Thought the comedown wasn’t going to be as bad this year, for some reason, but it turns out it was just delayed. It’s hit me today. How better to cheer oneself up than by reliving this year’s Eurovision Song Contest grand final, live from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon?
So here we are, it’s Saturday night and we’ve adjourned to one of the Eurofans’ houses for the evening, except – problemo, because no one seems to have thought through the, shall we say, audio visuals, and our very chances of watching the contest are in doubt! Can you even imagine? Long story short, it was of course solved, but nerves are already shredded.
We’re starting our show tonight with FADO. We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. This Portuguese musical form is very pretty and atmospheric, and Ana Moura’s the best there is, but I am not sure it’s the best way to gee up a continent. Not that the continent really needed any help in that respect, but you take my point.
Hosts? Check. Utterly pointless introductory flag welcome ceremony? Done. Bottle of vinho verde to hand? Oh yes. On with the songs.
Out first, it’s McLovin’ himself, Ukraine’s Melovin, with his fiery Under the Ladder. I think this was a better performance than in the semi-final, but you’d have to say going out first is not going to help his chances of victory. All in all though, a good way to start – a piano coffin, a dodgy contact lens and a burning staircase will at least placate those who love a good gimmick (ie. me).
The first performance by one of the so-called Big Five, and it’s Spain’s Amaia y Alfred taking to the stage with Tu Canción. They are a real-life couple who got together just a few months ago and now a whole continent is staring at their fledgling relationship, so no pressure. I saw them in person on Tuesday night, they ran past me flanked by a lot of security, and up close they both looked so young! I hope they are OK. No one who’s performed in the second slot has ever won the contest, but I suppose this is inoffensive. It reminds me a bit too much of last year’s winner.
Slovenia, hooray! Lea Sirk is back with Hvala, ne! Show is very much on the road now, and yeah, that joke about things breaking down really did not work the second time of viewing.
Could our next entry be a bit of a dark horse? Certainly there is a lot of love for Lithuania’s When We’re Old, sung by Ieva Zasimauskaité. She would be forgiven for being absolutely terrified up there – she is so exposed – but I think she does a really nice job of what for me must be the best ballad in this year’s contest.
Our fifth song tonight comes from Austria, and this is such a grower – Cesar Sampson and Nobody But You. He’s a really powerful singer and performer, and if there’s any justice, he will finish high up the leaderboard.
Estonia impressed everyone with the sheer vocal prowess of Elina Nechayeva’s La Forza in their semi-final. She’s also doing something really different compared with the rest of the night.
I’m actually really looking forward to our next song. Norway have sent Alexander Rybak again, with That’s How You Write A Song, and whilst I think it’d be only fair to say this is a Marmite tune (you either love it or you hate it, if Marmite is not on sale in your territory!), he really is a confident performer and seems to have a really fun time up there.
Another song we haven’t seen performed on the Lisbon stage yet, and it is our host nation, Portugal. Sad to say that over the last few years, there seems to have been something of a curse upon the country that won the previous year – like voters and juries don’t want lightning to strike twice. Hopefully Cláudia Pascoal can break that curse with O Jardim.
Another big five member, the United Kingdom, is up next, as SuRie performs Storm. This has become a firm fan favourite in the pre-contest clubs and parties, and whilst I don’t expect it to win, it definitely feels like a real step in the right direction for the UK.
What’s this? Or more to the point, who is this? It all happens so quickly, we can’t be sure what we’ve just seen, but what we do know is, someone got onto the stage, pushed SuRie and stole her microphone. I’d be upset no matter who this happened to. That it’s the UK, where half of us are still desperately wishing to remain a part of Europe… but that’s for another time. All I can do is salute SuRie for carrying on. The organisers offered her the chance to perform again, which she politely declined and I think that was the right decision.
Let us press on, and it’s Serbia next. Sanja Ilić & Balkanika perform Nova Deca, and I think they too do a great job after all the drama that came before them.
Another of our big five, now, as Germany’s Michael Schulte takes to the stage with You Let Me Walk Alone. This for me could go either way – it’ll either be top or bottom of the leaderboard. It has definitely grown on me!
Fresh from having his tattoos blurred out by Chinese telly, it’s Eugent Bushpepa from Albania with Mall!
This song has been making waves since its selection a few months ago – France’s Madame Monsieur are performing Mercy. The song tells the story of a baby born to a refugee mother, and it’s a very simple melody, beautifully sung.
We need a bit of pure pop now, and thank goodness the Czech Republic entrant Mikolas Josef is back with Lie To Me. Oh I am really trying to be neutral here tonight, but I love him. I love how proud he is of their performance, and how grateful he’s been to have an appreciative audience.
Can I get a “hnguuughh!”? Denmark’s Rasmussen are taking us to Higher Ground. I think they’re enjoying themselves? But the wine is starting to kick in now, if I’m telling you the truth.
Our new European neighbours Australia are here once more, and talking of wine kicking in, hopefully Jessica Mauboy has allowed herself a little loosener pre-We Got Love. She’s definitely much more relaxed for this than for the semi-final, so it’s much more enjoyable for us as viewers too.
Unfortunately I am not sure that the same can be said for Finland’s Saara Aalto – this time out, I actually LOVE the song far more than I did before, but I think she seems less comfortable on stage.
Many have Bulgaria as their favourite, and whilst it’s perhaps less immediate than some on show here tonight, I can see why they like EQUINOX’s Bones. It’s different and it’s passionate. More like this please Bulgaria!
I was right – people who’ve never seen Eurovision before LOVE Moldova! The DoReDos have a grand old time performing My Lucky Day, and I wonder if this mightn’t be a surprise top five tune.
We’re most definitely making headway, guys, just a handful of songs left to go. I’m really wishing I had some more snacks by this point, but as luck would have it, we have someone who is looking like a snack – Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso, with Dance You Off. People online really do NOT like this song, or Benjamin, from the looks of things. I guess it can come across a bit smug, and I believe that he has been less than complimentary about other acts (a VERY silly thing to do) but to the naked eye/ear, this is a pretty slick operation. I like it and I think it can and will do well.
Hungary change things up, as AWS perform Viszlát Nyár. As you know, I like to always save one special song for my bathroom break, and Hungary are this year’s lucky winners.
To our favourite now, Israel. Netta is back with Toy. My feelings on this remain the same (ambivalence, basically) but it goes down a storm.
I have to say that The Netherlands’ entry, Outlaw In ‘Em, is really a great addition to the line-up, well done everyone for voting Waylon through. It’s testament to the range of music that Eurovision now encompasses and I hope that the haters have heard this.
Now we move to Ireland. The song is Together, the artist Ryan O’Shaughnessy. Again, I think Ryan performs beautifully and the dancing is on point. Surely this must give Ireland one of their best finishes for some years?
As we learned earlier in the week Cypriot entry Eleni Foureira is one of the favourites – could performing in the penultimate slot give Fuego even more of a boost? Looking at it again, I’m not as sure as I was. Personally I still love the song, but I worry a bit of the fire has gone out (pun intended) Let’s see how it goes down with the European voting public.
Last but by no means least, and the last of our big five too, it’s Italy. Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro perform Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente, a powerful song with a message about standing up to terror.
IT’S THE INTERVAL! There is a really fun bit with the hosts, they have definitely relaxed into their roles over the course of the week, but I hope that future contest organisers see that four is probably one, if not two, too many presenters. It’s hard to keep up with them all. Last year’s winner Salvador Sobral is also back on stage and it’s lovely to see him duet with Caetano Veloso, especially given he is only a few months into recovery from a heart transplant.
And then we have our voting.
Let’s take the top 10 then, in reverse order…
6) Czech Republic
Which leaves Israel as our winner! Netta has done it, the country’s first win since Dana International in 1998, and very happy she is too. It’s not every year that the favourite from day one actually goes on to take the trophy; the voting was definitely a lot closer than in the last couple of years; and quite possibly several injustices were committed, but that’s Euro for you.
In the 48 hours since, a lot has been said about Netta and Toy and Israel, most of them very predictable but one or two less so, and those are the ones I am seriously thinking about. It’s all a learning process and Eurovision is nothing if not open to change and to understanding.
So it will be Jerusalem 2019, and that will surely be one helluva show. I really hope we can share some more Euromoments together in 12 months’ time!