Done and dusted: Eurovision 2013 Semi-Final #1 review

This year’ host Petr Mede not only styled it up in a fabulous dress that was equal parts Alfoil-chic and Addams Family Vogue, she was funny … genuinely, side-splittingly funny which is good thing since she is after all a comedian (image via metro.co.uk)

 

This was the year that the gulf between what happens in the studio, and what happens under the bright lights, wind machines and pyrotechnic curtains of the main Eurovision stage, grew to abyss-like proportions (an abyss albeit decked out in shiny LED screens and surrounding  by thousands of glowing electronic wristlet-fans).

Act after act stepped onto the Austerity Stage at Malmö Arena – so named because Sweden chose to spend only about half of the normal amount lavished on Eurovision, in keeping with the stripped back spirit of the times – and took songs that has been uninspiring and turgid on CD and turned them into overwhelming musical triumphs.

OK that might be taking things a little too far.

But it is true that countries like Estonia (“Et Uus Saaks Alguse” by Birgit) and Belgium (“Love Kills” by Roberto Bellarosa), whose songs had left me cold and unimpressed, came alive with performances that lifted their songs way beyond run-of-the-mill and into the sort of stratosphere where Europeans happily plucked them out of the musical ether and awarded them one of the precious top 10 spots and thus entry into the grand final on Saturday night.

 

Roberto Bellarosa in full flight during Semi Final 1 (image via eurovision.tv)

 

Admittedly neither of them exactly excelled in the choreography department with the deer-in-the-headlights persona of Roberto for instance content with standing reasonably rigid on stage, in a very nice suit mind you, lifting his arm from time to time with feeling and dramatic urgency.

But who cares about impressive dance moves when the song is so damn infectious?

Certainly not the good people of Europe who propelled Belgium and Estonia, with two songs, based on their studio versions alone, that I had expected to be left behind in a cloud of listless glitter as more accomplished acts, on YouTube performances at least, like Austria (who failed to qualify thanks largely to a reasonably average turn on stage; which was in stark contrast to her bubbly, engaging personality offstage) and Cyprus roared past them.

How wrong I was.

While, as I predicted, Ukraine (who shone on the night) and Denmark, Serbia (their faux-lesbian playful onstage banter was not enough to get them through) and The Netherlands turned in impeccable performances that had the crowd eating out of their hands – that’s if you can eat with wind machines buffeting your every move – acts that I thought would be spending grand final night constructing stage props out of uncooked pasta, glue and felt tipped pens like Estonia, Belgium, and Russia instead found themselves propelled into contention for the main prize.

 

Andrius Pojavis, though undeniably a handsome, telegenic man, failed to stay in key pretty much the entire song and moved with the urgency of a comatose penguin and still managed to gain a berth in the Grand Final (image via eurovision.tv)

 

The biggest surprise on the night, if you leave aside the fact that not a single one of the Balkan contenders made it through, is that Andrius Pojavis from Lithuania found himself with something other to do than wash his lustrous locks on Grand Final night.

Along with Russia, whose song and to be honest timid performance made watching luridly-coloured paint dry a compelling alternative viewing option, Lithuania surprised me by making it into the top 10, a feat I did not think possible based on Andrius’s smile-adorned by lacklustre live rendition of “Something”.

Ireland was another surprise with Ryan Dolan’s voice sounding far more assured and powerful live than the recording had led me to believe.

The fact that his tattooed back up dancers/drummers, in leather pants so tight they must have been sewn into them at birth,  were absolutely breathtakingly handsome and buff did not sway my opinion in any way, shape or form.

No, not at all.

 

I was completely entranced by Ryan Dolan’s magnetic performance … yes that’s right … just that … yep … sorry what were you saying again? (image via entertainment.ie)

 

Hot, buff back up men aside, it was a night that left me wondering if I still have my finger on the European zeitgeist.

Well, as much as I once did anyway.

While six of the acts I predicted would be successful in getting through to the Grand Final did in fact manage to do just that, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Belgium caught me completely off guard by romping through against all expectations.

Still, while it played havoc with my chosen top 10, these sorts of catch-you-unawares moments are a very welcome thing indeed since a contest where everything plays out as expected would be boring to watch indeed.

Much like glitter-flecked paint drying really, and we all know how well that usually turns out.

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