Uncharacteristically this year, the London Eurovision Party came before its Amsterdam counterpart. Among the acts, we got to compare the leading four in the outright market. You can take a look at the performances for yourselves thanks to excellent video coverage on the esckaz YouTube channel.
The following review comes with the usual caveats. A small gig to a bunch of fans on a tiny stage is not necessarily any indicator of performance in very different conditions come Kiev in May. There were occasional sound issues too. Bearing that in mind, here’s my review of how they fared last night.
Let’s start with those that impressed the most. Hot favourite Francesco Gabbani brought the house down with his rendition of ‘Occidentali’s Karma’. Watching the charismatic Italian wow the crowd was a reminder of just how difficult it’s going to be for the opposition.
Still, Bulgarian Kristian Kostov has a mature head on young shoulders, emoting and occasionally ad-libbing very effectively on ‘Beautiful Mess’, despite a backing track that was often too high in the mix. I think he’s one of the main challengers to the market leader.
Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson is very diffident and shy on stage, which has its own charm – there was certainly nothing wrong with his performance. The genius of the Melodifestivalen staging of ‘I Can’t Go On’, is to make him look breezily confident when he’s probably more comfortable with the worthier ‘Constellation Prize’, his effort last year.
Outside the top three in the betting, plaudits must go to Romania’s Ilinca and Alex Florea, who showed great energy on stage for ‘Yodel It’, getting one of the best receptions of the night. Another huge round of applause hailed France’s Alma after ‘Requiem’. She’s growing in confidence with each live performance.
The UK’s Lucie Jones showed all her West End experience in an excellent rendition of ‘I Will Never Give Up On You’. I was also impressed by Norway’s JOWST with ‘Grab The Moment’, which was sung with ease and charisma. Another of the best performers was Montenegro’s Slavko Kalezic. You’d have to hope with his acting experience, he’ll work the cameras in Kiev as well as he worked the room last night for ‘Space’.
Let’s move onto those who felt like they fell short last night. Any list should start with Belgium’s Blanche, who performed ‘City Lights’ like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Her nerves spilled over into the vocal at times, and it was no surprise to see her Betfair odds drift. Still, she has time to work on her stagecraft before and during rehearsals in Kiev.
FYROM’s Jana Burceska gets low marks for miming throughout her performance. To ‘Dance Alone’ was all she managed, and she didn’t even do that very well. Meanwhile, this year’s Spanish song remains my idea of the toilet break on Grand Final night. Manel Navarro didn’t really hold the room for ‘Do It For Your Lover’.
The other performers can all be filed under “perfectly adequate”. Towards the top of that pile should go the Teutonic pairing of Germany’s Levina and Austria’s Nathan Trent, who both charmed the room to some degree with their respective sets.
Denmark’s Anja Nissen divides opinion with ‘Where I Am’, and I’m somewhere in the middle on a package which is slick if generic. Meanwhile, Finland’s Norma John gave a decent enough performance of ‘Black Bird’, and the highlight for me is still the middle eight.
My opinion didn’t really change on Latvia’s ‘Line’. Triana Park brought some excellent energy to the stage but I still feel that the vocals could be tighter. Ukraine’s O.Torvald managed both a suitably rock attitude and a secure performance of ‘Time’.
A gig full of drinking Eurovision fans isn’t the best place for the heartfelt ballads showcased by the likes of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Malta. There was nothing wrong with the vocals for any of them. The question is whether these songs can hold enough interest for qualification.
Next weekend brings us the even-larger Amsterdam gig, which will see many of last night’s acts reappear, alongside 13 more we didn’t see. A review of that will follow next week. In the meantime, let us know your continued thoughts below.