My second day in Belgrade saw an early start for Karen and myself as we were eager to attend the press conference of the Israeli entry, cute twenty year old singer Boaz – winner of Israel’s version of Pop Idol. Boaz was ushered into a swanky hotel in a more upmarket region of Belgrade than that which we are frequenting! To those of you who are not aficionados of the Contest, the main interest for Karen and myself (and probably many at the conference) was the writer of Boaz’s song… none other than Dana International, who won the Grand Prix back in 1998 – the last occasion on which the UK hosted the ESC in Birmingham.
Boaz and Dana International
Dana, as some of you will know, caused something of a storm in 1998 – as she used to be a he. She was a deserved winner, and in many ways that victory has changed the dynamic of the contest that we are all experiencing today. Camp? Kitsch? “Fabulous”. Yes, all three – and we were lucky to viva la diva today (Sunday) – shameless lyric plug there!
Though we were supposedly there to hear about Boaz and his song, in many ways it was Dana’s press conference – she was at her bitchy best. She held court over the proceedings and poor Boaz (himself not a fluent speaker of English) was very much sidelined – but it didn’t seem to matter. His song is a good song, but I’ll act like a politician and sit on the fence – I’m not sure it will quality for the final. That said, I certainly schmoozed with the Israeli delegation today… I’m working the room on behalf of you EHU!
Phil wth Eurovision winner Dana International
Next it was off to register and collect our accreditation badges – you’re nobody around here if you haven’t got some form of accreditation. As a fan I don’t exactly get access all areas, but I’m grateful to the BBC for giving me this opportunity, so I mustn’t grumble. The press centre is located in Serbia’s largest conference centre, and is a comfortable venue.
Karen outside the press centre
Having collected our accreditation badges and had a light lunch at the press centre, in the late afternoon it was time to check out how the UK’s entry Andy Abraham was shaping-up at his final rehearsal before the actual competition gets underway. And you know what, he worked the stage with a great backing band – all vocally very strong. He has a natural confidence and we moves well around the stage in what is a well choreographed routine. The song is funky and the bright colours of the stage design complement this seasoned performer. On the strength of this rehearsal I think that Andy will do the UK proud and it would be a well deserved top ten placing for him, if the votes go our way. Although we know the score, right!
Andy on stage during the rehearsals
I must say that the Arena and the stage all look much smaller than they do on television – but such is the magic of television! I remember being in the audience of Mastermind once – it’s like sitting in your lounge! You’ll find it a visually stunning setting – and I can’t wait for the first dress rehearsals on Tuesday afernoon where I can see the first run through of the first semi-final.
Perhaps the strangest event of the day was a freak hail storm that we completely missed – immersed as we were with Andy’s rehearsals. It was carnage – the hail had literally stripped the leaves and foliage from trees and plants – it was a bizarre sight as it had been a very warm day. I can’t believe that a picture of monster hail stones has made it to my Eurovision blog…
Final stop of the day was to attend the welcome party – by invitation only – where the host broadcaster recived their acredited guests and performing artists. It was a stunning venue and it was good to meet with some of the acts and experience the energy and the buzz of this official launch party. This was made even more enjoyable for the lavish trays of free alcohol and food.
It was a marvellous night – although I’ve abandoned any sense of British reserve and thrown myself at my new best friends…Andy and Boaz!
Phil with ‘our Andy’!
Phil with Boaz – the Israeli singer
So that was a wonderful second day in sunny Belgrade.