much. Just the song and dancing. I love the live version of this song and the atmosphere going from gentle to powerful and the Spanish style beginning is pretty cool as well.

Talk About You has a good, positive energy but it’s not the highlight as it used to be at festivals simply because there are better songs to stand out: Good Guys is getting better and better and we heard a super special version in Bordeaux or Toulouse (travelled too much, someone help me?). Staring At The Sun is great live especially in English like heard in Madrid. Good Wife and Promiseland are both brilliant! Last Party in the end keeps its place as my personal favorite.

Good Wife is such an uplifting song! It’s so good it gives me a surprise every time I hear it. I can feel my posture changing because suddenly the world doesn’t feel so heavy anymore. The melancholic thought of something that never happened is somewhere on the background. I really enjoy this song, it makes me so happy and carefree. Promiseland has become the highlight I expected it to become. The calm part sounds calm and confident and the party part makes people go crazy. Perferct!

Funny, interesting and special details happened in all three shows. In Bordeaux Mika filmed a little clip to congratulate his friend and asked the audience to make some noise for it. He was pleased with the result and rewarded us (the whole audience) with giggling and smiles! In Madrid he asked a sweet young girl with a puppet on stage (see photos in my gallery). He used Melissa’s flowers and Karin’s crown and made Max wear Saskia’s wings the whole Madrid gig. He took Spanish lyrics someone gave for TAY and tried to sing them.

He changed his outfit several times and used several colorful jackets (really love those jackets, my favorites so far). He gave a lot of spotlight to the band and put Tristan behind the gate in the beginning of Love Today. One of my all time favorite Love Todays! Tristan is a rock star, all the others have already lost that kind of real enthusiasm. Hope he can continue his happy stage party without restrictions.

Last but no least stunning a cappella moments in the end of Happy Ending every show even in Madrid which was super amazing and a little bit worrying at the same time. The venue wasn’t small at all and I had a feeling Mika was already giving the audience everything he possibly could and everything and even more the audience possibly could hope for. Maybe even too much? One of my all time favorite shows for sure. I have really enjoyed this tour, now fingers crossed the man is in good enough health for a few more shows.