London Boys

Apr 17, 2019 by

London Boys

The road to Eurovision glory is a long and winding one. From national finals to European parties, the battle to win hearts and minds starts long before May. The latest stop on the publicity trail took place in London on Sunday, where 18 of the 41 hopefuls took to the tiny stage at the Café de Paris.

With the betting market dominated by male soloists, London was a chance to get up close and personal with favourites Sweden, Italy and The Netherlands.

It was fitting then that the show opened with 18-year-old Eliot singing for Belgium. This subdued slice of electronica was never going to get the party started, but despite fears to the contrary, his vocal was solid enough. While this looks big at 300 on the Exchange, it will take something special on the staging front to overcome the song’s lack of development.

From Eliot, the gear shifted swiftly to Miki from Spain. While unlikely to attract much jury love, he has bags of charisma and gives it his all. The crowd in London go predictably wild.

This subdued slice of electronica was never going to get the party started, but despite fears to the contrary, Eliot’s vocal was solid enough

Next up was Lake Malawi. Named after a Bon Iver single, the Czech indie band were reduced to lead singer Albert Cerny, who bounces around the stage like an excitable puppy, and sells this lightweight three minutes like a true pro.

With the mood in the room warming up, Carousel from Latvia soon dampened any embers. Sabine has a lovely warm voice, but never has a band been so aptly named: Carousel’s song is one that goes nowhere quickly.

Poland is an oddity but after seeing the band live, I wonder if they are odd enough to be interesting. Also noticeable was how low the mics were, with the backing track doing most of the hard lifting. At odds-on to qualify, this looks one to consider taking on.

Poland was followed by the sleek, almost slippery Victor Crone. Singing for Estonia, by way of Sweden, Victor is charm personified, but is hamstrung by the paucity of the material.

Sarah McTernan is next for Ireland and lost her way a couple of times. If nothing else, the mistakes showed she was fully live, but she is another who deserves a better song.

Sabine has a lovely warm voice, but never has a band been so aptly named: Carousel’s song is one that goes nowhere quickly

Leonara from Denmark was wearing a red beanie and braces and looked completely at odds to her twee ode to love. Like Ireland, this is a package that doesn’t quite add up and I remain sceptical about its appeal beyond the Eurovision fandom.

Talking of songs with questionable appeal beyond the fan community brings us to Norway who undoubtedly got the biggest reaction of the night. Fred only had to gurn to send the crowd into a frenzy, but I am pretty sure juries won’t be so forgiving.

The task of following fan favourite Norway fell to Albania, and the crowd quickly lost interest in the dated ‘Ktheju Tokes’. Vocally, there are no issues, but this is a song with marginal appeal, which even the arrival of John Lundvik from Sweden failed to fully overcome.

John gives it his all and remains an engaging performer but for a gospel-inspired song, ‘Too Late for Love’ is lacking soul.

The arrival of Paenda from Austria did little to raise the spirits. Though the studio version is pleasant enough, for competitive purposes, this is the wrong artist paired with the wrong song. Add a lack of charisma and any notion of stage presence, and Austria is following last year’s jury triumph with what looks near certain non-qualification.

John gives it his all and remains an engaging performer but for a gospel-inspired song, ‘Too Late for Love’ is lacking soul

Darude is up next and the superstar DJ is reduced to waving his iPad around with various messages for the crowd to read. This hammers home just how big an issue Finland will have staging the anaemic ‘Look Away’.

France remains an enigma for me. While Bilal was vocally better than the national final, he remains an underwhelming proposition. A lack of stagecraft fails to elevate ‘Roi’ beyond the realms of his admittedly loyal subjects.

Mahmood was eagerly anticipated and ‘Soldi’ is a rhythmical slice of modern pop. There was nothing in his delivery, however, that overcame the doubts around his ability to capture a big enough televote in Tel Aviv.

After last week’s glorious homecoming in Amsterdam, Duncan from the Netherlands gave the best performance of the night. With an easy-going, effortless charm, it feels like only a staging disaster can get in the way of Netherlands landing its first ESC title since 1975.

Lithuania had the unenviable task of following Duncan and the contrast was stark. After ‘Arcade’, this was never going to be a great slot, but the merits of the song and the performer were exposed by its place in the running order.

Finally, it was left to one last male soloist to close proceedings. Michael Rice went as expected. Vocally he is fine and while ‘Bigger Than Us’ is a predictable three minutes, he wrings enough emotion out of the raw materials to raise home hopes.

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