London Eurovision Party 2017 Review

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.

66 comments to London Eurovision Party 2017 Review

  • I’d worry most for someone like Jana, I understand singers like Blanche didn’t have there greatest live performance but that’s what this is all about. Not only are these artist’s performing for the fan’s but the key to all this is they are getting a dip into the ESC experience and getting artistic training, its all trial and error, Blanche for example didn’t have a brilliant performance but now she know’s what to fix and by the time rehearsal’s happen she will be all ready and set to go. Jana on the other hand made very little effort on stage and while it all looks good she is really missing the big picture of all this, this years fan flop is looking more and more obvious unless she improves and if she doesn’t Serbia might not be the only Ex-Yugoslav country finishing higher than her in the semi…

    • Why did Blanche learn what to do and Jana didn’t? How can Blanche improve, will she go nuts and dance her heart out on the stage? She does not ooze charisma, nor she has the diction or the appearance to sell this song.

  • Elainovision

    Since I was right by the stage, I could hear Jana sing and was quite confused afterwards by the claims she was miming, although I did note she wasn’t exactly using the karaoke version of her track.

    I guess she got drowned out by her playback…which is its own kind of problem.

  • Hippo

    Jana takes the microphone away several times and there’s no change in the volume of her vocal at all. It’s concerning she avoided doing much live vocally.
    On the whole Belgium wasn’t as bad as is being made out by some. Only the vocal matters at this point for this entry and she did ok with that. Once rtbf get their hands on it and have a full stage to work on it will inevitably improve. It’s an entry that needs a strong visual concept, but we’ve known that all along so the drift is a little harsh.

  • I watched the replay of the escXtra live stream of the event tonight, with the sound feed. That made it clear to me that Alma wasn’t live either, it turns out.

  • The main benefit of these gigs for the artists is to practice and to get fans on their side so that’s a big fail for 2 of my favourites. The Macedonia London Youtubes have more dislikes than likes on both the ESCKAZ and the Wiwiblogs videos. (Alma at least was a better faker).

  • We need to be careful of these fakers. Apparently Juri from Estonia was miming in Amsterdam last year, which explains why he was so solid at that particular show but then ended up finishing last in the semi.

  • Chris Bellis

    Dead right Tim. I have a relative who plays lead guitar in a famous heavy metal band, known for its theatrical performances. So much of the sound is processed and pre-recorded that they would never be able to reproduce it in a Eurovision context. At the other end of the scale I have a friend who is a singer in a duo that does very small venues. She sings live, but the other half uses minidiscs both for his singing and keyboard. In the real world very few people notice or even care, provided the show is entertaining. Eurovision is a much more testing arena. Year after year performers are tested on their live vocals and the favourites can fall at the first fence.

    • Oh my! I’m really into my rock and metal…Any chance you can give me a clue about the band you’re referring to?

      • Chris Bellis

        They’ll kill me if I name them on any forum like this, but I’ll give a couple of clues. From Birmingham area, real veterans, and some would say they invented true metal. Not so big here, but massive in USA and Japan. Recently did a comeback tour although they don’t really need the money. They all live abroad for tax reasons. Did the best version of “Diamonds and Rust” ever. Lead singer is almost the epitome of biker gay. But they would openly admit that you couldn’t do their sound in a Eurovision context – it doesn’t mean they are “fakers”, just that you would lose all the multi-tracking and sound processing. The same applies to other icons of rock and metal. That’s what makes it so hard for rock bands on Eurovision – only one has succeeded really, and they must have worked very hard on the sound to put the heaviness over that well.

  • Hippo

    That’s mainly Greeks annoyed at the whole naming dispute thing. A lot of esc videos dislikes are down to fans from other countries just disliking the country (Fyr Macedonia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in particular).

    • Chris Bellis

      Add to that posters using the “wrong” alphabet – Cyrillic, Latin, Georgian, Greek etc. Dangerous to take some of these dislikes too seriously.

    • I agree about Azer and Armenia but are the Greek unwashed masses really that annoyed about “Macedonia”? They already successfully forced Macedonia to the indignity of prefixing their name with FYR.

  • johnkef

    The Greek-Macedonian rivalry is not like the one you mention Henry and definitely not that tensed but the name thing still hurts both parties and public opinion is still sensitive about it. The commentator of ERT back in 2007 did the mistake to mention the country as Macedonia during the contest and that was the last time that she did it. After the song she had gotten so many messages that she had to apologize live on tv.

    The majority of the public opinion is against any solution that has the name Macedonia in it. This is the reason why after 25 years and no government wants to deal with it. It will cost them a huge amount of votes. Especially in the region of Macedonia that has a poplulation of more or less 2.5 million people.

  • To be very honest, comparing Australia 2016 with Bulgaria 2017 is like comparing cars with tractors. Sorry. Dami Im’s song in the first place was build around massive, big, ‘straight in your face’ vocal belting. That really helped her securing a 1st place with the juries.

    To me, Bulgaria is far too gentle, too soft to compare it with that. If you do want to compare Bulgaria 2017 with a recent predecessor in the same field of, I get reminded of Norway 2014. Both entries were/are to me uttermost jury friendly, but really depend on a good running order to do well with televoters.
    Earlier today I typed a post in which I compared Bulgaria 2017 with previous recent TOP 5 scoring ballads. And that makes it even more clear to me that Bulgaria’s chances for TOP 10 are realistic, but at the same time its chances for TOP 5 could be too much to ask for:

    –> ALBANIA 2012:
    Unique yet not chart-worthy song. Stunning, remarkable vocals. Simple staging. No eye contact.
    –> AZERBAIJAN 2012:
    Same as Albania. Vocally stunning. Perhaps better song. OK eye contact.
    –> AZERBAIJAN 2013:
    Fairly dated Eurovision ballad. Rousing climax. Completely enhanced by A-Game in staging. OK eye contact.
    –> RUSSIA 2013:
    Another fairly dated Eurovision ballad -intro, key change, rousing climax-. Vocally superb yet notas memorable as Ukraine that year. Great staging. Good eye contact.
    –> NETHERLANDS 2014:
    The current benchmark for applying cinematic staging to a fairly simple country song. Can’t see this being done with Kristian. Good eye contact.
    –> SWEDEN 2014:
    Perhaps the least contemporary Swedish entry in recent years (ballad with key changes). But A-Game in staging. Good eye contact.
    –> RUSSIA 2015:
    A rousing Eurovision ballad, slow build-up, fantastic ‘straight in your face’ climax. Vocally superb. Very emotional performance. Good eye contact.
    –> ITALY 2015:
    Fairly dated popera stuffwith OK-staging, though not great. But totally enhanced by impressive vocals, intense camera work and tons of charisma (O’G3NE?).
    –> AUSTRALIA 2016:
    Like I mentioned before.

    –> BULGARIA 2017:
    My conclusion stands. Kristian’s charismatic performance and the emotional, gentle, pure song really lacks the “Ooomph!” to be compared with the above ‘ballads’. A-Game or not, I think we need to be a bit more realistic here and compare Bulgaria with other recent ballads that ended in the TOP 10, but were a long way removed from TOP 5 (eg. ITALY 2013, NORWAY 2014).

    If you can really confirm Geoff that Bulgaria is planning to do something with holograms, then that does change things a bit. But not much.

  • Milton

    Bulgaria from last night. Really off in places, but he has a lovely voice, I’m sure they will iron out the problems. I think the song starts well and promises much but fizzles out. It looks like they have recognised the weakness of the ending and are trying to tart it up, but its not working for me.

    • Chris Bellis

      I agree, but at this same stage last year most of us (not purplekylie iirc) were saying the same about Poli. Let’s be careful this year.

      • Milton

        Saying what specifically about Poli Chris?

        • Chris Bellis

          Iirc Milton,, that Poli didn’t hit all the right notes and the staging was a bit of a mess. My point was essentially the same as yours, that even if the criticisms were true, there’s time to get it sorted, and the Bulgarian managers were able to do that last year, as witnessed by the final performance. Some people were defending the Bulgarian entry last year and proved to be right. It’s just as dangerous to dismiss acts at this stage, as it is dangerous to pile in heavily when we’ve not heard enough live vocals.

          • Ande

            Bulgarias didn’t have top 4 staging/backing vocals last year, it was the song (top 2) and Poli’s charisma (top 5) that made it place as good as it did.

            Bulgaria mustering Russia/Azerbadjani levels of backing is unlikely and even then he won’t be near Dami levels. Even more questionable is if he will be able to convey the emotional spectrum needed to lift this song and if the staging will be up to par.

            Too many uncertaintees to warrant it’s current price.

  • Milton

    ok cheers Chris. I don’t recall any issues with Poli’s vocals, but virtually all betting commentators hated her staging. I’m sure they can sort out Kristan’s vocal issues, but it will be harder to reinvent a song that lacks an impactful ending.

    • Chris Bellis

      Milton Not to go over this ad nauseam, but I don’t blame Poli for the odd bum note early on. She’s an absolute professional and a true star. They got the sound mix all wrong and I doubt she could hear anything over the racket. Even singers with a lot of experience can be messed up in a rotten sound mix.

  • Milton

    There has been some talk of a boycott of this years contest by some countries in support of Russia if the current situation is unresolved. How likely is that and who might it involve? Belarus perhaps? Maybe Moldova? Anyone else?

    • Not likely I think. Sheer media exaggeration. Just to put more oil on this PR-fire.

      I do think however that there is a good chance that both Ukraine andRussia agre that both their contestants won’t be participating. So no Russia AND Ukraine.

    • By the way Milton. If we have to pick one or two ‘ballads’ that could/will end high this year, which ones do you choose then?

      I am then all in for Finland and United Kingdom. Both are, in the field at least, way more unique and have better USP’s than when compared to Bulgaria, Australia and Ireland I think.

      • markovs

        Why are Ireland mentioned so often? It’s one of the worst songs this year and his squeaky voice is irritating. I just cannot see it qualifying. But I agree Finland and UK stand out. I think Lucie is up there with the best singers this year and Finland is so haunting.

      • Black n Blue

        I’ve come back around to Finland. It’s haunting and beautiful and could (and really should) be able to cut through the crap. The real challenge for Finland is qualifying, because as beautiful as this song and performance is, I’m not certain it’s going to work in a competitive environment. Blackbird qualifying from the first half would be a sign that people ‘get’ this, and from there it could soar.

      • Milton

        I like Finland very much SFW, its a real touch of class and something different. It has as much chance of any of the long shots of being a springer imo. UK feels like as close as anything we have to Dani’s SOS, but falls well short. I can see the juries appreciating it so I guess it could be our best result for a few years if they deliver some outstanding staging. I think Denmark ticks a lot of boxes and could easily be a surprise top 5. Gun to head, if I had to pick the winning ballad I guess I would make Bulgaria favourite, but that doesn’t mean I rate its chances of winning the whole thing. I’d be very surprised to see any of these ballads take the crown. (Forgot to mention Australia – I think that could sink without trace, but need to hear him live and see the rehearsals to be confident.)

  • wef

    As always it’s great to read the thoughts of others on this year’s songs. As always there are a number of songs that I personally quite like that I can’t see doing particularly well (Belgium)and others that I don’t but I think will (Sweden).

    On the basis that the Top 10 will made up of a number of different types/ styles of songs I’m spent some considering which is the best of each one. Reading and listening to comments as well as my own thoughts have left me with the current thoughts that:

    Italy will win and win easily

    Of the ballads all round the UK is best (Song decent, singer probably the best in the competition, staging ?)- UK = Top 10

    Of the modern songs Macedonia- but can she actually sing? Is so Top 5 as possibility

    Mid= tempo- France- Top 10 possibly Top 5

    Now will I back my hunches early or wait for the rehearsals?

    Decisions, decisions

    • Chris Bellis

      I wouldn’t rule out Iceland. The Bjork factor could work in its favour. Personally I like it a lot. Not too much money though my friends. Just for a bit of fun.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      “Of the modern songs Macedonia- but can she actually sing? Is so Top 5 as possibility.”

      Sums up my thoughts.

      A drifter in the market but it has real potential.

      • wef

        On that topic (sort of), who’s the best singer in the contest this year? How much of a difference does having a great singer (as opposed to song) make to final position achieved?

        • Hippo

          Lindita, Jaques Houdek or O’gene imo. Incidentally I have all three as nq. There’s a lot of good singers though as always and its still subjective to an extent.

          I treat vocals more as something you can lose votes/ points on rather than win them but its really hard to say. Some songs do require a higher standard than others to do well though but vocals alone will only get you so far.

        • Ande

          It matters a lot in certain genres, ballads and “less is more approaches” are very vocally dependent.

  • markovs

    …by the way. Anyone got any idea if / when escinsight is coming back online?

    • It’s online again ;-).And I’m listening to Jjukebox Jury no# 4! By jolly….Ccroatia :-P. And Elaine about Spain: “I think Spain is getting a much harder time than it deserves!”. I wholeheartedly agree.

  • wef

    Agreed, Hippo but I wonder how many times average songs have outperformed expectations because of a great vocal? Best examples of this? Dami Im?

    • Hippo

      Yeah it’s really hard to seperate one thing from another, especially without being able to look back on the jury performance or anything. I lost all focus on Australia last year but on first listen to the studio version I had it top 5 so I’m not sure what to think about how much her performance with juries in particular was down to vocals.

      For every song that seems to have done well because of vocals, there’s another example of one that fell flat on its face.
      It’s not even a televote/ jury split thing with examples such as Sweden v Iceland 2013. It’s what makes this competition so hard to judge, there’s not that much consistency with this sort of thing.

    • Chris Bellis

      Too many to list, last year’s Russia comes to mind. If you add staging to the factorial analysis you could say almost any Swedish entry.

      • wef

        @Chris/ Hippo. Where are you on the UK this year?

        • Chris Bellis

          Hi wef. Normally I make a steady earning with Sweden Top 5 and UK bottom 5. This year, ok for Sweden, although I don’t like it, but UK will do much better than it normally does. Still in the air where though: depends on staging, sound, running order etc. Could just about creep into top ten with a fair wind, but more likely somewhere in the middle.

          • wef

            Thanks Chris/ Hippo. I agree with all your comments and before your thoughts I was worried that I was deluding myself again. I’ve had a small bet on Top 10. I can’t think of a year when a female ballad hasn’t made Top 10 so if the UK is best of this type maybe……

            For the last few years I’ve tried steadfastly to convince myself that the UK might do ok but each year Chris has said no (and been right). Maybe the worm has turned….

          • Robin to start backstage in Kyiv:

            This is ill-advised and will create another precedent.

          • Elainovision

            Agreed, EV – for one thing, future contests will now need to regard the potential of backstage essentially now being part of the stage.

            Plus, I certainly couldn’t see them allowing Moldova or Montenegro to do this if they’d been the ones asking for it.

        • Hippo

          Agree with Chris here. I have it knocking on the door of the top 10 at the moment but it is one that can climb a lot higher if they do a good job with it. I’ve had it green in the outright for a while as it could be a mover. It’s by far the strongest female ballad and one of them always do well so it might surprise. Wish the Bbc would release voting stats so we could see how well it did with the public as they’re more of a worry.

        • James Martin

          I think you need to write the UK off with caution this year. EDF is arguably the highest profile composer we’ve had since 2009 and that will affect things. For all we know she may well do an ALW and play guitar or piano on stage.

          If there was a market for side of the scoreboard, I’d be calling left. The delegation will have to seriously fuck this up not to do well.

          • Ben Cook

            In one of the interviews Lucie mentions having seen “the drawings” of her staging, which sounds promising. She says they’re going to create something “special”.

  • Chris Bellis

    Thanks EV for posting the Svala video. I liked it a lot. I realise I’ve seen her before, singing on Icelandic TV when I was over there. She seems able to turn her hand to most forms of music so I wouldn’t write her off yet.

    • Finally some love for Iceland here. About time! I thought from the very first performance in Reykjavik that this was going to be a darkhorse. With a song like ‘Paper’ people are going to accept this 1980’s flavoured staging much more. Luckily I already betted this….

      • Chris Bellis

        I say this every year. This site is great, but each year there is a view to dislike a certain song or performance, and the following year a sort of group forgetfulness. Last year Belgium got a lot of hatred, when it actually did well for a song that was on first in the final. Iceland is getting negative vibes on the basis that the performer can and has done much better stuff. Maybe so, but I think this one has value as a bet for qualifying, at least.

        • James Martin

          Still not sure why the level of hate for WTP. It was a fantastic opener, a big disco tune to start the party.

        • markovs

          I don’t pick up on any hatred for Iceland at all. The general feeling seems to be it’s a bit ‘meh.’ Personally I think it’s a bit dull and one of the weakest of the female ballads in a year where there are a lot to choose from.

          In the same genre are UK, Azerbaijan and Armenia which I feel are all far superior. Don’t wish it Ill at all just see it as infinitely forgettable.

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