It makes sense to post about stage elements after album artworks, it’s easy to see the connection. Mika loves big, colorful show elements. Many characters and symbols he’s using in his stories or directly in the lyrics can be seen both in the illustrations and on stage. Everyone familiar with his work knows he’s a visionary mind, there’s always pure logic and consistency behind everything he does.

I made a small photo gallery of every album era around the photos in my previous post and even though there are only a few pics in each gallery it’s really easy to see how different themes, colors, shapes and symbols from each album are repeated in the related stage settings. Seeing how everything is connected has a huge meaning to me and I find it not only interesting but also somehow satisfying and pleasing and enjoy being able to see it, being able to observe all the details.

The first gallery describes Life In Cartoon Motion. The circus stage and balloon pics are from 2008, the other photos were taken in 2011 but the elements in them (big girls, lollipop girls, Billy Brown flag) refer directly to LICM songs so I included them in this gallery.

When I saw my first gig in 2008 I couldn’t wait to finally hear my favorite songs Relax and Ring Ring live. Otherwise I didn’t know what to expect from the show. I wasn’t prepared what a colorful party it was.

It was a mind-blowing experience. I couldn’t believe something like that existed. The stage was full of flowers, candles and colorful characters like lollipop girls, big girls and animals and the whole venue seemed to explode with confetti and balloons. The most beautiful detail of the night was to finally hear the intro for Love Today – I couldn’t believe it’s possible for someone to sing that stunningly – and to see “the kiss with the death”, the darkest yet prettiest thing I could imagine happening on stage. Below is a small clip I filmed at Brixton Academy that night, I discovered it later in my archives.

The same scene can also be seen in the beginning of Love Today from Parc des Princes that was later that same year. I bought tickets to see the PDP concert before I saw my first Mika gig. I just knew I had to see the big one too and I’m endlessly grateful I could organize to be there, that time it meant I had to take my whole family to Paris with me.

In the end of the clip there’s a nice view to an enormous dragon circling around the stage and in the audience. The dragon was my favorite show element that night and to remember the details I watched the Making of the Parc des Princes Show video which is included on Mika Live Parc des Princes Paris DVD. The document tells the dragon was 100m long and that before the event it caused some worries being stuck in customs. Not an average stage element in any way!

For Parc des Princes Mika collaborated with stage designer and visual artist Es Devlin and on her web page it’s possible to see several photos of the massive circus themed stage. The document tells about their collaboration, shows the first custom-made Louboutin men’s shoes and describes many other fascinating details about the show. If someone hasn’t seen it yet I highly recommend the DVD and especially the making of it document which is one of the most inspiring things I know for sure. Having a vision like that and then making it happen is extraordinary and something to be proud of for the rest of his life.

That night was only the second time I saw Mika on stage. I was overwhelmed by energy, colors and details and couldn’t pay attention to everything and just remember being absolutely stunned, not only by music but also and especially by the incredible creativity and craziness of the show. I can also vividly remember how enviously I looked at the group of photographers walking around the field to get better angles and to catch every show element with their cameras. I wished I could have done the same and after that have always used every possibility to take photos and document different details during shows.

The photo below is from Udine 2010 and I added it to give an example of another circus themed stage background that was later used at summer festivals.

My favorite show elements on the Imaginarium Tour were the news flash scene starring Sir Ian McKellen on a huge video screen and Mika “space walking” above the stage. Even though I knew those were just show elements and even though I saw all that happening several times – the excitement felt real. I’ve earlier written a long summary about the tour so not adding any videos here.

Space theme had an important role both on the album covers and in the show elements and big girls and lollipop girls shared the stage with feather coated Dr John and Toy Boy characters. Below is a small gallery showing the color scheme in The Boy Who Knew Too Much illustrations and Imaginarium stage elements.

The Origin Of Love album cover art was different style compared to the two previous albums and had less colors and more symbolism in it and the related stage elements reflected the same style. Green and white polkadot pattern was used in the outfits and on the background and clear symbols like a heart, an apple and medicine pills referred to love, Adam and Eve and love as a drug. The most important show element was the polkadot choir that gave many people a possibility to experience a gig on stage instead of being in the audience.

No Place In Heaven seems to be my favorite as an album and I love seeing it as a gallery as well. No Place In Heaven started Mika’s collaboration with Belgium and Netherlands based design company Studio Job and as a result we saw the Heaven Tour stage setting with several giant and colorful stage elements. It’s hard to choose my personal favorite but the big, gorgeous, crystalline globe is a strong candidate others being a colorful gate and a giant red heart with white wings.

The collaboration with Studio Job has continued in other Mika projects as well. Below more heart themed photos. The first heart is from the massive spectacle at Bercy in Paris, the second heart photo was taken in Milan during Casa Mika recordings and the third one is from Stade de France 2018. I can’t put in words how exciting it was to see the heart-shaped stage appearing in the middle of the stadium after the rugby final. One of my favorite moments of everything I’ve ever seen, some massive symbolism in it.

In the beginning of the post I shared a little Love Today clip from my first gig and this week it’s been exactly 11 years since that night. Feels appropriate to end the post with a small Love Today clip from the latest gig I’ve seen at the moment which happened last November at Cirque de’Hiver in Paris. I love it how powerful this tiny clip is even without any other stage elements than drumming and lights (coming also from bracelets in the audience).

I needed a colorful picture for my previous blog post and for that grouped together some items from each Mika album era. I loved seeing how they looked put together. Every cover and disc is beautiful, so many colors and details in them. Also quite thought-provoking to see them like this.

Album cover art is a genre on its own. There are books and exhibitions dedicated to it, some covers are iconic. Yet from other artists or bands I never expect as much as I expect from Mika. Cover art is such an essential part of his artistic brand. I’ve always admired the work and thought put in them.

The visual look for the albums is created by Mika and his illustrator sister Yasmine. The way Mika includes his family in everything he does is one of the things that make him different from other artists. My own family is my whole world and I believe that’s something that unites many of us. Despite of how different we all are, despite of how different our families are, we value those people around us higher than anything else. Always warms my heart to see Mika surrounded by his family members. Music business is hard and I hope that having his family around can make it softer, protect him and keep him grounded.

I love getting updates from studio and seeing musicians and sound engineers at their work but the album making process wouldn’t be complete without little glimpses of covers and other visual elements. Just having a quick look at the illustrations from each era tells a lot.

My previous blog post was about happy sounds so I wanted the pic to demonstrate happy, cheerful mood and for that reason chose the Life In Cartoon Motion cover art collage. The whole LICM look is cartoonlike and the colors are somehow childish. Just on the surface of course. Surely everyone can understand Lollipop is not about candy?

The Boy Who Knew Too Much took the style to the next level. The stories were not so clear and obvious anymore. Billy Brown and Big Girl had to make room for Dr John and One-Foot Boy, everything became more dreamy and surreal, on stage we could watch nightmares and witness Toy Boy becoming alive. The development can be seen also in the illustrations. The colors are generally darker, there are masks and other symbols, the environment is expanding to the space.

Then look at the The Origin Of Love photo. There’s a drastic change. Mika has grown up. I always see TOOL as a break-through, something that started a new, more open era. There was new honesty in Mika’s music and the way he talked about himself. That implied he felt strong and supported enough to do so and that way made me very happy. The album artwork may look less colorful than the previous ones but there’s a lot of significance underneath. I feel it looks exactly as it is supposed to look.

When I watch the TOOL covers I can remember the vibe around the album particularly well. This was the first time we could follow the process, Mika shared regular updates from studio and even organized small listenings before the album was out. The tours were small-scale, intimate and incredibly sweet, with pretty elegant venues and warm interacting with the audiences. During the tours I got the impression things didn’t work out exactly as planned and there’s something different watching someone’s career when things don’t work out as expected compared to the times when everything goes smoothly according to the plans. You wish you could at least say something helpful but you can’t and you are supposed to only watch anyway.

I loved it that even the green CD disc was matching with the white and green polkadot theme we saw on stage but when I once mentioned it Mika told it was just a coincidence. A coincidence like that?

No Place In Heaven brought the colors back again. Being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t use colors as much as you like. I thought it would be easy to tell NPIH looks visually my favorite but after seeing all the covers and discs this way it wasn’t so easy anymore. In the end I chose LICM to represent happy sounds. LICM looks fresher than it did 2007 and I find that remarkable and see something similar in TBWKTM. That youth and innocence is hard to repeat.

No Place In Heaven is still my favorite in many ways. I like the color tones in the illustrations. I like the city view and how it gives an impression Mika world is literally a place where we can step into and I like mixing real life pictures with cartoon style illustrations (NPIH is that way following TOOL’s example). Look at the powerful, very intense and super charismatic photos. I love it that even though Mika has grown up he still looks stubborn as ever.

I’m curious how the 5th album will be, I’m curious how it will look. Even still in the middle of recording it we’ve already seen Mika on media in France, Italy and the US. The funny clip on SNL featured Lollipop. The bigger audience in North America probably still remembers him for LICM. A lot has has happened after Lollipop though, you can see it just looking at the album covers. X

Mika_Tim

A few more pics of the new “cartoon city” stage setting before I lost them in my photo archives. I loved the idea of colorful houses as soon as I saw the album cover and knew to expect to see the same on stage. The idea works even better than I thought in advance. The stage we saw in the US was a test (Mika’s words after the NYC show) so he is probably doing a slightly improved version for the future gigs and I hope the stage will evolve during the tour depending on the venue and stage size like happened in 2010 during the Imaginarium Tour.

houses

Before the gig started the city was kind of sleeping in the moon light (above) but it woke up the moment Mika and the band appeared (below) and I realized it’s a place for countless of stories and the perfect location for all his characters and songs to come alive. Such a cool idea.

Tim

daytime_scene

Lights gave the stage different tones and moods from day light city views to the dreamiest and gloomiest night time scenes (like pink ones below) but as this was the first time I saw it I can’t yet tell how well everything fit for songs and their themes – too many new things happening for me to register everything – but I love it how this simple setting offers a lot material to work with and I hope they will use the idea properly.

In the end of the show my imagination simply started to add cartoon like effects everywhere, I couldn’t help it. Pink and red hearts flew out from people’s eyes and little bouncing sound effect bubbles appeared above the jumping and dancing audience. You know, things that happen to us at Mika gigs.

night_scene

pink

(the pic by Lubica, thanks so much for sending it!)

Mika performed at Gasometer in Vienna on the 5th of November. During the windy afternoon only a handful of us hardcore fans bothered to queue and most local fans arrived just before the doors were opened. When Tim (the guitarist) arrived and asked if anyone liked to join the choir only a couple of fans volunteered. For many fans Vienna was the only opportunity to see the show this autumn and they preferred to see it properly from the audience. I told Tim I would love to be in the choir but to tell the truth I can’t sing well enough. Tim assured that the main idea was to dance and have fun on stage and that there would be several of us and I shouldn’t worry too much so I promised to give it a try.

I’m really glad I did, I had such a great time and I enjoyed every moment! Our polkadot choir was multinational and had six members from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Finland. I knew some of the other girls in advance and we all had a lot fun together first practicing with the band and Mika, then waiting and chatting in our dressing room and eventually singing as a choir on stage.

First the band helped us to go through the songs in our dressing room and it was the first time I could spend some time with the new band and I loved how kind and supportive they all were, so humble and friendly to everyone even they are so professional and used to work with stars. Next we rehearsed on stage practicing also our dancing and moves and suddenly Mika joined us, looking a bit sleepy, so handsome and casual wearing jeans and a blue sweater.

He started to sing and we were allowed to watch the whole soundcheck on stage. This is always my favorite part, I love watching him preparing/practicing for the show (always so impressive). We met Mrs Penniman and she gave us our outfits and some good advices to help us on stage later. I admire her patience and kindness and this time she told us about the touring and asked some questions about our countries, traveling and lives in general.

We got the setlist and were told we would be on stage with Mika during eight songs singing some pre-chorus and chorus parts. Eight songs!!! It’s really something different than being on stage two minutes during one song. I enjoyed everything happening and wasn’t a bit nervous while rehearsing with Mika and the band but as I’ve always been afraid of performing in front of an audience/people my mind went totally blank during the show and I can’t remember all the details. I just did my best following Karin’s (who lead the choir) dancing because the main idea was to look like a choir and have a synchronized moves and also remembering the right parts to sing. It wasn’t so easy because we didn’t have much time to practice and as usual Mika added some surprise elements like killing us on stage (so we had to improvise falling down).

We were told in advance to smile and have a good time whatever happened and that was actually very easy because we were on stage next to Mika: I loved being there, watching the audience and being a part of the show. Mika added Toy Boy to the setlist during the show so we were able to watch it from a very close distance and I absolutely loved every second and couldn’t help but having a stupid happy smile on my face after the song. We could watch the songs we didn’t participate first from the audience and later from the side of the stage and the stage manager showed us the way back to the stage when needed.

I had to concentrate on my own singing and dancing so I couldn’t observe Mika and his performing the same way as I usually do. After the show Mrs Penniman told us that she saw this wasn’t an easy show for him (and as his mother she can surely notice these things). One of us asked later Mika if he enjoyed performing that night and he told us how every show is different. I understood this wasn’t an easy one but that he still managed to enjoy the show in the end. The audience was good and enthusiastic even the show wasn’t sold out this time and I could see the whole crowd responding him.

We waited a good while to have our moment with him after the show and eventually he came and was really, really sweet and kind and spent some time with us joking, signing our backstage stickers/setlists etc and taking pics. I wonder if he knew I was worried about my singing because he made a little bit fun of it and looked just amused and not annoyed at all and made me be feel a lot better.

He offered to take individual photos with everyone so we could have a memory of our experience and I took photos for the other girls and Karin took a photo of Mika and me. I told him it’s my first photo with him and he looked really surprised and put his arm around me and gave the camera the most adorable smile ever. Naturally my heart went all pum pa pa pum pa pa pum pa pa tadadidadidum and it was obviously so lovely that I closed my eyes. Can’t believe it, such a sweet picture and my eyes are closed! Karin took another pic and that time our eyes were open but in that one Mika looks a bit maniac (he was probably trying to keep his eyes open and not blink them, lol) and I look a bit uncomfortable (as always when on the wrong side of the camera) so I will show you the dreaming one. Hahah, at least the atmosphere is authentic; I guess I really was that embarrassingly happy. Oh, pay attention to our matching colors!

Asking fans on stage is already a tradition and gives us a feeling of being a part of the Mika world (and it’s not only about being there myself but also seeing my friends there like I did last night in Munich). The polkadot choir is again a huge work to his band, crew and family so it makes me think he genuinely appreciates his fans offering them opportunities to be on stage with him. Personally I love watching what’s happening behind the scenes, a lot of professional people but also a warm atmosphere and a huge involvement from his family (and I value seeing things like that). What a great day in many ways, thanks everyone who made it possible/so much fun!

The chandeliers were my favorite part of the new Marie Antoinette set and I uploaded a few pictures to show them more detailed (just click the pics to see them bigger). Some color pics below to see how they look in day light/dark/colored lighting. Everything was fitting together very well (paintings + chandeliers + costumes) and the atmosphere was totally different than in his previous show, I really enjoyed watching something new and different. As you can see the chandeliers were quite useful and funny during the show to lean on/hang.

I promised to make a photo post from Balaton Sound Festival with pictures of Big Girls and Lollipop Girls. I’m sorry the pics are not very good quality, it was a hectic situation, but I thought the girls in the pics might want to see them in any case and have them as a memory. Hahah, the girl Mika is hugging looks a bit suffering but believe me, she was having the time of her life. Check the end of this post, I linked BG and Lollipop vids (filmed by Balazs).


I uploaded some pictures of the background paintings just to show how visual the Marie Antoinette setting looks. So if you haven’t seen the new stage setting or can’t remember all the details, just click the pics to make them bigger and have a look. The first picture above is from Ajaccio, Corsica and all the rest from Les Ardentes Summer Festival, Liege. I love it how the idea is so simple but also full of details at the same time and the new setting looks really impressive even at a large stage.

Everything looks really easy and simple but they must have put so much effort to this show. The whole show is like a huge theatre play. See how well the costumes fit together with the paintings? I feel so lucky I was able to see the show in Compiégne and Corsica, can’t think more suitable venues for the new setting and costumes.

 

 

Mika loves making his shows as colorful spectacles combining elements from different cultures and art styles (Chinese dragons meet Mexican death feast etc.). My personal favorite is the circus theme. I have always been fascinated (via books and movies) by beautiful, old-fashioned circus venues and circus people/their touring life. As a child I even used to imagine myself traveling from town to town with a pretty wooden caravan. What an adventurous life it would have been!

Mika likes to make things look a bit darker though, maybe in order to have some contrast in his shows, and the effect is always surreal and magical. The first three pictures are from the Parc des Princes concert (7/2008 and then the clown stage setting from Cattolica (8/2010). Btw, I would love to know how he feels about his own modern touring life.

I took a few pictures of the show opening of the Arena Tour 2010. The band was watching a television newsflash and the scene was combined to Mika’s spacewalking. The audience could see the newsflash on the background and it was starring Sir Ian McKellen himself.I loved this scene, it was very impressive and made my heart stop every single time.

 

I really liked the beginning of the Arena Tour shows, spacewalking in a space suit combined to a newsflash (will blog about that later) followed by Relax. Seeing him in a space suit reminds me of a movie called Valentin, which Mika blogged about a couple of years ago. I often watch the movies he recommends, not because I automatically think I will like them but because I’m interested in what kind movies/books/music he likes. This one I loved though, it’s a very good movie.

A few pics from the Arena Tour above and the vid below from Halle Tony Garnier, Lyon (4/2010). I wonder, btw, if his childhood dream was walking in space or spacewalking on stage, thousands of people screaming his name. Maybe both.

Oh, I love bin drumming moments! Sounds so silly – to enjoy so much watching someone drumming garbage bins – but it’s amazingly addictive. Mika has that fantastic, mad look in his eyes. I love it. Suddenly it feels perfectly normal to be a little bit mad. Actually, it’s a good thing to be a bit mad. Let’s be mad together.

At the same time bin drumming feels sad. It tells you that the show is almost over. And Mika shows are always too short. Thanks for coming, see you next time. If everything goes well, if your lucky perfume does not fail you. I know, life is always like that, good things come to an end. While drumming, everything is still possible. It’s madness,  and I love it.

Only Mika can look cute even stuck in a bin. Drumming videos from Oslo (3/2010) and Dublin (2/2010).