Not a lot for Charlotte…

So, that’s that then!

What a great night.  The atmosphere in the Beograd arena was electric.  I think the variety of songs was extremely interesting, and everyone gave a great performance.

Given that I am the kiss of death when it comes to predicting winners I was hoping that Charlotte would have done better for Sweden – but hey, I guess it was just a bit too old-school schlager music, and I’m showing my age! At least she got one of the biggest audience reactions in the arena – she looked chuffed… but must be disappointed to finish that low down in the rankings.

As we’d expected, but didn’t want, Dima Bilan came through to take the title this year, so we’re off to Moscow next year.  I don’t mind the song, but I just can’t stand watching it – since when is a bloomin’ skater pivotal to a song contest? Hey ho.

The mood in the arena was very flat during the scoring – more excitement when Russia was given low marks – and it would have been great to have had a really close vote. In the end, after a good challenge from Ukraine (second place for the second year running) and Greece (which finished higher than I thought it would), Russia walked it and it was almost anti-climactic.

I received a lot of texts last night – and I’m getting to the stage that it’s so expensive that I couldn’t reply to them all.  That said, Ellen did say that Wogan was going mad!  It’s not like he doesn’t to that EVERY year… might be enough to make him quit?

To round off the night, and my first Eurovision adventure, we had tickets to the after show party, but like some of the others that we have been to in the Sava centre, the venue lacks atmosphere, and there were too many pouting people at it last night.  As Karen and Milija had early flights we stayed for a while and the slipped away. I got to bed at 3.20am (normal time for me on Eurovision night) and I’ve had about 5 hours sleep… gotta get organised, do my packing, tidy the apartment and head home.

Thanks for reading about my adventures in Belgrade for the last 8 days… I’ve had a blast, and I hope you’ve perhaps got a bit more out of your own Eurovision experience this year after tracking my movements in Serbia.

So, that’ll be Belgrade then…

 Phil.

  

Place your bets

Ok, so my last post before the post-mortem tomorrow!

I really want Charlotte Perrelli to win for Sweden more than anyone else. I’d love to go to Sweden next year! Chatting to Brian, a friend and scholar of Karen’s from Ireland, he had to give directions to a backing singer with Charlotte (the blond one I think) as she had got lost – how funny is that!  This singer was saying to him that she knows that she’s not going to win, that’s she’s very happy, and that a top 5 finish would be great.  I think that everyone is saying that today – the Contest is too competitive.  However, to complete my top 10, I’d like to see these songs well placed:

  • Iceland
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Israel
  • Norway
  • Greece
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Albania

And a big shout-out to ‘my brother from another mother’, Andy Abraham, and as Terry Wogan would say ‘let’s cheer him on with word and gesture…’

It’ll be alright on the night

I have just returned from the last dress rehearsal, and there were no technical troubles, and everyone performed perfectly well. One poor backing dancer for Greece went ‘A’ over ‘T’ when they open what looks like a fold-out book during the performance.  There is something to look out for with the Spanish entry, but I won’t spoil that for… and I’m not talking about the booing that it will receive with all those fans in the audience.  And speaking of booing – wait until the Russian song from Dima Bilan (song 24) – it’ll be a battle between the teenage girls in the audience and the fans – the girls will go crazy, but for the fans and the press his behaviour and the somewhat pretentious performance may work against him tonight. I’m guessing the teenage girls might win that battle! Also, look out for Francis Tellier for France – very good performance and funny – not sure if the backing singers will be wearing look-alike wigs today, but we’ll see).

Anyway, our last image of the day from the arena (can I really be going home tomorrow – good job that it’s a bank holiday as I’ll be shattered!).

arena-today-sat.JPG

As is now the custom for the host nation, the Eurovision Song Contest will feature their winning act from the previous year, and this year Marija will open the show with a brief reprise of the winning song, Molitva (which is used that much during the proceedings of the broadcast that it almost sounds like a national anthem). 

marjia-opens.JPG

Marija is joined on stage by what look like an army of femme-bots, for those of you who have seen any of the Austin Powers movies you will get what I mean… 

marija-and-the-feme-bots.JPG

So, when you see the above action it’s time to open that bottle of whatever you need to get yourself through the night, assemble the nibbles – and enjoy what should be an awesome show.

Where’s the Party?

Today will be a fantastic day for me – it’s the final of the ESC for goodness sake!  However, it’s also going to be a bit surreal because I will not be at home, surrounded by my good friends, and doing what I have done every year since 1990.

Yes, for the past 17 years I have organised a Eurovision party – at home, in the Rose Theatre, with over 50 people some years to just three or four people in others. And for many of those years there have been people without whom the Eurovision experience would be unimaginable.  There is a long list of people who I can name check at this point, and who travel long distances to come to my ESC party (Jonathan, Julie, Fromo, Denny). However, I’m only going to make special mention of my best mate and Eurovision partner in crime, Rachel.  

Normally we would have the champagne on ice by now and be working ourselves up into a frenzy for tonight. Unusually, I’m here in Belgrade, and Rachel and Co. are making their way to Crete for a family holiday. Funny how things work-out!

So, tonight I will have an awesome time, but it would be totally awesome if Rachel was there with me… and who know,  maybe next year she might be.

Oh, and early warning the final is on 16 May 2009… will we be in Lisbon?????

If you are having a party tonight (which I know some of you are) have a fabulous time. Joanna, have a great time at Merryll’s party, and all of you be sure to jump up and down for Sweden, Bosnia, Iceland and Israel (well, not so much jumping up and down for that one).

And remember this is one night when the ‘always drink responsibly’ seems slightly inappropriate!! The really strange thing is that alcohol is not being sold in the arena tonight because a woman took all her clothes off the other night! Such is the weird and wonderful world of Eurovision.

The kids are all right?

Can I offer you an observation and some advice ahead of tonight – especially if you are going to watch the ESC with small children (or older children who should know better!)?

I have a feeling… a lot of us have a feeling that the small children of Europe are going to use their pester-power, or their own mobile phones to vote for a song which would not be out of place in either childrens’ television or as we heard in an earlier post – Butlins.

Yes, we fear that the small people of Europe (and some drunk grown-ups) are going to vote in their millions for this song:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/JG1WZqHTLQU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Please, send you children to bed immediately if they show any interest in this song!  As Terry Wogan may very well say … ‘I have a feeling, a terrible feeling…’

The quiet before the storm

Day seven in Belgade (Friday)

There is a new energy around here today because we’ve got the preliminary part of the ESC over, and we can now focus on who is actually going to win this bloomin’ thing.  After being here for almost a week I’m not sure I can call it. There’s no way I’d have put Portugal in the mix, but following a great job in the semis it would appear to be the one to watch… still got good odds at 28/1.

I went to the arena today to watch the first rehearsal of the final.  The auditorium was more busy that it has been at any previous rehearsal, which is to be expected as for the first time the ‘big four’ (UK, France, Germany, Spain) and host country Serbia were performing – and also people will be judging all the songs against each other from here on in.

I was up early (again) to do two follow-up interviews with Radio Lancashire and citytalk.fm. Both went OK. BBC radio 5 Live had also requested an interview – but at 6.50am local time (that’s 5.50am your time). Let’s put it this way, with everything that I’ve done this week I couldn’t quite fit that in!  Also, I was contacted by BBC Northwest Tonight to do a live satellite link-up from Belgrade as their final story of the week, but they didn’t have enough money to pay for Sputnick!

A view from the arena today…

today-at-the-arena.JPG

Our hosts, who are now known as Will and Grace, continue to have no obvious chemistry. He’s not so bad, but you should see her face when she’s not on camera – she has a face like a slapped ar$5…

our-hosts-today-do-the-story.JPG

I sat right in front of the stage for the rehearsal today and it was great to see Andy Abraham give an energetic performance.  It actually got a great reception in the hall. But let’s get real, whilst you’ll love his performance, we’ll be lucky to get to the middle of the table – and the curse of the ‘big 4’ might mean he doesn’t crack the top 20 – which would be really cruel!  Go Andy…

andy.JPG

Bonkers Bosnia also continues to impress. I’m sure that you all at home see more of the subtlety to the staging (bits to camera) than we do in the arena, but they’ve done a great job passing off something that should be a car-crash as something that is really quite entertaining.  A slight technical difficulty at the start of their performance left Laka (the male singer) trapped in the clothes basket. You can see the floor manager talking to him to give him his cue, and the steadi-cam man to the left him – that’s the first camera angle you see on the female singer…

boanisa-2.JPG

Still, at least whilst we waited for the technical problem to be fixed she could get on with some laundry…

bosnia.JPG

Boaz for Israel continues to impress. Amongst all the hyperactivity there is in this competition this year, Boaz is an oasis of calm. At times when I watch the song it does make me feel quite emotional… I really hope he does well – it’s not going to win… too many other big guns, I think.

boaz.JPG 

Sirusho is still belting out ‘Quele, Quele’ with an infectious energy. It’ll do very well for Armenia, but there are too many girls doing the same thing this year – and there seems to be only Ani Lorak (Ukraine) who is noticeable because of that awesome choreography.

shady-lady.JPG 

Portugal has been a sleeper of the competition for many of us – but having seen it on stage a few times it really is very good.  The audience will go barmy for this on Saturday night, so it’ll be interesting to see if the viewers of Europe agree…

portugal.JPG 

And as for Germany, No Angels performed a totally underwhelming song with underwhelmeing delivery and flat vocals – I was being distracted by the wind machines, which surely isn’t a good sign…

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One last thought for this post.  I’ve been given an awful lot of free stuff this week, and I can see how people get seduced by all the freebies.  It’s mainly a blatant attempt to coerce good copy from us all, and I’m sure that for some people it works.  For others it will be an opportunity to make a few quid – it’ll all end up on e-bay… mind you, I have an expensive trip to pay for!  Here’s some of my favourite freebies so far…

stuffffffff.JPG

Nice, eh?  When I arrived at the press centre today to check my pigeon hole, I was given what appeared to be a bag of take-away food…

stuffffffff-2.JPG 

It looks like that, right!?  It is, in fact, a promotional bag from Azerbaijan with a t-shirt, cd, dvd and other stuff.  Like I said in a radio interview this week – some of these countries are in-it-to-win-it, and Azerbaijan and Georgia in particular are doing all they can to curry votes in this way.  Do you see what I did there – it looked like a take-away and they were trying to curry my votes…

Perhaps there is such a thing as too much Eurovision!

It’s the final countdown…

So how many did you get correct from the qualifiers last night?  The ‘eurovision experts’ here in Belgrade averaged 6/10 which is a little down on our success rate the other night – but then again when they revealed that Croatia had made it to the final before they announced Charlotte Perrelli I was as nervous as I was watching the Champions’ League penalty shoot-out (BTW: nice one Man U!).

 So, here are our final 25 songs… Iceland at 100-1 with the bookies today would seem like a good each-way bet?  Serbia is drifting in the odds, as are Armenia, whilst Sweden and Bosnia continue to rise.

01.Romania

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bmutYsE0ID4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

02.United Kingdom

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0Xfi5jotgyA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

03.Albania

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/u-5qUoQxzUo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

04.Germany

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/AdO4Y8ni9yc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

05.Armenia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_z4v43HTZgg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

06.Bosnia and Herzegovina

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0r567UNGEfQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

07.Israel

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/sw_6gdieBRY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

08.Finland

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/oGVorCBF5Uw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

09.Croatia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ryyrm1HUneI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

10.Poland

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/6oWYBgAvtAQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

11. Iceland

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uqPXnAiuQyo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

12. Turkey

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/95CPGT6RD24" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

13. Portugal

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/6qZZxgHxYrw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

14. Latvia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/G9u7l1y-NKc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

15. Sweden

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/iXD_oJlspiA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

16. Denmark

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/B_lEqQKbhKs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

17. Georgia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_2z7RD1Xe6M" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

18. Ukraine

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/DHaLr6qTqPw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

19. France

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZoJqO1bzrCg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

20. Azerbaijan

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/d8wjcMus_m4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

21. Greece

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/GKUuRW2P0GA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

22. Spain

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_pCSnEYLF5k" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

23. Serbia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/EWfEoFfSbLM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

24. Russia

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bawnwSYOCFU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

25. Norway

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Z0RIZ74FMxE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 Who wins?  YOU decide...

Dress to Impress

Some images from the Beograd Arena and the dress rehearsals today (Thursday) :

A cloudy day today

 01-arena-today.JPG

It really is a beautiful stage…

 dress-today.JPG

me-at-dress-today.JPG 

me-at-dress-today-3.JPG

Look out for this performer during the start of the semi-final … funny to see the guy inside! 

 02-opening-act-funy.JPG

The wonderful Charlotte Perrelli struts her stuff for Sweden… 

07-charlottte.JPG

08-charly.JPG

09-charly.JPG

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12-charly.JPG

small-chatl.JPG

Iceland is a hot song…

06-iceland.JPG

05-iceland.JPG

The hosts do one of their wooden links…

03-our-hosts-for-today.JPG

Turkey rocks-out!

14-turkey-rock-out.JPG

 The Ukranian singer Ani Lorak has a stunning visual and a winning performance…

15-ukreina.JPG

16-ukr.JPG

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 And perhaps the most important performer in the semi-finals or the final…. THE WIND MACHINE!

wind.JPG

“You can see better than that at Butlins…”

Day 5 in Belgrade (Wednesday) brought with it the first rehearsal of the second semi-final.  Ask anyone in these parts and they’ll tell you that this is more competitive than the first, and the more difficult to call.  I was really looking forward to this semi-final as it has a really strong opening, with the first four songs seeming like sure qualifiers – Iceland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine.  Many of my friends know that I’ve been gushing about the Swedish entry since February (as has pretty much every Euro-fan on the planet), before Charlotte Perrelli won the Melodifestivalen to represent her country. Look on my iTunes alone and I’ve listened to it over 150 times! 

So, with eager anticipation the dress rehearsal got under way at 1500hrs local time (1400hrs UK time). The arena was busier than it was for the previous rehearsals, due perhaps to the added interest in this group of songs. Technically a better rehearsal, and on performance alone the first four songs did not disappoint (although Charlotte wasn’t going at it full throttle – and why should she, it’s the dress rehearsal). 

I have no pictures to illuminate the proceedings as I forgot my camera – so I’ll be sure to get some at the final dress rehearsal on Thursday afternoon. As we did for the first semi-final, here are the songs on which Karen, Milija and I all agree should progress to the final: 

  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Switzerland
  • Bulgaria
  • Hungary

 On Tuesday night I didn’t post the songs that we agreed would not make it, so here are our unanimous songs from our ‘list of death’: 

  • Lithuania
  • Czech Republic
  • Belarus
  • Croatia
  • Denmark
  • FYRO Macedonia

 Our split decisions are as follows: 

  • Karen and Milija Albania YES!, Phil NO! 
  • Phil Latvia YES!, Karen and Milija NO! 
  • Phil and Karen Georgia YES!, Milija NO! 
  • Phil and Karen Malta YES!, Milija NO! 
  • Milija Cyprus YES! Phil and Karen NO! 
  • Milija Portugal YES! Phil and Karen NO! 

As you can see we’re not aligned as much as we were on Tuesday for the first semi-final, so it makes it all the more interesting. Oh, and just to explain the title of this post – sitting behind me at the dress rehearsal were a couple from the UK whose conversations I could occasionally hear between songs. They compared notes on the styling of the singers, proclaimed various levels of success as they saw it, but the best observation they made (and the funniest thing I heard all day) came after Latvia’s daft pirates performed ‘Wolves of the Sea’. She turned to he and muttered the prophetic words (which will make sense if you watch the semi-final on BBC3 at 8.00pm on Thursday night) ‘you can see better than that at Butlins…’ 

Have we got news for you!

As I told you the other day, Karen and I were filmed for Irish television news which was broadcast last night (Tuesday). We’ve heard the amusing news that whilst Karen was very well received for her comment and journalistic insight into ESC2008, I was mistaken for a singer performing for an unknown country!  Now that’s hilarious!

Karen has also highlighted that the Irish reporter Gareth O’Connor who is covering ESC here in Belgrade has commented on us on his blog, which you can view at

 http://www.rte.ie/arts/blog/eurovision/eurovision20052008.html

 I’m off to do my vocal exercises and blag myself a country for next year…