Yesterday, I took my long-suffering husband and some old pals along to Hammersmith for the recording of a BBC special to mark the 60th anniversary of Eurovision. You might say I’m a bit of a fan.
Alright, I’ve evolved into a ‘superfan’, it turns out.
From dozing off to 5-hour epic shows in the early 90s narrated by the homely Terry Wogan, to streaming every single national selection and marking scorecards on the semifinals, it’s become something of a hobby. So when the Beeb announced Graham Norton and Petra Mede were hosting a special concert, I snapped up tickets. I’d not been quick enough to sort going to Vienna for the contest proper, so this was a good consolation prize.
When we arrived we’d just missed the red carpet interviews with the inimitable Lynda Woodruff, which I’m kicking myself about now. But on the plus side, we spotted the blogging team from Wiwibloggs and some very creative outfits. Last Night at the Proms had nothing on some of the Union Jack suits, and there were deelyboppers and glittery leggings galore. Inside, everything was rainbow-coloured, with pictures of past contestants everywhere and hang on is that Scott Mills filming by the bar?
Yes, Radio 1’s favourite son and semifinal host was there, and we were mere feet away. Sadly, we were miles away from the stage itself but my word was it a thing of beauty, all rainbows, glitter and hearts. The crowd- over 4000 of them- were absolutely mental. I haven’t seen this many people go wild since Scotland scored a try at the Commonwealth Games rugby match. I’m not sure my ears will recover from the reception given to Bobbysocks, Johnny Logan and the amazing Conchita Wurst.
A few little niggles did trouble me, mind, so I’ll get them out of the way. First, the sound wasn’t that great in places. I could hardly hear Dana International’s vocals, and the noisy crowd didn’t help. Second, the warmup guy definitely misfired with jokes about female body hair and shouting ‘TITS AND TEETH’ at some poor Russian girls at the front. Speaking of which, when Graham announced Dima Bilan was performing there was a deafening boo from the audience, resulting in Graham and Petra chastising everyone and having to film audience applause later, presumably to replace the jeering for the broadcast.
Here’s the thing. Current affairs and block voting allegations aside, Eurovision isn’t about politics. This is why you see things like Armenia having to change their song name, or Georgia being disqualified altogether for their overly-spiky offering. Them’s the rules. I was upset when the Tolmachevy Twins were booed last year, because they’re not Putin, and they’re there for a contest supposed to unite Europe, not divide it. Honestly, do the same people boo their Modern Languages departments at university because they offer Russian? Or interrupt concerts because the performers are Israeli? (Oh. They do.) No, I’m not having any of this. Performers are not politicians. Bad fandom, no biscuit.
Anyway, the acts. Fifteen of them, no less, with plenty of highlights through the years on the big screen to distract us from the awkward long pauses that come with TV recordings. There was also a surprise interview with Lys Assia, the first ever winner back in 1955, and still glamorous at 91. She looked a bit unimpressed at the cheap throne and crown props foisted upon her by Graham. That and having to do bits of her spiel three times because of tech fail. Oh well. So, who did we see?
– Electro Velvet, the UK’s offering, were ushered in as a bonus first act, not to be screened on the TV show. The lady next to me hadn’t heard it, but she was soon waving her flag around to the retro beat. The staging was good, the lady can really sing, but I can’t help but feel that it’s been ruined by the fandom pointing out it sounds like the Bird’s Eye Potato Waffles advert. D’oh.
– Emmelie de Forest kicked off in a whirl of dry ice, flautists and topless men banging drums. Definitely my favourite Scandi manic pixie dream girl.
– Anne-Marie David did a brilliant rendition of Tu Te Reconnaîtras. That was one of the golden years for decent songs, and it reminds me Luxembourg used to really knock it out the park song-wise. Wish they’d come back.
– Herreys, while sounding like a slightly rancid American chocolate, are actually an 80s Swedish trio who sang about their lovely golden shoes. These guys rocked. Despite being in their dotage, they pulled off dance moves that put any modern boyband to shame. The Swedish fans went absolutely nuts, as did the rest of the crowd.
– Dana International looked stunning in her fringed outfit, but I did struggle to hear her. So glad she was there though, especially as the concert was on Transgender Day Of Visibility. The year Dana won was definitely a turning point.
– Rosa López performed a medley of Spain’s greatest hits for the enthusiastic flag-waving Spanish fans at the front. I’d forgotten about La La La. It’s better than Cliff’s bloody Congratulations that year. *ducks, runs*
– Nicole, who won for Germany aged just 17, had lovely staging for Ein Bisschen Frieden, with doves and white confetti. People sometimes complain about the cheesy peace-themed songs, but given the contest was created to unite Europe after being ravaged by war, I think we can cut them a little slack. Also, she sang it in English, German and Italian because she was just that awesome.
– There’s a hole in my memory where Natasha St. Pier should be, but she was pleasant enough, though honestly the song didn’t stick in my head at all.
– Brotherhood Of Man seemed to have come dressed as upmarket waiters, and didn’t seem so keen on dancing, but the UK fans were overjoyed. (I think some would have preferred Bucks Fizz, but name copyright issues probably ruined that one. Och well.)
There was talk of a very famous interval act buzzing round social media before the show, and after a VT of the weirdest ones we found out the rumours were true: they’d only gone and got bloody Riverdance to come. RIVERDANCE. I had goosebumps by the end. Surely the best interval act Eurovision’s ever seen, even if that and the three consecutive wins shafted Ireland money-wise and made them resort to Jedward and Dustin the Turkey.
– Lordi win my prize for best staging. How could they not? Like a camp Slipknot, they stalked onto the stage, waving their arms menacingly at the poor stagehand lady, then it was all pyro, demonic wings and axe-shaped guitars. The lady next to me simply let her Union Jack droop, turned to her friend and said ‘ooh no, I don’t approve of this’. Which is why Lordi win at everything.
– The same lady started shrieking like a banshee when, to quote hostess Petra Mede, ‘Johnny fucking Logan’ swaggered onstage in a white dinner jacket and too-tight trousers, his face suspiciously youthful, to do a medley of What’s Another Year, Why Me and Hold Me Now. He got at least a minute of standing ovation, and to be fair he did deserve it. He sure as hell milked his time slot. And a million middle-aged ovaries spontaneously combusted in that three minutes.
– Denmark’s Olsen Brothers are my guilty pleasure. Looking fairly old and feeble, their voices were definitely still strong, and they got everyone swaying along. And no Autotune in sight.
– Despite the frosty reception, Dima Bilan did a fantastic job on his two entries. Good live voice, very flexible dancers and it helps that he’s fairly attractive. Sadly, no blond man skating around a miniature ice rink this time but I’ll forgive him.
– Bobbysocks, though. The cheering and standing ovation they got rivalled ol’ JFL’s, and they still look great in purple sequins. What I love most about them is they always looked like they were just having the best time ever, like the wee Jedward lads did, and that counts for a lot. Think this was a serious contender for my favourite act of the night. The song was still in my head while I tucked into my disappointing hotel breakfast today.
– Loreen was one of the hotly-anticipated acts. Sweden always bring their A game to Eurovision, and Euphoria was not only a worthy winner, it fitted nicely into UK radio stations because it’s just a great dance track. Billowing fabric and dry ice ahoy.
– Conchita, of course, was saved till last. Resplendent in a purple gown and circled by fire, she gave me goosebumps again and had the longest ovation of the night. Her album’s out now, and she’ll be hosting the green room antics in Vienna. Which will be all kinds of amazing.
They had time for a cheeky final medley of Eurovision hits. Herreys did a brilliant rendition of Volare, Bobbysocks were given Making Your Mind Up and Dana duetted with Conchita on Waterloo which just made me do a bit of a cry, because the Eurovision fandom are in the main so tolerant, diverse and inclusive that we could all learn a few lessons from them. Even if you think the music’s crap.
The show’s being trimmed from three hours to an hour and a half for broadcast, so expect all the fruity language and technical hitches to be cut. It’s on BBC One this Friday, some Scandi countries this Saturday and other countries will announce the date on the official Eurovision site.