Eurovision Song Contest 2011 – The show, the party, the aftershocks

Flags above the barFor the third consecutive year our Eurovision Night has been in the form of co-hosting a party in a pub in Birmingham. We start off with some Eurovision music, have flags all over the place, a big screen to watch the show on, a sweepstake, a poll as to who is the party’s favourite, and we end up with a Eurovision disco till dawn. Well, not dawn, about 2am. We were extremely pleased with the numbers attending as we thought most of our Eurovision friends would be firmly ensconced in Düsseldorf, but we still had about 60 people in all, including someone who had flown back from Düsseldorf that morning, having watched the Friday evening dress rehearsal! Gosh.

It’s very difficult in a noisy party atmosphere to gauge the vocal nuances of the performances and generally speaking it seemed like an overall excellent performance from overall everyone. The big reactions at our party went to Hungary – no surprise there, being a schlagertastic favourite; Sweden, same applies; UK – also no surprise to be keen on our home team; and Spain – the thought of sunnily dancing to this song on the beach in Benidorm obviously cheered up the rather overcast streets of Birmingham. And indeed, the (perhaps) surprise favourite of our party, according to the votes submitted, was Spain!

When the early votes were favouring the UK there was, as you can imagine, vast amounts of whooping excitement, which later on turned to whoops of despair – “SIX from Ireland? TWO from Greece? Etc”. The very close results made for an exciting voting hour anyway. I really liked the use of a clever algorithm to sequence the votes in the most exciting way. The first ten juries each gave their twelve points to twelve different countries, and indeed only 5 countries out of the 25 didn’t get a douze points from someone. A whizzkid with a spreadsheet on a Eurovision chatboard I visit has worked out that Azerbaijan won with only 43.8% of the available scores, and as such is the winning song with the lowest proportion of marks since this current voting system started in 1975. Brotherhood of Man in 1976 have the highest proportion, since I know you’re asking.

Party crowdIt was an excellent party anyway, as I hope the attached photos will bear out. The Eurovision disco was finished off with a lovely cup of tea and a bag of crisps and bed at 3.30am. Then we had a nice Thai lunch in Birmingham on the Sunday before motoring home. But curiosity got the better of us and we decided to rewatch the programme on Sunday night to get the full “at home, highly quality audio, actually hearing what the commentator says” version of the show.

It looked spectacular. The backdrop fitted in with the performances beautifully. I didn’t like the presenters much, but I am grateful that they have now given rise to a new phrase “Danke, Anke” which I’m sure will have legs. The show is now so technically magical and visually stunning, we don’t need to have presenters doing comic turns trying to outdo it. I’d sooner see some decent, more elegant, more classy presenters let the songs do the work. However, I did think the opening sequence was great, with the 43 different Lenas all singing Satellite. On the other hand the interval act was one of the worst ever.

I think one of the biggest surprises was the poor showings of Hungary, Estonia, France and Russia. Watching closely, France was a nervous performance, and Estonia was a shouty one. Hungary was reasonably ok and Russia was good. I guess the Russian act and the Swedish act were very much competing for the same market and Eric’s act was slicker.

At the other end of the spectrum, although I am pleased that Italy did well inasmuch as it was their return after 14 years and hopefully this will give them the optimism and courage to keep with the contest again, I really cannot see the appeal of this song at all. I think its second placing means it is the most successful Eurovision jazz song ever, although success-wise it has little to beat.

Huddle And what of the UK? It was a reasonable performance; Lee’s first attempt at the top note didn’t go that well, but it was no worse a performance than many other countries’. Possibly the staging was a little old fashioned in retrospect. What is it with the UK and light boxes? Only one country awarded the UK twelve points – Bulgaria. The countries that voted for the UK were scattered all over Europe, so I hope that continues to put paid to the Woganesque lie that “the East never votes for us”. The UK received votes from Latvia, Moldova, Lithuania, Albania, Ukraine and Russia, for example, but didn’t get votes from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden or Germany.

So now, it’s Baku, city of dreams. Very tempted to try to go to this one. When else would one include Azerbaijan on one’s travels? And you can visit the Gobustan Rock Art World Heritage site to see stone-age graffiti. Sounds entertaining!

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