Mika, Roundhouse, London

Sugary pop too sweet to digest

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The Independent Culture

Being the adventure of a man whose principal interests are Queen, glitter and, quite possibly, Beethoven, tonight's concluding gig of the iTunes festival sees Lebanon-born singer-songwriter Mika decked out in a black eye make-up and white overalls combo deliberately reminiscent of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. As sartorial allusions go, it's pitched a little high, perhaps, for the army of young teenagers who, crammed 20-deep against the Roundhouse's metal barrier, spend the show expressing their unbridled ecstasy at witnessing 2007's unlikely pop star du jour crash through his hits with an energy that borders on the absurd.


In fact, if there's one fair criticism of tonight's performance, it's that it lacks the light and shade of his more musically accomplished contemporaries; beginning with forthcoming single "We Are Golden", there is little chance to take stock of the 13-song set, during which the star seems to spend as much time stood on top of the centre-stage keyboard clapping his hands in the air as he does using it to play along to songs like "Blame it on the Girls" and "Dr John". The latter, a new song from the star's forthcoming second album (also entitled We are Golden) garners one of the warmest receptions of the night, despite its unfamiliarity to the audience.

There is particularly fulsome applause for "Big Girls (You Are Beautiful)", and the torrent of adulation continues throughout as the crowd are showered with glitter and man-size balloons in what at points feels like an attempt to cover up some of the lyrical and musical shortcomings of a set that is generous with enthusiasm but light on any real emotional engagement. In a stupefying whirlwind of nonsense words and repetition, "Love Today" sees the crowd battered with the line "Everybody's gonna love today, gonna love today, gonna love today" until the ceaseless adulation emanating from the crowd inspires an odd kind of pity at such ineloquence, and a feeling that perhaps in recent history pop music as a genre has short-changed its fans ruthlessly.

If his first album, Life in Cartoon Motion, released when Mika was 23, was his "schoolyard record" as he's claimed, and the second an apparent tribute to the difficulties of being a teenager, then it follows that we will be waiting at least another eight years for something reflecting his life at the moment. Although it's sad that he's out of step, it does suggest why this nostalgic, non-threatening pop has such appeal to younger audiences. At times it's shameless indulgence with all the tasteful depth of a luminescent paddling pool, but something in it has driven 2,000 young fans to scale heights of adulation normally reserved for much bigger stars. For that alone, Mika demands respect, and it's impossible not to feel slightly moved by the sincerity with which the star conducts himself over an evening typified by the overwhelming delivery of such underwhelming material.