Eurovision In Concert 2013 Review

Eurovision In Concert was a blast. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get to see more readers who were also present. Coming in at 6ft2, I assumed I would have no trouble looking out for people, but I forgot this is the Netherlands, otherwise known as the LAND OF GIANTS. Seriously, if you’re under six foot in this country and like gigs, how do you manage?

As for the 25 acts, one shouldn’t get too carried away by performances to a group of fanboys in a small venue. Given the constant chatter, upbeat numbers have an obvious advantage, and the audience had their predetermined favourites. With so many to sort from I’m going to divide the acts into their semis and deal at the end with the two automatic qualifiers who performed last night.

A word of thanks is also required to those brilliant guys at All the links in this article use their video footage. Please go take a look at the site and follow it: there’s nowhere better for breaking news about Eurovision.

Semi 1 Participants

We were missing Denmark and Netherlands, but big shots Russia and Ukraine were here. Dina Garipova was more impressive than when dialling it in at a Belgian TV studio earlier in the week. The danger here is a vanilla song and vanilla delivery may not capture hearts or minds, but Dina is a strong vocalist for ‘What If’.

Ukraine’s Zlata Ognevich was also the consummate professional, looking and sounding great for her rendition of ‘Gravity’. It will be fascinating to see the stage show for this in Malmo.

The Moje 3 ladies from Serbia displayed vocals that were stronger than we heard at their national final. I don’t think they will have any trouble qualifying on this evidence. I was hoping that Austria‘s Natalia Kelly would show similar improvement from her national final but she still needs to be better on the big notes towards the end of ‘Shine’.

Alyona Lanskaya from Belarus provided a repeat of her Romanian TV performance – she was adequate enough for a song like ‘Solayoh’ though a little hoarse on a few notes. I pray the backing dancers ditch the panelled white tops which look terribly cheap.

There was a nice Riverdance moment at the beginning of Ireland’s ‘Only Love Survives’. Ryan Dolan has a job on to convince me that he can carry this song live, but he sure went down well with last night’s crowd.

As did Lithuania’s Andrius Pojavis who played nicely to the audience for ‘Something’. His vocal had more power in it than I had feared but the problem remains that he is too diffident on stage. The song needs a performance that grabs it by the scruff of the neck. All it gets at present is a tickle.

Belgium’s Roberto Bellarossa looked like he may have a similar issue when initially presenting ‘Love Kills’ on Belgian TV, but he showed a decent amount of emotion on stage last night, especially for the final third of ‘Love Kills’. His vocals were perfectly good, although I’m still not a fan of his English pronunciation.

Hannah Mancini is to singing what Merlene Ottey is to running: they both moved to Slovenia in order to compete on the international stage. A conundrum for punters is that she has more about her vocally than most of the upbeat numbers that follow her in this semi. The question is whether the draw and ‘Straight Into Love’ as a song are still too much of a hindrance.

Directly following her on May 14 are the Croatian Klapa boys, who clearly have no problem with their vocals, although this wasn’t the most conducive environment for ‘Mizerja’. The same could be said for Estonia’s Birgit Oigemeel who has a really lovely voice.

Finally, I think that Moldova’s Aliona Moon is more comfortable singing ‘O Mie’ in Romanian based on this evidence and she’s right in the hunt for qualification.

Semi 2 Participants

Whilst lacking a showing from semi-final favourites Norway, we did get to see second favourites Georgia perform ‘Waterfall’ live for the first time. The impression was generally very good with the pair looking less like newsreaders who’d wandered into the wrong studio than they had at their initial breakfast-time song presentation.

Nodi, possibly a housewives’ favourite in the making, was particularly relaxed and in good voice. He and Sophie nailed the big note and his modulating was effective in its aftermath. This remains one to watch.

Given their upbeat nature, it was no surprise to see the Greek and Finnish songs go down a storm (‘Alcohol Is Free’ got two bites of the cherry after a problem with the backing tape first time around). These are both very professionally performed. Krista Siegfrids and her bridesmaids in particular have got their staging down to a T. Whether to keep the final same-sex kiss that wowed the crowd last night is the only question.

San Marino’s Valentina Monetta was another to get a predictably big reaction. It’s clear that the first two minutes of ‘Crisalide’ suits her style far more than ‘The Social Network Song’ did last year. Romania’s Cezar was another big crowd-pleaser, and was vocally better than I had previously given him credit for. This is one I can’t rule out of qualification, despite my best attempts to.

One problem for Albania is that singer Adrian Lulgjuraj looks and sounds the part far more than guitar player Bledar Sejko for the rocky ‘Identitet’. Both were commendably animated on stage last night, as was Malta’s Gianluca Bezzina who has no vocal problems for the easy listening ‘Tomorrow’.

Bulgaria’s Elitsa was without Stoyan but accompanied instead by a skinny-jeaned bagpipe player. She can sound rather shrill in parts, but clearly relishes performing. ‘Samo Shampioni’ is going to be more about the stage show in Malmo and last night told us little. There was also little new that we learnt about Israel‘s Moran Mazor, who put in a decent vocal performance reminiscent of the one from the national final.

I’m still not convinced that the vocals are strong enough for Switzerland’s Takasa, and their show felt lacking despite the singalong nature of ‘You and Me’. If there was a car crash last night, however, it came from Macedonia’s Esma and Vlatko Lozanovski. Both singers were at complete odds with each other and it felt like they were indulging in two competing songs and performances. This needs major work if it’s to stand any chance of qualifying.

Automatic Qualifiers

The performers from France and Italy injected a touch of class to proceedings. On this evidence both should be getting plenty of jury love in Malmo. Amandine Bourgeois’ live rendition of ‘L’Enfer et Moi’ really lifts the song and the brooding intensity she brings to it will be her USP in May.

But taking a lead from the organisers, I’ve left the best till last. I’d rather dismissed ‘L’essenziale’ as a standard Italian ballad, but it’s something more in the hands of Marco Mengoni who was outstanding last night. His controlled yet quirky performance had me reconsidering its potential in Malmo.

Were you at the event or have you watched the video footage? Either way, let us know your thoughts below.

31 comments to Eurovision In Concert 2013 Review

  • Sasha

    Georgia were phenomenal!

  • Justin

    Daniel thanks for posting this and the links to the performances are invaluable for those of us who didn’t make it to Amsterdam.

    From the video footage my comments are:

    Very happy to hear that you are coming round to the idea of Marco Mengoni. I really do think he is the class act and ooozes charisma. Match bet with Bonnie Tyler on Bwin is tempting.

    Every time I watch the Greek entry I become more and more convinced that these guys are going to go very close to topping the televote in the final. It appears to be hugely entertaining, memorable and well delivered. Like with the Grannies and Zdob si Zdub I dont see the juries being overly harsh for what is arguably the most entertaining 3 minutes of Eurovision this year particularly with so many female ballads around.

    Switzerland is coming across as very bland and forgettable and if your ethno-pop theory is correct Belarus is going to struggle in the final if it makes it that far – for me its not coming across effectively as yet.

  • eurovicious

    I didn’t notice the height thing last year but that’s cos I was standing on a ledge at one side so had a clear view anyway. Glad you had a good time – just watched the videos. Random thoughts:

    – Macedonia and Switzerland are doomed
    – …as is San Marino. Monetta is a mid-rate local performer who’s suddenly been elevated to the European stage. She doesn’t have the skill to perform the song in a buyable, non-cringy way. This entry is fanwank extraordinaire. NQ.
    – Russia, Ukraine and Israel stand out vocally less than I expected
    – Greece is tons of fun and looks like top 10. Italy superbly performed and also looks like top 10
    – Elitsa was great, Bulgaria through
    – Malta very well performed and looks like a qualifier, very charismatic and he’s visibly really enjoying himself…
    – …unlike Cezar’s series of pained expressions. He looks like he’s been made to perform at gunpoint and as a result has soiled himself during one of the register changes. Smile, you’re on television!
    – Really good vocals from Moje 3 and they look and perform better than they did in Beosong
    – I’ve defended Belgium before, but his vocals didn’t do it for me, at least in the video. Ditto Ireland. Belarus does what it does, but I think it’s an NQ.
    – Natalia Kelly and Birgit impressed. Both songs probably still to beige to qualify though. Aliona good too and in with more of a chance.
    – Andrius Pojavis shaking his bum at the gays. “Lol”.

  • Shai

    my thoughts:

    – Switzerland-lead singers not singing in harmony.voices don’t match and that old man is nothing but a gimmick.

    – Belgium – Don’t like the song, but his rendition was better than expected and sounded better than de single version.He actually sells the song very well.

    Georgia – No chemistry between the 2 singers. Well built song, but the lack of chemistry will kill their chances.

    Lithuania – No charisma at all, in a song that need just that.

    Finland – kitsch and over the top, to the point it can go very wrong. A car crash, just waiting to happen.

    Malta & Slovenia – I put them together to make point. Malta is engaging and charming and while it’s not a sing along song, everybody were singing along. Slovenia, on the other hand, is suppose to be a dance song, that should take the roof down,It’s not. the audience reaction was a bit numb for this one.

    Israel- vocally good, but I see a styling problem here.Big cleavage and a bit of a very present ass, make her a nightmare for the one who need to design her dress.

    Greece – On the verge of being a novelty, but it is contagious. Greece don’t want to win, but it may do that with this song.

    Ireland – The dancer do the work for the song, because Ryan’s performance is very static.

    Romania – I had ears pain during this one. The song doesn’t suit his voice.It sounds that he is trying too hard and not really succeeding.

    • Personally I must say I find Ireland’s dancers’ choreography to be completely unfitting to the song. At least they had skipped the painted tribals on their arms this time 🙂

  • Haven’t watched all videos yet, just the ones of particular interest to me, but:

    Like Justin, I’m very happy you’re becoming more positive regarding Italy’s chances – imo there’s nothing more reliable than an opinion that has gone through a re-assessment. I’ve been slightly worried I was biased in my judgement, as it’s my personal favorite this year (and the only one really I listen to just for pleasure). And my judgement is this: what songs will realistically beat it with the juries? i can’t find many to be honest, and would assume Italy is a top4 there – and my favorite to win the jury vote overall (Denmark included). As you’ve rightly touched upon, televote is a whole different matter. But I’m still not giving up on this song for top4/5 market – and am I out of my mind when I say that a very late draw combined with an early Denmark draw could plant the seeds to a huge upset win?

    As for Bugaria, I’ve been building up a pretty big position with various bookmakers on its qualification. I was a bit worried after reading your short assessment here, but must say I was pleasantly surprised: although the stage show will no doubt be completely different at Eurovision, they displayed a playfulness that I think will make the song stick out in a semi full of slow ballads. In all, I’m comfortable with my position still, but also eager of course to see the final staging.

    Thanks for this report, Daniel!

  • RL

    Wasn’t Anouk in Amsterdam?

  • Boki

    Didn’t have time to look to the video but I have off-topic question: how many of you guys have heard of Cleveland Watkiss? I didn’t to be honest, is he well known or not ?
    Will he be just another ” Zlata’s unknown black backing vocal” for majority of audience or something more?

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, it turns out Cleveland Watkiss was one of Zlata’s backing singers at the Ukrainian national final, and some quick googling suggests he’s the older of the two black male backing singers (bearing in mind this isn’t the Eurovision version of the song):

      • Boki

        So it seems that Ukraine can’t gain much having this “famous” guy as a backing vocalist, on the contrary. Some people think that the racist parts of Europe didn’t support Gaitana because of her skin and I tend to agree to some point. It remains to be seen who will be the mysterious 6th person, I joked it will be David Copperfield’s apprentice but as time passes I believe it more and more 🙂

        • eurovicious

          It goes without saying that famous backing people don’t interest 99.9% of viewers in the slightest. Armenia had Djivan Gasparyan on duduk in 2010 and no-one gave a toss.

          Yes, given Ukraine’s track record, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Zlata ascend skywards two minutes into the song and spend the final minute flying around the arena firing butterflies out of her nether regions.

          • Boki

            zlata_ognevich to be joined on stage by a “warrior” guiding her through a “magic forest”. Details on that later today (source esckaz)

        • Agree that “famous” backers don’t matter (anyone remember Dita von Teese?), but I also don’t think skin color matters that much. It seems it’s often used as an explanation when a certain entry fails, but is forgotten in cases of success (Jessy Matador’s outperformed all televote expectations – was that then due to or despite him being black?).

          • Boki

            My skin theory is a little different than usual but have never tried to formulate it, would be something like this: skin color should be in line with your country of origin. So Jessy from France or Jade Ewen from UK seems correct since we all know there are lot of black people in those countries. Norway and Ukraine make me think about blonde white people so Stella and Gaitana do not fit, something seems wrong there and that could partially explain televote fail.

          • trollgirl

            Famous backing can help I think. It just depends how famous… Just think of Plushenko and Edvin Marton. It surely helped Dima Bilan. I didnt watch the competition that year, but I find him the most useless winner of the last decade at least (but then again as I didnt watch that year I have no idea who he was up against), so I would think having that kind of backing surely helped him capture votes. Also, although Jade Ewen was a sight for eyes, her song was a very B side west end musical number. She still managed 5th, outstanding result for the UK. Having Andrew Lloyd Webber as a backer and onstage- I think that surely helped stand out.

          • trollgirl

            And agreeing with Boki with the skin color theory.

          • Very interesting theory Boki, and makes some sense. But I’d still argue that just as Norway is associated with blonde girls, UK would mainly be associated with red-haired, slightly pale people (no offense to anyone here). Might be that the acceptance of minorities is slightly different, but I’m personally still having problems seeing it as a factor of relevant impact.

          • eurovicious

            I agree with squall. If you look at this list of black singers in Eurovision (which only goes up to 2010), you can explain every song’s success or failure in terms of its quality, relevance and the performance:


            Looking at 2011 and 2012, Haba Haba was in the televote top 10 in its semi (its chances were killed by the jury), Blue got a tremendous televote despite (shock horror) there being A Black One (TM), and although Loreen’s ethnicity wasn’t apparent last year, her dancer’s certainly was, and it certainly didn’t do her any harm. Gaytana won the televote against a lot of good competition in Ukraine last year despite having a desperate song.

            Moreover, I’d argue there’s much more Islamophobia in Europe (all parts) than anti-black racism, yet the few Eurovision countries with majority or significant Muslim populations (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Albania and Bosnia) have certainly never suffered with televotes or juries. OK, three of those have large diasporas, but Azerbaijan hardly has any diaspora and has consistently done brilliantly – even last year, with yer man on a cushion wailing mugham behind Sabina. If anything, middle-eastern sounds are actually a big plus now, unless inauthentic in the case of Malta 2007 or UK 2005.

            The British press is all-too-eager to slap the “racist” label on Eastern Europe (itself a form of racism) – I remember this happening particularly after the UK finished last in 2008. Andy Abraham didn’t bomb cos he was black, he bombed for much the same reasons Engelbert did – an irrelevant, forgettable song effortlessly outclassed by the competition in a very strong year, combined with an early draw.

            A lot of ordinary people in Eastern Europe have never seen a black person in real life (because, ahem, the countries of what we now call Eastern Europe weren’t involved in the transatlantic slave trade and didn’t partake in colonialism or the Scramble for Africa, unlike the Western European nations), but this lack of direct contact with non-white people doesn’t imply any racism. (Though obviously some people are racist, just like anywhere else.) But it’s 20+ years since the borders opened, and people in Eastern Europe are used to watching dubbed American series with black characters and seeing music videos with black people in. African-American guest rappers appear not infrequently on pop videos in places like Macedonia (Skopje is the hiphop capital of the Balkans) and the Czech Republic. When Dina Garipova won The Voice, her celebrity duet was with a black Russian singer. One of the main hosts on the Czech Republic’s main music video channel is a black Czech woman. Slovenia has a black mayor and Poland a black MP despite a miniscule black population. Need I go on? Countries with larger black populations are actually more racist – you just have to look at the social situation in France to see that.

            Final point: people’s personal prejudices don’t necessarily translate to the world of entertainment. People in otherwise heteronormative homophobic societies love nothing more than screamingly camp light entertainment – look at Liberace’s huge popularity with middle America, Larry Grayson, John Inman and countless camp-as-Butlin’s light entertainment stalwarts in the UK, and the fact that in supposedly homophobic Serbia (the capital of which is plastered with anti-gay posters) and Bulgaria, mainstream pop music is ten times queerer than you could ever get away with in Western countries (exhibits A and B: Croatians listen to Ceca despite her having been married to Arkan, and Nina Badric can fill an arena in Belgrade. Similarly, I suspect that people who might be racist or anti-Muslim in real life would still tap their feet along to Allez Ola Ole or Düm Tek Tek. Why? Extending your prejudices to your entertainment consumption is simply too much effort for most people. You’ve got to be a *dedicated* racist.

            I’ve given this argument house room in the past, but after Dave Benton, Jade and Loreen – all in the televote era – plus Imaani, Joelle Ursull and Ruth Jacott in the 90s, I think we can put it to bed. Also, Eastern Europe loves Michael Jackson just as much as the rest of the world does, so that pretty much undermines the whole argument.

  • Daniel

    Something I forgot to point out in the article is that unlike in the national final, Cezar returns to the lower register in the second verse of ‘It’s My Life’. That’s a definite improvement. It feels more like the falsetto is showing off his range rather than he’s accidentally taken a big gulp of helium 30 seconds in.

    No idea why Anouk wasn’t there, RL. Perhaps she felt she didn’t need to do the promotion to a largely Dutch audience? Never heard of Cleveland Watkiss, Boki, but then I don’t follow the jazz world at all.

  • dicksbits

    I was in Amsterdam and was left under no illusion that Greece will perform well in the contest, and at current odds of 10/1 to win semi final 2, an e/w bet looks inviting. Malta too was infectious. 100/1 seems hugely undervalued. I would expect him to be coming in at 33/1 or 40/1. However as I cannot see Malta coming top 4 on the big night, i cannot see any further betting value. Can anyone else?

  • Montell

    Ireland does not impress me. I think it’s a cheap and weakly performed song that will go down with the jury. Ireland has a few friends here but I don’t see it coming high with the televoters either. If they don’t have some eye blowing performance I think are very probable nonqualifiers. Laying odds 2.7 IMO is a value bet at the moment. Does anyone agree?

    • eurovicious

      I agree up to a point, yes, in that the performance lets it down and it may not be attractive to juries. Remember though that it’s in the shorter semi, is very contemporary and has a late draw. 2.7 is value but don’t put too much on.

    • Boki

      If I may add, the chorus of this song is the weakest part and that’s very visible in the recap. I caught some 3.25 lay but will decide what to do next based on the rehearsal.

  • Igor

    Nobody said nothing about Croatia…opinions would be very useful…

  • Daniel

    Hi Igor, and welcome to Sofabet. Croatia’s performance was OK. It passed most people by purely because it’s the kind of song and performance that isn’t suited to an alcohol-fuelled crowd of Eurovision fans enjoying a Saturday night concert.

  • Donald

    Hi all, playing catch up, lots to take in here, another hot favourite! very short price, not convinced at all… That is a great analogy about the news readers in the wrong studio 🙂

    And new voting..

    This going to be interesting… starting point for me lay Denmark! I wouldn’t lay Sweden last year but this Denmark has to be laid at the price now.

  • sonovox

    Daniel – I’d be keen to read any more extended thoughts about that French performance. My fears that Amandine might be all pout are gone: the vocal is secure, the physicality of the performance seems compelling, that third minute looks set to be memorable, if not incendiary. But I do wonder how angry is too angry for some televote demographics – especially for a non-English (i.e. harder to understand) song. That in turn is making me wonder whether there’s a natural ceiling for songs that are very suggestive of (real) conflict. Does Amandine need to tone it down, or is her only hope of standing out to vamp it up even further?

    Anyhow, I personally think it’s a quality song – wasn’t sure about that video clip, but this rawer live presentation fits the bill much better. I wonder if this could squeak a top 10 aided by charisma, or if as many people will be put off as will like it. Probably won’t be touching it in the markets myself.

    • Daniel

      Hi sonovox, I can only echo everything that you’ve said. As a song it has been slightly underrated, and Amandine’s live performance really lifts it based on what we’ve seen on a French TV clip and in Amsterdam.

      I don’t doubt that juries are going to be generous. I just wonder how much traction it will get with televoters, especially as it needs some with the new system.

      ‘L’Enfer et Moi’ does have the advantage of being the only thing of its kind, so a late draw could see it go places. However, its top ten odds are lower than I would have hoped for something that has largely flown under the radar up till now.

  • Hercc

    I have news for eurovicious:
    Azerbaijan seems not to have a diaspora, but you shouldn’t forget, that Azerbaijans are Turks, too! I was in Istanbul while ESC 2010, and the Turks voted für Azerbaijan. That might also explain, why they won (as Turkey didn’t make it to the final)…

    • eurovicious

      Hi Hercc, thanks for the comment 🙂 I’m well aware that Azeris are Turkic and that the languages are mutually intelligible, but I refer you to Daniel’s piece on “Hold Me”, where he writes: “One setback is the withdrawal of Turkey from this year’s contest, which means the loss of a guaranteed 12 points given how close the two countries are. The argument that Turks around Europe will throw their support behind Azerbaijan instead was not upheld by the voting patterns of the 2011 final for which Tukey failed to qualify.” I agree with this – Turkey giving Azerbaijan 12 is a no-brainer but I wouldn’t expect diaspora Turks to do the same.

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