I love the London Eurovision Party: it’s settled nicely into a better venue, the after-party disco is in the same place, and I can catch the bus home. But it does have less of an impact on my opinions than the Amsterdam concert (and as my disclaimer to that mentioned, I’m wary of reading too much into any of these events).
There are a few reasons for this: we usually get about half the number of entrants in London that performed in Amsterdam – and most of them appeared a week earlier in the Netherlands; those acts are trying to work a postage-stamp stage much smaller than the Dutch one; and the whole shindig is more informal, without Amsterdam’s tightly-efficient focus on this year’s entries.
The smaller stage didn’t really suit Sweden’s Mans Zelmerlow as much – his usual routine for ‘Heroes’ sees him work a bigger space like a trooper. But he endeared himself to the crowd by singing his previous Melodifestivalen entries. As in Amsterdam, I was reminded how well the chorus goes down, with its patient build-up and sing-along “whoa-whoa-whoooooa” finish. It doesn’t seem weak to me at all, contrary to opinions I sometimes see expressed in various forums.
The small stage did less to hamper Australia’s Guy Sebastian, who showcased his virtuoso vocals with ‘Battle Scars’ and ‘Like A Drum’ before the crowd got behind another excellent rendition of ‘Tonight Again’. His abilities lift what is already a highly professional number in its live performance – for example, the “do whatcha want” part no longer feels like the song’s weakest link.
This time the pimp slot was given to Norway’s Morland and Debrah Scarlett, who took full advantage of the alcohol-fuelled goodwill of the crowd with their excellent cover of ‘Fairytale’. They followed it up with a strong performance of ‘A Monster Like Me’, which may have been partly responsible for a drop in their odds on Betfair over the last 24 hours. I hope the song is given full justice on stage in Vienna.
The UK’s Electro Velvet gave us the same routine we had witnessed in Amsterdam. They were bolstered by news that ‘Still in Love With You’ had hit number one in the UK physical sales chart last night, but I still think any chance of a respectable placing in Vienna is dependent on some inspired staging.
Also of particular interest were the three acts not seen in Amsterdam: the Czech Republic, Malta and Switzerland. All three showed strong vocals, the Czech pair especially. Marta and Vaclav looked like they had been making the most of the bar, but they didn’t let that affect their powerful performance of ‘Hope Never Dies’. I do wish the song was more dynamic for the sake of both them and their country, with its hopeless Eurovision record.
Malta’s Amber sounded better here than she did in the national final. The revamp of ‘Warrior’ seems to suit her, and the Maltese usually find a way of performing more strongly in the semi-final than their song would suggest. Switzerland’s Melanie Rene impressed me far more when winning the selection, and she was solid again last night. I wish ‘Time To Shine’ was more melodic – especially given that it comes straight after Sweden in the second heat.
After she had impressed in Amsterdam, we got carbon-copy decent vocals from Greece’s Maria Elena for ‘One Last Breath’. She went on to please the crowd with a rendition of ‘My Number One’. Hey Cypriot countryman John Karayannis also charmed the audience with his interpretation of ‘Cliche Love Song’ before later giving another touching performance of ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’.
I’ve not been a huge fan of Ann Sophie’s ‘Black Smoke’ up till now, but her expressive presence and the song’s competence is starting to grow on me. She held her own last night, as did Latvia’s Aminata, who is such an engaging performer. There are some really powerful moments in ‘Love Injected’, although it’s also a little inconsistent – with parts such as the climax feeling like a slight disappointment after what’s come before.
I don’t really have anything to add to my Amsterdam comments for Moldova’s Eduard Romanyuta, Austria’s The Makemakes, Montenegro’s Knez and Hungary’s Boggie, whose vocals were as good as before. But someone who didn’t look as happy this time was Albania’s Elhaida Dani. She ruefully decided not to go for the big note towards the end of ‘I’m Alive’, and it wasn’t the only time she didn’t look comfortable. Perhaps the touring has taken it out of her.
Please continue to debate and discuss below the build-up to this year’s contest. It’s now just a fortnight till rehearsals begin.