Mika with support from Leon Jean Marie
Manchester Academy 1,
Flashy guitar fuelled, funk gelled R N B is being beamed out by the dreadlocked 24 year old East Londoner, Leon-Jean Marie. Forthcoming debut single 'Scratch' is the first flash of the explorative musical ranger's wares. Leon Provides his own throbbing guitar thrust and his deep soul vocals come alive. His singing pitch draws a line between the provocative pinch of Stevie Wonder, the authoritative drawl of Al Green and the throaty provocation of James Brown. Rustic keyboards draw out an atmospheric element for the standout out number, building around the mystical line 'Story Of The Easter Blues'. The range and contrasting sounds produced by a skilful backing band is too much for the equipment, as technical problems interrupt the momentum. However, this doesn't put the performers off their stride and nor does it interrupt the crowd's concentration.
A true pouring soul interlude gets hips swaying and minds melting, as Leon relaxes effortlessly into his warm up role. Next, in true crowd tickling and soul fashion he announces;
"This is one for the ladddiieess"
Clattering percussion led pop, follows this crowd seduction and hints at a radio friendly direction to an otherwise expansive set. The Drum N' Bass fuzzed 'Stay Right Here', provides for a sprightly and tender vocal end to a set of potential.
When the main artist makes a fashionably, drawn out late entrance and the old chestnut of Dolly Parton's '9 to 5' beams out over the speakers. You can't help but get the feeling that you wouldn't be disappointed if the evening was a sanctimonious farce, of sappy cheese producing showcasing. Matters would have to improve more than a notch just to get to that point. After more procrastination than a frightened fat kid taking his first dip in the pool, Mika gives his all to the WHAM and Frankie Goes To Hollywood bolstered 'Relax, Take It Easy'. This number is the weakest link on the latest album 'Life In Cartoon Motion' and the sickening razzamatazz and floundering falsetto are strangled out with even more strength tonight. The temptation is growing to eye up the exit like it's a sweet redhead, as salvation is desperately sought and the cold winter night outside seems warm and welcoming. However, MIKA himself and his keyboard kicked backing band provide the salvation in the frisky, feel good glam pop swirl of 'Love Today'.
Hands glide in the air like doves, as MIKA's sincerity creates laid back warmth and imbues the will to participate even in the cynical, seasoned gig-goers stood towards the back with their Coldplay t-shirts on. Something that is especially prevalent when the Scissors Sisters spirit in MIKA takes over, for the sprightly extolling of the virtues of excess in 'Big Girls You Are Beautiful'. The midpoint is punctuated by a wistful, crowd inclusive sing-a-long to The Beatles based 'Billy Brown'. This illuminates an ability to understand the trials and troubles of one of life's confused and misunderstood characters. The tingling keyboard element provides a comfort blanket and continues the refreshing resurrection from the depths of sappiness that opened the set. The slower musical gait continues into an aching cover of 'Everybody's Talkin' and shows a serious underbelly to this frivolous, melody scattering enigma. The theatrical and radio friendly 'Grace Kelly', brings the curtain down on a main set. Tonight establishes MIKA as a broad performer who can flit between moods in a live setting and shows that he is not, at all, quaking behind a blanket of blasÃ© backing. 'Lollipop' gives excited gatherers what they seem to want, playful musical strutting built around churning bass lines, bold drum beats and Jake Shears type vocals from Mika. If anything, tonight's mid-set reflection will have increased the growing fan-base, as contrast is provided to the playful pop styled strutting that can be a little overbearing, at times.
"MIKA shows that his playful glam-pop platform is built on a foundation of wide ranging musical appreciation. This is after a more disappointing start than Reading F.C. in an FA Cup 5th Round replay."
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