Diary of “The Weirdest Eurovision Ever?” – Day 11: Technical Tantrums and Trips

Let’s face it… the last 18 months have been anything but ordinary!! And in these strange times of COVID, social distancing and frantic hand washing, even Eurovision has undergone massive changes to ensure the event we know and love can go ahead. We all knew it was going to be a contest unlike any other – but just how different will it be?

In this diary series, Eurovision Ireland regular James will give you his daily personal thoughts about the goings on backstage at Eurovision 2021, both through the lens of a contest being hosted during these unprecedented times and as someone following rehearsals from afar. Will it be The Weirdest Eurovision Ever? Quite possibly!

Day 11 – Technical Tantrums and Trips

Well… think we can all agree last night was quite the opening night for Eurovision 2021! Watching with my friends and colleagues, we all admitted to feeling a little emotional when Te Deum started up and the opening credits rolled – after 2 long years, we’re watching a new Eurovision Song Contest! By the time we saw an arena filled with flag-waving fans and heard the magical words “Eurovision is back!” from our hosts, we were cheering and waving our arms like children on Christmas morning! It’s a really wonderful feeling and we’re beyond excited!! What’s even more, it was wonderful to share that moment with friends, all utterly delighted to be seeing it together – even through a screen!

The show itself was, as we expected, very impressive and looks amazing all stitched together. Aside from a slightly quieter audience than usual (let’s face it, 3,500 people can’t make the same roar of noise as the nearly 10,000 we’re more accustomed to!), you wouldn’t necessarily pick it out as being any different from other contests that came before it. The postcards from around the Netherlands showing holographic versions our contestants inside a little house (in lockdown, like the rest of us as someone suggested) were a quirky idea and very nicely handled. I always smirk a little when someone whines that this year’s postcards are boring… it’s 30 seconds while they get the stage ready, they’re not long enough to be boring!!

There were many standout performances last night, with Lithuania and Russia provide early highs, Cyprus giving a very sensual rendition of El Diablo and I was touched to see Tix remove his glasses to show the audience his ticks. Some will sneer it’s a ploy to get votes, I still think it was brave. It was also the first time we saw a full run through of Montaigne from Australia, which of course we’ve all been curious about for weeks now. Thanks to some nifty editing and close-up camera work, at first it’s hard to tell she isn’t in Rotterdam with everyone else. Only at the end when the camera pans back to an empty stage with Montaigne on a screen does it hit home she really isn’t there.

Of course, we can’t talk about last night without addressing the elephant in the room – the technical issues that meant Romania, Ukraine and Malta were granted a second chance at their performances by the EBU. Now, before some hysterical fans reach for the WORST EUROVISION EVER klaxon and start demanding everyone working on the production side of things is executed, remember this simple fact – mistakes happen! Period! Production teams work very hard to keep things moving as smoothly as possible. It’s not sabotage, it’s not divine punishment (which it was according to a handful of Facebook posts I saw!) it’s live TV being put together in exceptional times and the affected acts will be judged on their 2nd, more settled performance.

Watching Roxen perform for Romania, it became obvious very early on that something had gone wrong and she was noticeably behind the music. Artists mis-speaking or breathing too shallowly is one thing, but after it was quite sustained we wondered if it was technical rather than human error, especially as Roxen seemed to be racing through her words to try and catch up. To her absolute credit, she soldiered through something which must be nerve-shredding for even an accomplished performer and terrifying for someone so young. Similarly a delay in the sound for Ukraine created a bit of an echoing effect and Kateryna’s usually calm façade cracked for slightest half a second. Again, some fans lamented how the song was ruined, but the band still powered through. Both Romania and Ukraine’s second run-throughs went much more smoothly and I’d argue were some of the best we’d seen from both – and the audience certainly got behind them!

Now, when Malta’s name was announced, we all looked at each other incredulously. Huh? Why Malta? What went wrong there? Some people on social media have taken this surprise at Malta being allowed to perform again as being hate towards the song or singer, or that Europe at large wishes them ill at the contest. I very much doubt this is the case and nothing could be further from the truth for us – we watched Destiny give a practically flawless performance of Je Me Casse and nothing was obviously wrong to our eye or ear, whereas the incidents were much more noticeable for Ukraine and Romania. We were simply surprised she was given a second run-through. As expected, Destiny delivered both extremely well!

With the live shows starting tonight (make sure you check your local TV listings for find out how you can watch!) the mornings and afternoons of the Eurovision press this week are a lot more free. With acts rehearsing for most of the day, the press can either watch the live shows rehearse (again) or opt to explore a little more of the host city and go sightseeing or take a day trip. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love a good day trip! Don’t believe me? Just take a look! Many of you also know I wrote Europe in a Day – Day Trips to the Continent based exactly on this theme and after travelling all the way to Eurovision, going a step further to explore the host nation is a must. Among our team there have been quite some exotic day trips from the Eurovision arena… Copenhagen, Bratislava, Helsinki, Chornobyl, Sintra… and at our last in person Eurovision in Tel Aviv, we even bumped into Serhat in the Arab Souk in Jerusalem’s Old Town the night after he qualified for the final! I must say, shaking hands with an incredibly famous Turkish man, singing for San Marino, in an Arab market in the middle of Jerusalem was perhaps one of the most unusual, yet strangely brilliant things I’ve ever done… what can I say, Eurovision gives you some truly memorable moments!

We had planned a day trip to Antwerp from Rotterdam for 2020 (and this year, in the event things had settled down enough). Next year’s contest might still be a year away, but it still hasn’t stop us talking about potential day trips for next year during rehearsals… it’s almost a game, give James a city and he’ll suggest a day trip. Kaunas 2022? Vilnius, or maybe Hrodna if you’re feeling adventurous! Reykjavík 2022? The Golden Circle, naturally! Zürich 2022? It has to be Lugano! This year’s Eurovision day trip (or time away from the screen) involved me walking down to the river near where I live by myself. Perhaps not as historic as Jerusalem or thought-provoking as Chornobyl, but still a welcome break.

Going to end here and get ready for the live shows – wherever you’re watching tonight, enjoy the show and we’ll take a look at the stats and who made it (and who didn’t!) tomorrow once the dust settles! Enjoy the First Semi Final!

Signing off for today – thank you Europe, and good night!

Author: James Scanlan
Source: Eurovision Ireland
Banner Image Source: Adapted from realireland.ie

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