London calling

Apr 27, 2015 by

London calling

Last night’s London Eurovision Party was a chance to see 16 of this year’s artists perform at the Cafe de Paris. There were a number of ghosts from Eurovision past who also performed, along with Kitty Bracknell. Those will be bypassed here because we need to focus on any clues ahead of Vienna with rehearsals commencing there a fortnight today.

Dealing with them in performance order, first up was Hungary’s Boggie. First on is very much the coffin slot at a live gig like this. Competent vocal, low key song would be a concise description. How this song is staged is going to be crucial because it somehow needs to put across the song’s message evocatively to have impact.

Melanie Rene for Switzerland had 3 backing singers aiding her with ‘Time To Shine’. This didn’t help the song shine any more brightly for me. Her vocal is adequate but a rendition by her of Sia’s Chandelier didn’t especially impress either. Ann Sophie for Germany came across as altogether more vocally adept than the previous 2 ladies to perform. Just a shame her song is rather lifeless.

After Ann, the Czech Republic offered the night its first burst of energy. Both Marta and Vaclav have good vocals, combine well and have a natural affinity together on stage. What ‘Hope Never Dies’ really needs is a gothic amphitheatre as a stage set to hammer home the power of the song.

Vaclav especially shone during a stirring rendition of The Police’s Roxanne which would have worked well accompanying an Argentine tango on Strictly Come Dancing. Marta sang Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and this was a decent effort too. There is something about her reminiscent of Ana Matronic.

The Makemakes were next and while lead singer Dodo Muhrer has a fine voice this rather underwhelmed on the night. He needs to be sat at the piano selling this song whereas he was standing here with his two band buddies, the 3 of them looking like dishevelled backpackers returning after a year on the road.

A friend of mine attending the gig and listening to the songs for the first time commented that the next song was a rip off of Liberty X. It was, of course, Moldova’s Eduard Romanyuta and ‘I Want Your Love’ which does feel at least a decade past its sell by date. On the plus side, Eduard’s song is an uptempo blast and at least brings energy to the stage. He will need a great stage show to be competitive in Vienna.

The diminutive Aminata followed and the big voice that comes out of her tiny frame singing ‘Love Injected’ is incredibly powerful. My neutral observer commented, ‘Modern, different. Like it.’ Enough said.

Malta’s Amber came next. My issue with ‘Warrior’ and Amber’s delivery of it is, it is too shouty in the chorus, and the staccato nature of the song makes for uncomfortable listening long before the 3 minutes is over. Amber did a medley of songs including ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, Jessie J’s ‘Bang, Bang’ and Dana International’s ‘Diva’. Erm… It’s a no from me.

Greece’s Maria-Elena Kyriakos impressed much more singing her ballad and Elena Paparizou’s ‘My Number One’. Actually, listening to her perform the latter with such verve made you wonder if she is wasted performing a ballad at this year’s ESC.

This year’s favourite, Mans Zelmerlow from Sweden was up next. He has good looks and charisma on his side and worked the crowd well. Even without the animation his rendition of ‘Heroes’ came across as slick, drilled, polished… The nagging doubt is, for all its sing-a-long appeal when it comes to the ‘Hero-uh-o-o-oes O-uh-o-o-oh’ the song’s chorus is incredibly lame.

The UK’s Alex and Bianca, aka, Electro Velvet were next up. Not surprisingly they were given a great reception by the London crowd. Vocals fine. While this is something unique in the context of this year’s ESC, one concern is whether it goes too far into niche territory when Alex starts with the scat singing and the ‘Skiddy-beep-bop-doo, dee-dee-dees’.

Montenegro’s Knez was next and his Balkan ballad unsurprisingly fell rather flat in London’s West End. Nothing wrong with his vocals. In a way, poor Knez was the undesirable sandwich filling between this year’s 2 male solo uptempo big hitters, as Guy Sebastian followed.

Guy performed two of his other numbers, ‘Like A Drum’ and ‘Battle Stars’. ’Tonight Again’ was certainly the wisest choice for this year’s ESC. He has a very good vocal, stagecraft and like Mans he brought the live audience to life and joining in with the ‘Do whatchya whatchya whatchya want’ refrain.

So, Mans vs Guy. Who won on the night? If it was Mayweather vs Pacquiao it would have been given as a draw by this judge (not the craziest punt, currently available at 18-1 by the way), and looking forward to the re-match in Vienna.

Australia has obviously been the big market springer in the last week or so plummeting from 18 to 6 on Betfair. While you cannot fault Guy’s vocal prowess where Mans currently holds a clear advantage is in having a top notch stage show while we await to see what they come up with for ’Tonight Again’.

Standing for so long was taking its toll after so many hours. Managing to commandeer a comfy chair on the balcony meant Cyprus’s John Karagiannis singing ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ was the ideal prescription at this point.

As soothing as a lullaby, he delivers this with a real sense of intimacy and to say this listener could have dozed off is meant as a compliment. John followed up with what sounded like a Michael Buble-esque rendition of 1984 ESC winner ‘Digg-loo diggi-ley’, though this cannot be confirmed and may just have been a figment of my sleep-induced imagination.

Albania’s Elhaida came and went in the blink of an eye, possibly annoyed with the long wait before she got to perform or just there for her appearance fee. Her vocal was adequate but you sense ‘I’m Alive’ stretches her vocally in parts and it looks a wise decision by her to have some backing vocal support in Vienna.

Last but certainly not least came Morland & Debrah for Norway. Deborah sounded fine here. Why this only just scraped home in the Norwegian final remains a mystery. The quality of the song stands out and while the pair may still have staging and harmonizing questions to answer in Vienna, Norway has certainly been drifting to a very attractive price on Betfair in recent times.

So that’s it for now. An informative night but at the same time you have to tread carefully as a live gig experience is a far cry from how the songs come across on a tv monitor, which is how the viewing audience sat at home, and the jurors in their home countries assess the songs at ESC.

A good place to check out last night’s songs is on the excellent wiwibloggs and esckaz YouTube channels, found here and here.

Hopefully the high street will start to play ball a bit more and offer semi-final prices e/w first 3 in the next week or two, along with ’To Qualify’ odds.

Once we get these prices, a first email will be sent exclusively to subscribers offering my pre-rehearsals semi-final value picks. If you haven’t subscribed yet, for £40 you will receive all betting recommendations during ESC 2015, sent to you via email throughout the rehearsal fortnight in Vienna. Simply type your email address in the box below and click on the ‘Pay Now’ button.



  1. Henry VIII

    Is the UK entry growing on you Rob?

    (It won’t get the opportunity to grow on anybody on the 13th alas).

  2. Rob

    In a word, Henry, ‘No’. Quirky, catchy but I keep remembering my initial reaction which was, ‘wtf?’. I don’t see it travelling well round Europe & I struggle to see jurors going for it in a big and consistent way.

    You have to remember the new scoring system, & something so marmite is at a big disadvantage.

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