Another big night in the giant light-covered dome that is the Crystal Hall in Baku.
While the spectre of each country’s flag being realised as a series of coloured stripes on the impressive shell of the stadium had worn off a little, what hadn’t dimmed for one minute was the sheer enthusiasm of the entrants themselves.
They reached for the glittering prize – and this being Eurovision, the prize does actually glitter; no metaphors here thank you! – with desperate dentist-enhance smiles (or, of course, the face of ice-cream eating sadness if the song called for that), they pretended to fold sheets (Croatia) or wear them (Turkey – I believe it was the sheet capes that sent this very ordinary song through to the grand final), or wave them behind themselves while the wind machines did their thing (Sweden). Whatever it took to convince the good people of Europe that they could sing, dance… and wash, clean and fold their laundry at the end of the night.
What marked tonight out was how the amusingly quirky acts stayed resolutely quirky. Joan Franka of the Netherlands, and Ari Jokhadze of Georgia didn’t bow to the chic new Eurovision professionalism and carried on with their idiosyncratic acts, in the true spirit of Eurovision. They didn’t get through, it’s true but they are why you watch the semi finals. They embody the spirit of quirky individuality, channeling the spirit of countries that are willing to put forward an act that neatly represents engaging facets of their character.
They are in a way my favourite acts. Yes the songs leave a lot to be desired – although Joan Franka’s humble 70s-inspired folk ditty was on fast repeat in my brain last night as I went to sleep so it clearly had something going for it other than the headdress – but the singers themselves are not fresh from the cookie cutter of the Europop factory and are willing to do their own thing, come what may.
I like that. But the voters of Europe did not, only putting two semi-offbeat acts through – Lithuania (of the blindfold) and Turkey (of the slightly loopy sea shanty) through to the bright lights, big city-vibe of the grand final.
The rest of this semi final’s qualifiers were New Eurovision for the most part – bright, engaging songs, slick on stage performances and a sense of divine Eurovision destiny about them. The glitter gods saw fit to anoint Norway, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malta, F. Y. R. Macedonia (I did not see that one coming even though she has a powerful set of pipes on her), Ukraine (yes I will be your guest… shall I bring the wine?), Estonia (such a pretty boy is Ott), and Serbia (Zeljko returns!).
Now it is on to the night of nights when the 20 acts lucky enough to be chosen by the voters and juries join with the big 6 already in the grand final – UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and of course, the host, Azerbaijan – and one winner will stand triumphant, the Crystal Microphone firmly in hand.
And then go off and do their laundry I suspect…