By Kevin Sherwin
So, 12 months have passed since we were in Ukraine and the Eurovision media circus moves on to Portugal and to its capital Lisbon.
43 countries are taking part this year and we welcome back Russia, and in particular the Russian singer Julia Samoylova who was refused entry into Ukraine last year and as a result Russia withdrew from Eurovision 2017.
We have 2 Semi-Finals and a Grand Final to look forward to but before all that we have the rehearsals, dress rehearsals, press conferences and the Red carpet opening ceremony to attend where we journalists decide who is going to win, and of course every member of the accredited press are Eurovision experts who know everything Eurovision related, or so we think!
Romania has sent “The Humans to Lisbon with the song “Goodbye”. Now, the maximum amount of people allowed on stage from each delegation is 6 but the band have over 40 Mannequins on stage which must be the biggest number of props ever seen at Eurovision.
I caught up with the band at the press conferences and first of all complimented lead singer Cristina on her very powerful voice, apparently when she was 8 years old her mother insisted she sang every time the postman delivered a letter to their house.
Guitar player Alex is married to Cello player Corina and I asked him why he added a cello to the song to which he said “ the cello is almost like the human voice” and he really wanted to include that on the song plus of course his wife also wanted to be part of the band.
This is my 20th Eurovision and there is nothing different to this year’s event than my previous 19 – Stage, press centre and conference centre all look the same.
Free coffee and water for journalists and free shuttle buses to take us to the arena, so we’re all made to feel at home which is just as well as it’ll be our home for 11 days.
After their 2 Rehearsals most of the press are convinced that Romania will not qualify to the Grand Final which will be a first as Romania have always qualified, personally I think it’s a sure thing that “The Humans” will be on stage in the Grand Final on 12th May. Of course there are 42 other countries taking part in Eurovision 2018 so we journalists get to watch every rehearsal and try to pick a winner.
There’s always drama at every Eurovision and this year it’s the turn of the Czech Republic to make the news. Poor Mikolas Josef the Czech singer tried some spectacular acrobatics during his first rehearsal and slipped, he was rushed to hospital and later posted that he’d injured his back and had difficulty walking, was Czech Republic about to leave the party early? Fortunately he made a miraculous recovery and was able to perform in the second rehearsal, he is a little bit eccentric as during his video for his song he sits on a camel, I did ask him what the camels name was but he said “they have never been properly introduced.”
Dressed in white shirt and braces he reminded me of a 1940’s American gangster.
It’s worth pointing out that we have a former winner and a former runner up taking part this year plus 2 woman who have recently performed on the Eurovision stage.
Alexander Rybak won for Norway with “fairytale” in 2009 and wants to repeat what Jonny Logan did for Ireland and win the contest twice. The Netherlands have singer Waylon who was one half of “The Common Linnets” who came second in 2014 with “Calm after the storm”.
Now, the United Kingdom who have come second 15 times but more recently been near the wrong end of the scoreboard have chosen the female singer SuRie. The song is “Storm” and in 2015 SuRie was a backing singer for the Belgium artist Loic Nottet and she returned in 2017 as Musical director for Blanche also from Belgium.
Now I said there was 2 women who had recently performed on the Eurovision stage, the other one is this years Australian singer Jessica Mauboy. Jessica was invited to sing in the interval at the 2014 contest and has returned in 2018 to take participate with her song “We got love”. I asked her if there was any pressure on her as all 3 previous Australian singers have progressed from the Semi Finals. She said “Absolutely, those were 3 Amazing artists and now I need to make it 4 out of 4.”
Now, before you all ask “why are Australia still in Eurovision”?, the simple answer is “I don’t know” but they are members of the European Broadcasting Union and until the EBU says otherwise there here to stay.
Kazakhstan is broadcasting the show this year and has always said they’d love to take part one year and a few years ago China sent a delegation to report on the contest. We’ve come a long way from Lugano in 1956 where only 14 countries took part. That year a young Swiss singer called Lys Assia won the contest with the song “Refrain”, sadly Lys passed away just a few weeks ago.
Let’s not forget Finland and their singer Saara Aalto who was runner up at the British X factor in 2016, and Ireland’s Ryan O, Shaughnessy who was a finalist on Britain’s got talent in 2012.
Anyone thinking they are coming to Lisbon for a holiday can think again, not only have the artists to rehearse many times, they also have to perform their songs at the Eurovillage for the locals plus more performances at the Euroclub which is where us overworked journalists spend our evenings relaxing.
But it’s not all hard work as the Romanian delegation have been on a few excursions and were invited along to the Romanian Embassy one afternoon and had an amazing time.
So, open rehearsals all finished it’s time to put on our best clothes and parade down the red carpet in front of the worlds media.
This year Portugal decided the carpet would be blue to match the connection Lisbon has with the sea and the logo for this year’s contest is “All Aboard”!
So, all 43 countries were being very nice and complemented each other but now that’s all put to one side side as 36 counties start to battle it out for a place in the Grand Final, “Let the Eurovision Song Contest begin.”
There was a surprise on the blue carpet for singer Cristina from Romania as her boyfriend secretly turned up to the event, she thought he was still back home. She told me it was a very pleasant surprise.
Cristina Caramarcu, the lead singer of the band representing Romania at Eurovision, has been proposed by her boyfriend right during the opening ceremony of the event.
Rosario, Cristina’s lover for the past eight years, gave her a red rose and proposed her in front of hundreds of people attending the opening ceremony.
Visibly touched, Cristina said she had been overwhelmed. “It’s a unique moment, an experience I will never forget and Rosario’s surprise has made this day the most beautiful one in my life,” she confessed.