Well, there was a suitably odd opening including a half-man/half-horse emcee and some blue/green painted people before this year's Will & Grace hosts appeared to usher us into the exciting round 2.
- Iceland – I always expect big things from Iceland due to the fact that a) it’s a bizarre place and b) they gave us Björk. However, I wasn’t expecting an Erasure techno-anthem. I think there’s a good chance this one could win, but I would have liked something more outré.
- Sweden – Again, the home of ABBA, so they’ve got a lot to live up to. Was a bit disappointing although I liked that they used a microphone. Tony asked “Have I heard this before?” “A thousand times” I responded. Stephen Fry eat your heart out.
- Turkey – A disappointing Bon Jovi-ish stadium rock but there was some serious arched eyebrow work from the singer.
- Ukraine – This was good. A glittery Taylor Dane styled singer backed up by 4 dancers who started the song in Perspex boxes. Great staging, a less formulaic song (which is a noticeable problem this year) and fun electronic noises at the end of each verse line that they worked into the choreography. Deserves top 5, if not the win.
- Lithuania – Where to start? The hair. The Leather pants. The painfully off-key voice. The hand jewelry. Make it stop. Worst song in the contest so far.
- Albania – A tawdry ballad sung by a 16 year old singer with a great name – Olta Boka. We talked through most of it which should tell you something.
- Switzerland – The first half was a piano based ballad that morphs into a better song mid-way through, although overshadowed by the unpleasant lead vocals, which were overshadowed by the great backing vocalists, some of which were working huge Toyah type hair-do’s. You decide what to make of it.
- Czech Republic – More silver cossies (I neglected to note the others, but it is like an epidemic this year), tres Spice Girls-y as the energetic, sun-sational (read that – over-tanned) quintet struggled to keep some sort of vocal control over the cluttered backing track and completely unnecessary interjections from the “dj” at the back. A mess.
- Belarus – ‘Hasta La Vista’ – a Ricky Martin title for a Ricky Martin style song. More silver mini-dresses, more leather pants and this time some star-studded orbs to dance on and around. Hasta La Vista indeed.
- Latvia – Pirates of the Sea, singing a disco shanty called ‘Wolves of the Sea’. Dressed as pirates. Is the song most likely to stick in my head this year though (not a good thing) – much like the dreadful ‘We Are the Winners of Eurovision’ from 2007 which still haunts me at a low ebb. Horrid. Unbelievably, this got through to the final.
- Croatia – Cabaret with some old blokes, a Spanish-ish dancer and accordions. Was a respite after the relentlessly hysterical songs until it turned into one at the end.
- Bulgaria – Back to the power-pop – strobes, a break-dancer and a super-long instrumental introduction had me thinking there might not be vocals on this one. Not so, as it turned into a catchy pop song and then sort of combined the different intro bit. Strange but alright. They had turntables with fire on them which was probably symbolic of, well, I’ve no idea really.
- Denmark – Predictable song and lyrics anyone could have written. Includes yet another “please make this song interesting” chord change. The singer really sold this fluff though.
- Georgia – ‘Peace Will Come’. The singer is blind and looked a little like Elaine from Seinfeld. I liked the outrageous sunglasses she was wearing. Best thing about the song was the incredibly swift costume change from their black post-apocalyptic fashions to white ‘peace’ attire. I’m still not sure how they did it so fast. They’re in the final, so look out for the giant parachute/sheet that waves over them for the split-second costume change.
- Hungary – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
- Malta – I think I was running out of stamina at this stage, all I recall is lots of dancing and 16-story notes. Called ‘Vodka’, I probably could have used one by then.
- Cyprus – Some serious scalloped collar work going on and another quick change. This song was a bit of a missed opportunity, after the ok intro it turned into a 60’s spy/cabaret thing with some great choreography and staging, but then took some musical turns to its detriment.
- F.Y.R. Macedonia – Rap and a screeching diva. None for me thanks (although points for the use of crazy false eyelashes and male knee socks).
- Portugal – I found this somewhat tune-impaired, overly dramatic and completely un-involving – it got through though, so it’s me against the voters again it seems.
The winner of the first Eurovision appeared to announce the call to start voting. Was a bit strange as she (seriously) asked the audience to give her a standing ovation (which they didn’t) and when the time came to start the voting she didn’t seem to know what was going on. Weird.
So – tonight’s the big one. Get the Kettle crisps ready.