The Wiltern, coined for its location on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, is not unlike several older Los Angeles theaters. True to art-deco form, the main foyer and theater feature ornate moldings in shades of powdery blue mixed with burnt copper. In 2008, the venue has just enough kitsch to be the perfect home for Lebanese-born/Paris conservatoy-trained singer-songwriter Mika.
The venue was packed, Mika’s show having sold out fairly soon after tickets went on sale. From an original price of $29.99, scalpers had upped the cost of tickets to as much as $150 to $200 for general admission seats. This is somewhat surprising, since the Grammy-nominated artist has had almost no radio play on major U.S. stations.
The crowd itself was very diverse. It ranged from chunky-haired scenesters to prepubescent girls who looked like they were on their way to see Hannah Montana, escorted by haughty mothers. The result was a slightly confusing albeit comical air, and prompted the question: ‘Wait, this is the Mika concert, right?’
Just a hair past 8 p.m., the show was underway with the opening band. I have always felt a great sense of pity for the openers, who I think have a tough gig playing for an audience who isn’t there to see them. But the band that preceded Mika, hailing from the great northern state of Canada, left the audience particularly underwhelmed. They called themselves ‘The Midway State,’ a group of angsty and underfed musicians who crooned into their microphones and made for a trying pre-show. The audience was clearly ready for the headliner to perform.
At last, the lights dimmed again. The crowd was visibly bubbling with excitement and impatience. Suddenly, the colorful stage lights lit up, casting their collective glow to the audience as a tickling guitar echoed across the theater. Then the stage ignited in an overload of lights and sounds. Mika, tall and skinny and wild-haired, galloped around amongst his kaleidoscope of accompaniment. A woman with a tiara and an afro to rival all afros, grinned as her bejeweled wrists flew over her drum set. A man with a blonde Beatles wig scooted around the stage as his fingers raced over the frets.
It was nearly impossible to take your eyes away from the main attraction, from Mika himself. He wore a white button-down shirt with sparkling black suspenders sewn into it, uber-tight black pants and silvery metallic sneakers. He whipped his dark curly hair in every direction, face drawn up in squinting delight as he spat the lyrics into the microphone