And here’s what we made of Thursday night’s proceedings:
OPENING NUMBER – What. On. Earth. Was. That? Do the Azeris know that the half-man-half horse creature has snuck into their dressing room and stolen their wings?
PRESENTERS – still not too annoying. Clearly they are working on it.
ICELAND – WOW, what a terrific opening number! Euroband gave it their all and thoroughly deserved their spot in the final. And let’s just ignore the member of Team Eurovision who asked “are they Jemini in disguise?” midway through the performance. If Jemini had been this good it might have been a very different story in Riga.
SWEDEN – is it just us or does ‘Signor’ Charlotte Perrelli look a bit weird? Strange make-up and a Bacofoil dress would generally bode ill for a Eurovision performance – but luckily she delivered the goods in fine style. A definite contender tomorrow night – and she is singing 15th, the position from which she won last time. ARGH! It’s an omen! Etc.
TURKEY – can this semi-final really get any better? Oh it just did, with a fabulous performance from Mor Ve Otesi. Another very deserved qualifier.
UKRAINE – and the cracking songs just keep on coming. Ani Lorak’s performance was one of our favourites of the night with its ridiculously over-the-top choreography and a smouldering turn from Ms Lorak herself. There was never any doubt in our minds that this one would go through.
LITHUANIA – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One Michael Bolton is quite enough, thank you. Next!
ALBANIA – gosh, how nervous did little Olta Boka look? No matter, she sang this very sweetly and earned her place in the final. But can her nerves withstand it?
SWITZERLAND – Paolo was a disappointment, to be honest (well there is always one favourite that misses out on the final and this year it was the turn of the Swiss – again), but we’re prepared to forgive him anything for those lovely smiles he kept flashing during the performance (he was smiling at ME, I tell ya – Ed)
CZECH REPUBLIC – oh Lordy, what a mess. No surprise to see this one crash and burn.
BELARUS – now we kinda liked Steve Buscemi lookalike Ruslan at first but we had a big problem here in that the new version of Hasta La Vista just didn’t work for us at all. We can see why they did it – the dance version was far better but the poor bloke just couldn’t dance! The rock version however, which was performed in the semi, doesn’t require him to dance but oh boy did it suck. Wouldn’t it have been better to just stick to the original and stick him in a box a la Dustin so that no sudden moves would have been necessary? Looks like the Belarussians will have to try harder next year to prove that Koldun’s success was no flash in the pan.
LATVIA – was it really wrong to laugh like a drain at this one? If truth be told it was absolutely shambolic – but kinda fun nonetheless. No surprise to see it qualify.
CROATIA – the biggest surprise package of the night for us, we LOVED this and was so pleased when it got through. Old codger is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
BULGARIA – now we loved this from the start but couldn’t help feeling a teeny bit disappointed on the night – the flashy stage show just couldn’t detract from some rather weak vocals. Shame they didn’t make it though – just seems that other acts were better on the night.
DENMARK – another pleasant surprise, we loved this song from the start too but had all but forgotten about it. But just shows how a great performance can turn a country’s fortunes around in this contest. So pleased he made it through, if only because it means 100 per cent representation from Scandinavia.
GEORGIA – weird. Just plain weird. But there was something strangely Eurovision-y about the whole thing, from the anthemic chorus to that gimmicky costume change. Not entirely surprised to see it qualify even though we didn’t predict it.
HUNGARY – oh what a disappointment. Czesy just seemed a bit ‘hotel lobby music’ after all that had gone before her. We could almost hear our investment rolling away. Humph!
MALTA – mad, demented, utterly brilliant performance from Morena. Would have loved to have seen this qualify purely on the strength of the semi-final but we knew deep down they didn’t have a cat’s chance in hell. Pity.
CYPRUS – another no-hoper, Evdokia did her best but it did little to drag Cyprus from the doldrums, and of course with Greece in the other semi it was hard to see where their votes would come from.
FYR MACEDONIA – a big disappointment, this just didn’t work on stage at all, coming over as a bit of an unchoreographed mess. And so Macedonia miss out on their first final since the semis began. Shows just what happens when the rug of neighbourly voting is pulled out from under you.
PORTUGAL – and a fabulous, stunning end to the contest. Can’t believe we didn’t notice this one before but Vania (who whipped the crowd up into a state of near hysteria – we can’t help thinking there would have been riots in the Belgrade Arena if they hadn’t qualified) delivered an absolutely superb performance of this passionate, dramatic song, and confirmed herself as a serious contender for the title. Can’t wait to see this one again on Saturday night.
And there we have it. So instead of East European dominance this year, we have East European dominance joined by the entire massed ranks of Scandinavia. Seriously, though, the new semi-final format appears to be a winner. Firstly, the fact that we don’t have a load of finalists already in the final (who have entered some load of random old nonsense because they’re already qualified and don’t need to try) means that everybody appears to have raised their game and come up with something far better this year. Nearly every song in the final is a cracker, and that’s why we’re soooooo excited about Saturday night! Secondly, it just goes to show that there is still room for Western Europe to succeed in this contest with a good song and performance – and the new format gives them more opportunity to do so. Whether the old school will do well on the night remains to be seen, but at least the likes of Iceland and Portugal have now had a chance to show the rest of the continent what they can do.
And finally – Estonia and Ireland, let this be a lesson to you. Just because Lithuania and Ukraine managed to be wacky in 2006 and 2007 doesn’t mean that singing turkeys or jaunty songs about vegetables are actually funny. How about following in the footsteps of some of the other countries who’ve made it through to the final for the first time, and sending a proper song to the contest next year??????