The London Eurovision Party is a more informal affair than its Amsterdam counterpart. The usual caveat about not reading too much into fan events definitely applies here: the stage is tiny, and the backing track was often too high in the sound mix. Nonetheless, the organisers did a good job in mixing spontaneity with efficiency, and a good time was had by all. Go to the esckaz playlist to watch for yourself.
The first to perform was one of those we didn’t see in Amsterdam: Ireland’s Nicky Byrne. We didn’t learn too much from his rendition of ‘Sunlight’ that we didn’t know before. He doesn’t have the strongest voice, but a bigger problem may be the number of slightly generic, radio-friendly pop songs of this ilk up against him.
The other newbie to the fan event circuit was Sweden’s Frans. He showed calm and confidence beyond his 17 years, enjoying his rendition of ‘If I Were Sorry’. This won’t have changed any of the most polarised opinions on this entry: easily the most contemporary and relevant of this year’s acts; or a petulant teenager moaning about his ex throughout his Eurovision three minutes?
As in Amsterdam, the best reception was reserved for the Austrian and French performers. The hero’s welcome accorded to Zoe for ‘Loin D’Ici’ was enough for an impromptu encore once she’d wiped a few tears away. Meanwhile, Amir has grown in confidence with the love he’s been getting for ‘J’ai Cherche’ at these events. I’ve not been on the right side of the gamble on France, but he has charm aplenty, and in an open year, it’s best to approach the most important period of all – rehearsals – with an open mind.
One that grew on me most last night was Italy’s Francesca Michielin, who was wonderfully expressive for ‘No Degree of Separation’. I’ve previously said she might make use of the piano on stage, but her armography only added to the performance, and she should stick with that. Croatia’s Nina Kraljic also tries to emote with her arms, but is not so successful. Perhaps because part of it involves showing off an unflattering dress. Vocally, ‘Lighthouse’ is a tricky beast that she can mostly handle, but overall it’s feeling like a long three minutes at the moment.
Another one who could do with changing the way they are connecting with the audience is Albania’s Eneda Tarifa, who looks like a woman scorned as she sings lines like, “And that’s why I love you.” In ‘Fairytale’ she doesn’t have much of a song to work with. It wasn’t a great performance from Cyprus’s Minus One last night either. Lead singer Francois fluffed the opening and then struggled against a backing track that drowned him out. I don’t expect so many problems in Stockholm.
Apart from Italy, my standout performer last night was Bulgaria’s Poli Genova, who combines great energy with strong vocals for ‘If Love Was A Crime’. This is one of the first rehearsals I’ll be most eagerly awaiting in Stockholm. Latvia’s Justs was vocally sound again, although he obviously prefers to be at full throttle which he gets to at the first chorus onwards of ‘Heartbeat’. There wasn’t the space to move around the stage last night as he did in Amsterdam, and I think there needs to be a reasonable amount of movement in Stockholm.
The homecoming UK pair, Joe and Jake, were having the time of their lives. ‘You’re Not Alone’ comes across as a perfectly good song in this kind of environment, but the fear remains that it will get lost on the night of the final. Poland’s Michal Szpak has excellent vocals, but I can’t help but be disappointed that they’re deployed towards something so dated as ‘Color Of Your Life’.
The other performers, including Romania, Montenegro, FYROM, Malta and Spain, put in largely facsimile performances from the Amsterdam show. Which leaves us for two more weeks of thinking out loud before rehearsals begin. Do continue to give your thoughts below.