In the run up to the Contest I put on record that I thought this was an incredibly strong semi final but boy did the wheels fall off last night.  There were vocal issues with a number of performances, some singers massively raised their game and some were naught but perfection. This was interspersed with lots of stilted humour from the hosts the like of which we haven’t seen for a number of years. We had Jamala, we had Verka and then a few shocking results to round off the evening.

Robin from SWEDEN opened the show with a decent but not perfect performance. I don’t know exactly what it is but the vocal isn’t 100% there. I still like it as did one of the the two non ESC fans I was watching with. 2/3 is probably about the right hit rate for ‘I Can’t Go On’. GEORGIA‘s Tamara I thought did reasonably well, the odd duff note hidden in there but she did more or less the same as the Georgian NF and it was fine. It was never going to be enough for qualification though. Now…dip anyone?

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Next we had Isaiah from AUSTRALIA with another unconvincing performance. I didn’t feel the connection to him nor the song as yet a again a few bum notes left me thoroughly non-plussed. It got worse though…next we had ALBANIA. The only real train wreck was Lindita’s ‘World’, clearly she knew herself something was wrong in the first 30 seconds as she kept reaching for the in ears monitors. To be fair she recovered for the big notes but it was long lost by then. I’m still feeling thoroughly confused by BELGIUM and Blanche, I don’t know what’s nerves and what’s intended vulnerability. Not convinced by the vocal either but she has improved since the first rehearsal. All of this led to Slavko from MONTENEGRO which to me actually felt like the first assured performance of the night. The boy did good. Again, it was never likely to qualify but he’s the only one in that first section that can hold his head up high.

Then in the UK we had a Scott Mills sketch. Eurovision Support Group. It’s one saving grace was Nikki French. It was short so at least there’s that

FINLAND! Norma John were perfection on the night. As they have been in every rehearsal and every performance we’ve seen. Surely, a qualifier. Surely.  AZERJIBIN were next out of the blocks. Dihaj gave one of the performances of the night, vocally strong and truly captivating. Speaking of which we were then treated to PORTUGAL. Salvador went out there and did what he does. I felt at times he ever so slightly over egged the movements and at points wasn’t close enough to the mic to properly pick up the vocal. Other than that it was as beautifully emotive as expected. Then we had some badinage from the hosts.

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GREECE’s Demy was vocally poor, her backing singers even worse. Every time they hit that first note in the chorus it makes me feel a little bit sad inside. This was immediately countered by Kasia from POLAND and her astoundingly assured performance. I still don’t rate the song but my oh my she didn’t put a foot wrong. MOLDOVA’s Sunstroke Project brought the party to a Tuesday evening. I’ve made my feelings clear on the song before now but the actual performance was top notch. Put a smile on my face. Also costume change to longer skirts, a novel approach. ICELAND were up next with Svala and Svala did what Svala does.  I absolutely bloody loved her performance and was pleased she stuck to what she wanted to do. Did I expect her to qualify? Not in the slightest. Apparently the CZECH REPUBLIC were next. So that was another three minutes. Yep. It definitely happened.

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Then we had CYPRUS with Hovig’s ‘Gravity’, this felt like a really confident and slick performance. Of all the entries this one feels to have really grown since the first rehearsal. G:Son does it again! ARMENIA and Artsvik treated us to an incredibly captivating and enthralling performance. Can’t find fault. Straight through to Saturday. To be fair Omar from SLOVENIA also gave us a very vocally solid rendition of ‘On My Way’. The song may not fit the modern Contest but he did an excellent job. The show was closed by Triana Park from LATVIA. I thought this was the perfect ending to the show and the band gave as great a performance as they ever have. Loud, colourful and in your face. Perfect!

That’s it. All 18 done and dusted so…

EUROPE START VOTING!

Jamala performed a revamped 1944 for the interval act. You can revamp it as many times as you like, I still think it’s dire. This was followed by Verka and his Mum with some bizarre non sequitars including being shat on by some birds and a surprisingly subtle take on the row over the rainbow arches. It was a welcome tonic. Then we had more Jamala. Which I was thrilled about.

EUROPE STOP VOTING

Clips of Spain, UK & Italy followed. Spain still finishing last for me. The UK looking surprisingly amazing but I refuse to let myself believe we achieve success, I’ve been burned before. Then we had Francesco. In the little clip we saw I thought he seemed a little too ‘wacky’, I found it ever so slightly off putting. It strayed from fun performance into ‘child after too much Vimto’ territory. By this point we were already well over two hours in and we finally had the results. In no particular order…

MOLDOVA! Ok, makes perfect sense…

AZERBAIJAN! Deservedly so…

GREECE! Right. OK. Hhhmmm…

SWEDEN! Every day of the week.

PORTUGAL! See Sweden.

POLAND! Kasia nailed it, deserved to go through…

ARMENIA! See Portugal.

AUSTRALIA! Erm…really?

CYPRUS! Hang on, Finland aren’t in. Nor Latvia. One of my favourites is going home.

BELGIUM! Oh. They both are.

“You have chosen the ten best songs!” exclaimed host #2. No. No we bloody didn’t. In ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Line’ we have lost two very different songs that would’ve only enriched a Saturday night line up. In Greece & Australia we have two generic pop songs with singers struggling to hit the notes live. They bring nothing exciting nor different to a Grand Final and it would seem they have snuck in on name alone. I can accept Latvia, I understand it’s not everyone’s taste but Finland not qualifying seems utterly wrong to me. It was perhaps too close to Portugal in the running order so it couldn’t stand out as THE ‘non-Eurovision’ entry. It must have gone down really badly with the televote as any self respecting jury shouldn’t have that anywhere near the lower orders. However, it’s done now and we have 16 of our 26. Christ only knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. Semi final 2 really is anyone’s game!

No matter who we get from semi 2, on Saturday night wherever Greece is in the running order I will mute my TV, open a new tab on the laptop and play Blackbird instead. Thank you Finland, thank you Norma John. You were sorely let down.

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