Added on 11-Jun-2007
Mika knows how to make an entrance. With Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" blasting out of the speakers, the gangly Lebanese-born British singer leapt across the stage at the Fillmore on Saturday.
Wearing an all-white ensemble with a mop of curls bouncing on top of his head, he paused only to let out a glass-shattering high note before kicking the air as his four-piece band started up the dizzying "Relax, Take It Easy." He would do well to listen to his own advice.
It was only the second date of Mika's first headlining American tour, and, in a matter of seconds, he had won over the sold-out crowd. Truth be told, he had some practice.
Born Michael Holbrook Penniman, the 23-year-old singer's song "Grace Kelly" has seemingly taken up permanent residence in the upper reaches of the European pop charts since it was released earlier this year, with his debut album, "Life in Cartoon Motion," going platinum in the United Kingdom. He's spent months on the road just trying to keep up with the swelling demand, but his energy level remains undiminished. Watching him in action, you get the feeling that he's as mad as he is photogenic.
Not too long ago, the former boy soprano was making a living belting out commercial jingles for British Airways and Orbit chewing gum. That's all changed now, and out of anyone, Mika seems the least surprised. It was simply a matter of fact when he pulled up to an electric piano to play a suite of kitschy rock ballads, he announced, "Six months ago, we were playing to 15 people in Birmingham."
There's little doubt that he had been practicing the rock poses and casually choreographed routines that accompanied each song for even longer than that. For "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)," he pulled up a well-endowed burlesque dancer to rub up against; his legs splayed wide apart and hips jutted to the side as he pounded through the Elton John-ish lament "Any Other World." And easing into mock-operatic "My Interpretation," he announced, "After studying my 'Rufus at the Fillmore' DVD, I get to do it myself."
But his main inspiration clearly comes from Freddie Mercury. Appropriating the Queen lead singer's signature moves, arch vocal acrobatics and vaudevillian sense of grandeur, Mika doesn't even pretend to disguise his obsession. On "Grace Kelly," he sings it out loud: "So I try a little Freddie!" And upon closer inspection, "Big Girl" feels a lot like Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."
Like Mercury, Mika also refuses to be pinned down on the topic of sexuality. Look hard enough, and the clues are all in place -- and not just because on "Billy Brown" he sings of a married man who falls in love with another man. "My record company said you can't put a song like that out in the United States," Mika said. "Guess what? We've got 2,000 people singing it back at us."
Whatever his logic, it seems to be working. The first few rows at the Fillmore were crammed with preteen girls wearing glow-in-the-dark necklaces and waiting for a quiet a moment to screech, "Mika, I love you!"
The biggest challenge he faces is coming up with another album that is as unhinged as "Life in Cartoon Motion."
On Saturday, he filled out his all-too-short set with a clunky cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" and another of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," which primarily seemed to serve as an excuse to show off all the octaves in his upper register. A new song called "Holy Johnny" was cut from the same middling acoustic strum of George Michael's "Faith." There's a fine line between the Darkness and Def Leppard.
Still, there's no getting around the fact that Mika is an incredible showman. After wishing his mom a happy birthday -- she had flown out from London for the occasion -- he launched into a heady aerobic workout for the Euro-disco crunch of "Love Today" that saw him teetering above the drum riser with his hair scraping the spotlights and jumping down to bang on a trash can while his guitar player wailed away. That's not only a good way to make your mother proud but also a way to leave a lasting impression on anyone in a foreign city.
For "Grace Kelly," Mika changed into a T-shirt, pointed his inde