Tuesday 16 May 2023

Happy Off Season!

 When everything was so predictable, and there aren't any scandals to keep us busy (by that I mean real scandals like last year's jury collusion, not the usual fan-manufactured ones), we can still take pleasure in the little things, such as Harrow sharing his joy from Eurovision taking place in his home town. And that is something I wish all of you to experience once in your lifetime.

So a big thank you to our blogging team, and to you for reading and commenting. See you next year for the on-season, maybe we'll be lucky to get yet another epic Eist Lidd fir Malmö.

Saturday 13 May 2023

Happy Eurovision Party!

As Eurovision fans, we al have our origin story. That excuse or explanation as to why we fell head over heels with a ‘monument to drivel’ - whether it’s family, flags, geography or yodelling. The hook that brings us in is one thing. But what makes us stay? What makes us care enough to go to Google and carve out our space as part of the 365 days a year niche community?

For me, everything leads up to the party. The day when we as super fans get the chance to ask for the full attention of our long-suffering friends. Sure they have fun, but if we’re honest they don’t do it for themselves, they do it for us.

My first ever Eurovision party was 2003. An excellent year longwise, not an excellent year for Liverpool and UK.

A friend came over early and we made Pierogi - a Latvia delicacy that was actually delicious and successful -though I’ve never repeated the pre-event cooking session. I prepared scorecards for everyone and insisted that they were filled out studiously with notes and a final top 10 to give points to.

My Mum’s hairdresser was in town, so during the interval I got my hair cut in the kitchen. When this was finished my party guests told me that UK were ‘still’ on nil points - and like my Scouse buzzcut  - things didn’t look any better an hour later.

Fast forward 20 years, with only a handful of years where I’ve not hosted an event - and I’m back at it again. This time not in my parent’s house, but not too far away either - in a pub opposite the actual arena hosting actual Eurovision. 

A friend will be there who was at that very first party. Since then we’ve lived in 5 different countries between us, but fate has brought us back for this one. She asked if she can be spared the bureaucracy this time - so I’ve prepared a scoresheet just for her.

Over the years I’ve pulled together many questionable outfits - I’ve been Laka’s sister, a Polish milkmaid, Sofi Marinova, Yulia Samoylova, Lys Assia and Gina G on multiple occasions. Tonight Matthew, I’ll be Käärjä - thanks to an inflatable pool float and some creative thinking.

This is our night to be the centre of attention. Enjoy your night whether amongst family, Eurofamily, old or new friends or lovers - or even all of them like me! 364 days led up to today, and tomorrow we will wake up (late, sure) to reconvene for the post-mortem (who saw Poland winning?!) and be back amongst friends to do it all again.

Friday 12 May 2023

Final Dress Rehearsal 2 (aka Jury Final)

Hi all, live from the online press centre in Amsterdam I'm trying to keep you updated on the jury rehearsal for the Grand Final of ESC 2023 in Liverpool

You're all familiar with how all the performances look, or at least should look. So I will - if the stream allows - just comment on what's striking in the performances, if anything. Car crashes, collapsing grills and other props, or excellent vocal surprises ... and all the things we haven't seen yet, including flag parade, intervals and of course the fake voting procedure.

Meanwhile what looks like two of the three drag queens from yesterday (but they might be different ones, we don't get close-ups) are doing the warm-up, counting down from 10 to 0, when the words 'Good to go' appear on screen. But apparently the producers think otherwise, so they're continuing after that. But I'm sure we'll start quickly.

And we're off! With a video introduction involving Kalush Orchestra, last year's winners from Ukraine of course. 'Stefania' is played by different musicians in different styles. We also see a metro form the Tick Tock postcard in 2014. The party continues inside the metro.

And then we are on the stage in Liverpool where the song continues. With dancers and all, but of course also Kalush Orchestra. And many others it seems. They obviously get huge cheers from the crowth. And then it's time for the flag parade! 'Superstar DJ, here we go!'. And hey ... after France we get to see and hear Go_A with 'Shum', they're in Liverpool.

Jamala makes an appearance with '1944'. Or a short fragment of it. Oh, even Tina Karol is there! Nice how they mix the Ukrainian enties with British dance classics. And then there's Verka Serduchka, she couldn't miss, could she?! Including her mum obvi.

Time for the hosts. You've seen them in action on Tuesday and Thursday but tonight they're joined by Graham Norton. Graham is the smallest on stage.

Hannah does a better job than Marlous in 1980 to explain why we are in Liverpool and not in Kiev this year.

We get a leaderboard of who has won the contest the most times! Nicely done, because obviously Ireland has seven and Sweden has six. And we know things may change this year. Also of course  🇱🇺 Luxembourg (?!) is mentioned too (with five wins in shared third place with Netherlands, UK and France), including obviously a mention of their return next year!

And then: Let the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 begin!

Austria is a brilliant opener really, to get the party going. Some feel they've been punished by being put #1, but my view is that it's not to their disadvantage. 

Portugal bounces on in red and black, definitely not killing the party mood we're in. So yes, it may not be a compliment to be put at #2, but everyone's a winner, you know! Crowth loves it no less for it :-) They don't need Luxembourg this year to get some nice votes I think.

Switzerland is still very red and black, but also blue. It doesn't bounce. But Remo gives a strong vocal performance. Nothing to worry here for them. Except maybe complaining about the running order.

Poland got by far the most Youtube views of yesterday's contestants, but that maejbe because of lots of reasons, not all very relevant. Yesterday I wasn't much impressed. I'm still not hugely impressed but it does what it wants to do I guess. I think vocally it was a bit stronger? But I think it's the first real filler of the night.

No break after Portugal this time as happened in this afternoon's rehearsal. They may have rehearsed getting the props replaced more quickly. Serbia just started and now I have a broken stream :-( Hope it will be fixed soon!

Missed part of Serbia ... anyway, like I promised, if there's hardly anything new to mention about an entry, why should I bother? I think I shouldn't bother. Just saying that he got a nice audience reaction. 

OK, first time 'for real' for La Zarra from France. I'm not a big fan of this staging, but it's quickly clear that she's giving it much more than in the rehearsal clip. But the Grande France Note: ? - it gets some what sounds like canned applause, and was still off I'm afraid. All in all, great reaction from the audience, and much stronger vocally (but not that one note).

We get the first break, but no offical commercial bumpers, so it will be mainly to get France off stage. We get a flashback to the highlights of Tuesday's and Thursday's shows.

Cyprus ... whereas Thursday I thought he was off/out of breathe singing the 'You can't break a broken heart' parts, they sound better this time. Everything still looks as good as it looked, and that helps a lot too. Nah, he sounds good, really! Great performance.

And it's the first one for real for Blanca Paloma from Spain. Or it's not, because Julia intervenes after the postcard to bring attention to all the social Eurovision channels. After a minute we're off to Spain indeed ... it was always going to be a love or hate entry. Can we expect much love for this? I honestly can't say. Last year I was totally wrong about Chanel too, so I don't dare to say if she's gonna wonning this or not. But staging is beautiful. Song may a bit long for some. And some notes a bit harsh. All in all, I'm tempted to say Europe is not going to be hugely impressed.

Another short non-commercial break with a nice look forward to JESC 2023. (insert icy.png here). It's going to happen on 26 November if you didn't know.

And I expected some reference to Terry Wogan at this point, but nope ... we go right away to Loreen from (according to Alesha) Swee-hee-den.

(Sweden) I really wanted to write about a failing grill, snowfakes and all ... but Loreen was just as amazing as Tuesday. And this comes from someone who never was a fan. But yeah, she nailed it really. (insert png again). I didn't watch every shot, I'm sorry. It looks impressive-ish just as much as it always did, but it's mainly the vocal performance that makes this the obvious winner.

another cut to the green room, so also the hosts can say 'wow', which I think is a bit over it.

Clearly Albania at this point serves as a bit of a filler here, but also one that touches the essence of ESC. You would never hear this outside ESC. Even if you wanted to. It's everything we want from Albania and she gets a lot of cheers. Unexpected, but in a way, totally cool that it's here tonight.

It's still not entirely clear for me if the trampoline jumpers  for Italy are really on stage or just on the screen. Anyway, what's the point of bringing them if you can't tell it apart form a screen projection. Anyway, they don't add much to this in my humble opinion. But it also doesn't destract too much, so well done for that. Totally decent vocally. Nice applause but nothing huge. But maybe because some people got pregnant.

Honestly haven't got too much to say about Estonia. Better applause than Italy I'd say, but then that may be mostly about their neighbour coming up next.

Finland definitely comes across much more sparkly than Tuesday, with huge help from the audience. Nothing to add to what we've already seen except that the Liverpool Arena is out of its mind.

We still haven't had a real commercial break and we won't get any now. So on to the 'second half' without interruption.

Czechia is still as impressive as it was on Tuesday, but I feel they are the biggest loser from the running order here, coming right after Finland without a break. On the other hand, it may well sound extra good to those who think Finland is just a lot of noise. Crowth is still very enthousiastic anyway.

Julia says we're halfway, but we're actually over. After a small look forward (billboard style) about what's hapening next, Julia welcomes the viewers down under and we're off to Australia. Don't use this as a pee-break (unless you don't care about Voyager) as it's really short.

Australia - nothing to add to what you've been able to see for yourselves. Not even a joke about a car crash to make here.

Audience audibly singing long with Gustaph 's first notes for Belgium which makes a good start for this. I think this is a bit overstaged with the stairs and all, but it's obviously lots of fun, and the hall loves it! I didn't see it before, but now I say: this is going to do very well with televoting!

And here's the first commercial break. So that's not doing harm to Belgium either! We get a small interval with Graham Norton who, just like Terry Wogan in 1998, also does the BBC commentary as usual. He's eating popcorn (the Noa effect?) but he asks for a pizza?! ... After that an announcement with Hannah with a reference to a former - very dairy - ESC performance.

On my tv set last Thursday Armenia sounded a bit underwhelming. Still not sure if it was my tv or the actual performance. But this is much more impressive. The dance break, I feel is a bit unncessary as the song really builds at tht point, and musically it's much of a letdown that we don't go to that supercatchy chorus immediately. But that may be just me. Very good, much good, all in all.

Moldova may be just that what many casual ESC viewers expect from ESC and even if it sounds a bit like Shum from Wish superficially, I can totally see this doing a a Trenuletul (with a thingy under one of the letters, don't remember which).

Of course there's a small break to Julia introducing the Ukraine entry. But very shortly, and surprisingly in English.

First time I see the full Ukraine performance, there's some pretty smart parts. It's hard to say anything about this, is it. Maybe I expected it to be a bit more spectacular. But then ... it's Ukraine. And it's a song I can see being much appreciated by juries. Though, on that alone it's never going to be more than lower top 10. 

Norway ... there's some serious off-key notes in the second verse. Oh and an awful screech further on. Even the scream crashed, so I missed the last 30 seconds. She gets a huge applause, but this was ... not so good, sorry.

I don't think Norway followed by Germany works very well, as they're both quite powerful/aggressive. LOTL's lead singer looks a bit like Dana International with feathers, at least the upper side. In direct comparison to Norway this works much better. I don't think Germany will be last in the televote. Or close to that. 

I can't help but feeling Lithuania is here just to give the viewers a break. And that may not even work to its disadvantage. Monika is vocally totally fine anyway! Not a big fan of the song but I enjoyed that performance.

Israel - fenomenal! Great staging / camera work and I couldn't notice any serious flaws in Noa's vocal performance. I'm not sure if we should consider this very dangerous. I made the mistake with Chanel, so I'm tempted to say: yes. Dangerous! And audience goes pretty wild again.

Totally I was totally surprised by how slick and still fun Slovenia was in that dreary second semi-final. Nothing has changed in the act or the performance. I find it hard to say. I see a surprise contender, but maybe I get carried away. Being surrounded by Israel and Croatia, I'm also confused whether that helps or not. 

Croatia ... nothing to add to this. Don't see it as the televote winner at this point, but it will get quite a lot obvi.

United Kingdom went down very well in the hall.

Now seriously, I think there wasn't much wrong with Mae's vocals. But they're just not very powerful. But this song doesn't need that anyway. Anyway, I think it may get some jury points, but no, this makes not much of an impression after all that action before. 

All four presenters get back on stage of course to explain everything about the voting. But Graham warns us: it's a long way to go before we get there.

From the recap I'd say the highlights of this ESC are Sweden and IsraelFinland a bit behind with Belgium, Slovenia and Moldova as biggest surprises. Croatia, Armenia, Italy and Ukraine would then fill the top 10. But I'm bad at predictions,  I got 13/20 of the qualifiers, so do with that what you want.

On that note, I expect very few televotes for France. Or Switzerland.

Interval number 1 is Sam Ryder with his new song 'Mountain'.

Then we get an interview with a woman who likes to say a lot of words:

anyway, tonight we don't have the real Jan Leeming. But her stand-in says a lot of words too. Nice flashback to Jan being confused about the exact location of Ralph Siegel.

After that we get a voting themed video with more historical footage, including four times zero points. And in fact, half of the 2021 televoting sequence, followed by another interview with Timur. And also the Australian commentators get a visit by Alesha.

After some references to the coronation, it's time for a second recap. 

Interval 2 is all about music from Liverpool/Merseyside. We see Mahmood singing 'Imagine' first. To be fair I wouldn't want Chanel to do this. After that it's Netta singing 'You spin me round'Her outfit looks a bit like the German singer and indirectly again like Dana International. But also a bit like 3 + 2. Guess you will see it tomorrow. Next is Daði singing 'Whole Again'. All performers do get quite their time, which I think is nice. I'm not as impressed with Daoi as I was with Mahmood tbf. There's lots of Gagnamagniðs on the screen behind him by the way. Next is Cornelia Jakobs singing 'I Turn To You' with an interesting choreography.

Clearly this second interval is a must-watch! Plan your pauses around it :-)

It's still not over. Flashback to Millstreet! Of course to introduce ... Sonia! Of course she sings 'Better The Devil You Know'. Then Duncan Laurence sings 'You Never Walk Alone'. Rather flatly tonight I must say, but I'd say he's holding in for tomorrow? During the last part a lot of people including hosts, but also some seemingly random people (maybe stand-ins?) enter the stage. We also see Ruslana, but only on a screen.

At this point, so right after all this it's midnight CEST or 11 pm in Liverpool. We get a third recap.

After that we see all four hosts standing behind a long desk ... but nope, it's not voting time ... yet. But they are closing the televote anyway, so we'll be close to the start of the jury voting, it seems!

We then get a video with Bjorn Ulvaes, obviously about ABBA. But a year too early, it feels? Ah, some attention for Rosa Linn! And also Sam Ryder and Duncan Laurence again. 

We see Martin Österdahl and we're good to go it seems! 

Graham and Hannah do the jury voting. Graham explains that the points tonight are fake. To which the audience disappointedly boo.

Not Italy, but Ukraine is the first country to vote. The spokesperson hopes next time UK wins, we will have an ESC in Kiev. Israel get the first douze. Italy votes second. Scoreboard graphics are very similar to those of 2021 I'd say. Points don't cover the flags. Text is black on white, though total points / points given are white on pink / pink on yellow. Dutch spokesperson (#4) is a stand-in and sounds more Dutch than Diljá. 

After five juries Albania is in the lead. But there's a disclaimer above. Niamh Kavanagh is there to shout her twelve points across the Irish Sea (and they're going to Slovenia). I'm sure Diljá speaks better Italian than John Kennedy 'from' San Marino. France has taken over the lead.

The graphics are a bit more elaborate than the last few years but nothing too extraordinary or unseen I noticed so far. Belgian spokesperson makes a joke in West Flemish. German spokesperson is not exactly Barbara and wanders out of screen and back. At the moment Italy, France, Norway, Cyprus and Slovenia are battling it out in the fake voting, but it's very close. Spain, Portugal and Serbia are still point-less. Graham is clearly a bit nervous/confused and mixing up spokesperson's names.

After 17 juries we get an interview with a female stand-in pretending to be Marco Mengoni. A commercial break for some countries. Also (a fake) La Zarra is being interviewed and Alesha has her microphones mixed up which was pretty funny.

 is giving the points from Iceland, or well, this takes some time. This was pretty pointless imho. But who knows what happens tomorrow. Italy is now taking quite a lead. Loukas is again giving the Cypriot votes (to Slovenia). We'll miss the audience shouting 'Greece' tomorrow, or well, maybe they'll still shout it anyway? Anyway, he's been around for quite some time this Loukas guy. After that it's Ben Adams for Norway. Swiss votes are coming from Lugano this time! Given by Chiara Dubey. Hannah says 'Wunderbar Copenhagen', that wasn't quite how the slogan went, right? Ruth Lorenzo gives the 12 points from Benidorm to Norway, who are recently scoring very well. Ilanit will give the Israeli points tomorrow, but she seems to be in bed right now as someone else is replacing her.

Georgian spokesperson makes a statement (joke?) nobody understands about losers not drinking alcohol and Hannah's and Graham's facial expressions like 'huh? what was that about' were priceless. 'Never mind', says the guy. That was awkward, I hope he repeats it tomorrow.

Later Graham makes a small slip-up and Hannah is not having it any more :-D La Grèce awards douze points to la Tchèquie, in French. So that seems to be its official French name now. Hannah is still laughing. Lithuania is the penultimate country and as usual the host get to close, and it's Catherine Tate right in the hall, but today it's just a stand-in. 

Jury result: Italy right in front with 247, then Norway with 194 and right below France with 193. Portugal is the only one on zero points :-(

Another interview with an excited fake Marco. And after that Martin Österdahl announces that the televote is totally in and correct ... so it's time for the fake televoting sequence. (Hannah is brilliant!)

Oh noes. Portugal gets a double zero :-((( 

After Estonia got 170 to go top 5 with it, Israel gets 200-much and is the new leader. Czechian stand-in is not happy with their 60 points. Albanian one gets 11 points and copies her reaction. Poland gets only 2 points, after which Hannah reminds us that it's an emotional rollercoaster. Belgium gets 239 and overtakes Israel. But then the UK gets 294 or so and stands at 409 with five more to go.

Finland gets 7 points :-D Graham: 'Slovenia, you got 44 points. Enjoy them!'

Split-screen with Italy, Norway, France and the current leader United Kingdom. France only gets 34 points and Graham laughs sarcastically :-D

We are reminded that Kalush Orchestra will in a moment hand over the prize. Norway doesn't overtake the UK. Only Italy to go now. Graham: 'It's a rehearsal, of course it's rigged'. Italy needs 163 points to beat the UK.....

Italy gets 142!!!! So Mae Muller and the United Kingdom win this voting and therefore .... totally nothing!

So now we're off to see a fake reprise of some sorts. Anyway, I didn't notice anything special with the voting graphics other than it looking just slick. 

A male stand-in makes his way to the stage and 'mimes' to the winning song as a reprise, but actually he just stands there a bit uncomfortably on Mae's prop.

That's it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed reading! There will probably be some sort of prediction post of the blog team later today! Enjoy ESC day! :-)

Final Dress Rehearsal 1


I am live (a Little delayed) in the Arena to bring to you coverage of the first rehearsal!

The hosts are on stage to get the show started after a flag ceremony featuring Jamala  and a brief Verka interlude

They have announced the return of Luxembourg to great (not greasy) cheers in the arena.

🇦🇹 Austria are first up, with the perfect opener. The arena loved this last night and they do again. Just outside the top 10 seems likely.

🇵🇹 Portugal get the ‘just happy to be here’ slot and perform admirably. They’ll take their lower half place with charm and entertain us in the meantime.

🇨🇭Remo is so sweet and he performs flawlessly. Happy to see Switzerland keeping up its final run with this one. Chills at those big notes

🇵🇱 You’ve all seen it on stage, but Poland really executes the song excellently.and use the stage very well. Blanka is gorgeous and I’m glad her Eurovision story has some joy after the rocky start.

🇷🇸Serbia will be on after a presenter time-filling spot thanks to the big prop!

🇫🇷 La Zarra gets wheeled on stage on a giant doughnut while they are clearing away Luke Blacks mess.

The Sarah Dawn Finer prop looks less impressive in real life but she nails it like the pro she is. This might do better than I previously feared.

Another break after France, with a VT to come on Charles and Camilla.

🇨🇾 Then we have Cyprus. The front rows will get a suntan from the fire on this one, he’s selling the song well even though it’s clearly very difficult to sing.

I’m not sure whether putting Andrew between La Zarra and Blanca undermines him or makes it feel like the ‘vocal powerhouse section.

🇪🇸 Spain isn’t the best for arena viewers, but she of course nails it and it fills the entire arena even when it’s half empty.

Alesha is really earning her paycheck with all these prop breaks.  We get a plug for JESC while Loreen is wheeled on stage.

🇸🇪 I’ve been team Käärijä but Loreen does bring Jamala vibes. Hopefully it’s as close as 2016! She’s holding back on vocals but she really is something special

A prop break again (there’s a lot of them) before 🇦🇱 Albania which probably only squeezed through the semi but will pick up it’s fair share in the final even with this draw.

🇮🇹 Phone lights are being asked for for Marco, and it’s a stunning performance visually, with the added staircase fallers making it more like performance art than just a dull ballad. Top 10 seems on as usual for Italy.

🇪🇪 Estonia was my bar break last night, so it’s good to see it once. But that’s plenty. Effective in the old-school way, and feels a little out of place in what has been an impeccable modern contest until now. Strange place in the running order but I guess it’s to make Finland even more impactful. The press seem to like it though

🇫🇮 is the big one for the hall, and it could snatch a victory if the arena reception at the jury rehearsal feels persuasive enough for juries. Massive

🇨🇿 Czechia may suffer from following Käärijä (and another short break) but on the other hand it also feels a strong top 10, maybe even a Shum. Well done sisters!

🇦🇺 Australia very much feels a story of the draw. They couldn’t not qualify, but now they feel a little thrown under the unecessary prop car. It has its audience (not me), but they’ll be lower half.

🇧🇪 Belgium doesn’t give me a lot to say, but it’s great for Gustaph to be here. After him is a break as Armenia’s cliff is built.

🇦🇲 Armenia gets a lot of support in the crowd, Brunette is a superstar and thankfully a kinder draw for this one with a chance of surprise jury success.

🇲🇩 Moldova shakes the room with that bass and really sell what can only be described as an ethnobanger.

🇺🇦 Ukraine make the best of the excellent stage, but although I really like the song this really won’t trouble the top 5.

🇳🇴 the other ethnobanger sandwiching Ukraine, this draw makes Ukraine feel quite limp. But Alessandra is Great and im sticking with my prediction of a high finish.

🇩🇪 Germany have a massive stage set up but they seem to get it set up quick enough to avoid bothering Alesha. The stage looks epic and it really feels like nobody wants to finish last this year. It won’t be Germany but it might be Spain or even Ukraine.

🇱🇹 Ostensibly a good draw for Lithuania, but in such a strong run I think it might get a little lost. But the crowd seem to like it and I hope I’m wrong.

🇮🇱 do you wanna see me lay down on the floor in several positions? Unicorn is a bop but I can’t see it competing at the top of the leaderboard. Best ending fireworks so far though!

🇸🇮 have been given a good draw but again I think they’ll go the way of Lithuania despite charming the crowd and audience.

🇭🇷 Croatia are going to get their best televote result in a long long time - if not ever.  They are pros and the world will have a lot of fun with them

A lengthy break before Mae who seems to have the trickiest stage prop.

🇬🇧 UK is the perfect closer and will be magnetic love. Her vocals are ok with the crowd behind her, and the staging is excellent. I have a new favourite fireworks too - they clearly spent a fair whack on everything.

I’m going to leave you here, but it’s an excellent show as expected and it’ll be a great event for all attending and everyone watching on TV.  Enjoy it!!

Thursday 11 May 2023

Qualifier predictions semi-final 2

Time for our ESC Nation team to post our predictions for the second semi-final (so that you can publicly shame us afterwards)

Last week Jeremy had the best prediction, correctly predicting 10/10!

Sild, SamB and Harrow all managed 9/10, myself and Yami managed 8/10 and Ben was unfortunately the worst with only 6/10. 

This time we're all in agreement that Armenia, Belgium Poland, Slovenia, Georgia and Austria will probably qualify. And we are also in agreement that Romania, Iceland and San Marino most likely won't.