Sunday, March 21, 2021

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: He's working from home

Like Nena's war machine, No Rock & Roll Fun is opening up one eager eye as an old friend has emerged to celebrate the crazy upside of a global pandemic. Yes, yes, it's cut a swathe through our friends and family, tanked the economy and destroyed lives and livelihoods. Sure, it might have revealed that a worryingly large portion of the people we share this island with turn into big babies if you ask them to pop on a mask to go into Sainsburys; and an even more worrying number will claim that you will literally die if you do so because wearing a bit of cotton over your mouth is the same as sleeping in a sealed box with a broken gas boiler. Absolutely, coronavirus meant that for some reason the world spent far too long talking about a bunch of arseholes who appear to be famous solely for treating tigers badly.

But did we learn nothing - nothing - from Bing Crosby? You've got to accentuate the positive, right? And here's Gennaro Castaldo, who has found a cash-stuffed upside that doesn't even require him to be mates with Matt Hancock:

Music lovers have been getting in the groove during the pandemic – and buying record amounts of vinyl.

While the Covid crisis has been  disastrous for live music, it has turned the tables on sales of old-fashioned LPs, which are now at their highest level since the early 1990s.


And the trend looks set to continue. Gennaro Castaldo, of the British Phonographic Industry, said: “The nation’s love affair with vinyl shows no sign of relenting – a passion that, if anything, has become stronger under lockdown.

“Vinyl is appealing to fans of all ages and backgrounds because it feels like the ultimate expression of the artist’s craft.”

Gennaro has clearly spent much of his time in lockdown trying to find something new to say about vinyl beyond "it sounds much more authentic" or "it's so much warmer" and, fair play, "it feels like the ultimate expression of the artist's craft" is fresh. 

Although craft and art are two different things.

And the delivery method of the music isn't really the ultimate expression of how good a musician is, is it? That's clearly idiotic. If you'd only heard, say, B B King playing live, you wouldn't have come out of the gig muttering "yeah, that seems okay, but I'm going to withhold judgement until I've had a chance to hear his work coming out of a tinny speaker on a jukebox because you can't judge a musician until they've had their work mediated by a producer, a shitload of recording equipment, some tape, the mastering process, the vagaries of a pressing plant, and a whole load of decisions made at the other end about styli, turntables and speakers. You don't really get to understand what sort of a craftsperson the artist is until all those mechanical process and other people's decisions have been slathered over the top."

Still, let's channel out inner Bing Crosby. The Mirror points out that this is a good news music story in a bad year:

While the Covid crisis has been  disastrous for live music, it has turned the tables on sales of old-fashioned LPs, which are now at their highest level since the early 1990s.

Industry experts say lockdown means fans can’t go to gigs – so they have more cash to spend.

The paper doesn't actually mention how many vinyl albums have been sold, and unfortunately, because they've labelled the news of album sales an "exclusive", I don't suppose we've got any way of finding out.

Hang on, though, it's a UK tabloid exclusive, isn't it? So that means it's probably a story that has been circulating for ages.

And, indeed, Farout reported the exact same thing two months ago:

The new figures show that almost one in five (18%) of all albums bought in 2020 were vinyl, with a staggering 4.8 million vinyl LPs purchased. 

Nearly five million. That is a lot. At about 20 quid a pop, that would work out at a business worth roughly a hundred million pounds. Not, of course, to be sniffed at. But that's only one-eleventh the size of the live music industry.

And, given that only ten per cent of this is the extra sales uplift being attributed to lockdown, that means one percent of the money that would have been generated in 2020 on going out to hear live music has trickled into vinyl.

Oh, and that would have to be offset against the drop in sales of CDs, which had their worst year since 1987.

So the idea that the shuttering of venues has been mitigated by physical sales is a bit of a pipe dream. It's like Michael Gove losing his political incomes but thinking the residuals from A Stab In The Dark will let him coast to retirement.

In fairness, Gennaro is representing the Phonographic Industry and for him, it's the platters that matter in a very real sense. And if your focus is on shifting units, it's quite a good news story.

Up to a point.

The Mirror concedes that the trend is being driven by "older, nostalgic" music fans - people like us who will be dead or struggling on the state pension soon and don't really represent much of a long-term future market for the UK music industry. But, wait, the kids are getting involved, too:

But new LPs, including Harry Styles’ Fine Line and Kylie Minogue’s Disco, were also high in the vinyl charts, as younger fans discovered the discs.

This year releases by Foo Fighters, Celeste, Maximo Park and Kings of Leon have helped to drive the surge in sales, which are already up 10% compared to the same period in 2020.

Oh, young people! Except if you were born in the year Kylie signed her first record deal, you'd be 34 now. Shit, if you were born in the year she had her last UK number one, you'd be able to legally drink in a pub, if pubs were a still a thing that were open for drinking in. Celeste apart, all the artists cited have been plugging away at it for ages. 

By the time The Beatles had been going as long as Maximo Park have, Wings were already on their first Greatest Hits album.

People buying recorded music in 2021 is obviously a good thing, and in a lean year when there's no cake around, finding a couple of custard creams at the back of a cupboard is a bit of light in the dark. But we can't kid ourselves that the rickety rack of Screamadelicas and Velvets with Nico shoved in the no-mans-land between the Sainsbury's deli counter and the tiny Argos is the solution to the structural problems in the music industry.

Still, it's good to see Gennaro is still doing his thing. Positive-sounding puffery in a tabloid? Isn't that really the ultimate expression of the artist's craft?


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Liveblog: Eurovision 2019

Bollocks. I was rather hoping I'd have forgotten how to use Blogger as an excuse to swerve this year's Eurovision Song Contest. As, perhaps, we all should be doing, what with it being held in Israel and, thus, helping the Israeli government in their campaign to appear like any other country.

There have been numerous calls for the competition to be removed from Israel, or for a boycott of the event - although, in fairness, if your objection is to Israel hosting the contest, you're effectively saying you don't mind them taking part in Eurovision, so long as they don't win it.

The management of Eurovision are, of course, adept at making the case that you shouldn't spend too long thinking about how the government making everyone so welcome to sing a few songs doesn't really have so great a human rights record. After all, they got a chance to trot the arguments out a few years back in Russia.

Netta - whose inability to lose despite offering up a dreadful, twee performance last year got us into this mess - popped up on the BBC yesterday stressing how Eurovision is a chance for everyone of all races, sexualities and genders to come together in peace. It's a line the Eurovision producers are hoping will be amplified across the course of the show, although I've checked the running order a couple of times and am struggling to see whereabouts the Palestinian entry is coming on.

The approved Eurovision, um, vision of everyone coming together can't be seen as a political message, though. Because the producers are very clear that no politics will be tolerated in the arena tonight - one senior man, whose name I didn't catch, told BBC News last night that anyone trying to make a political statement will be "stopped and punished".

Stopped is disappointing. Punished is really concerning. What sort of punishment will the Eurovision organisers have at their disposal? Engelbert Humperdinck can attest that simply setting foot on a Eurovision stage has the power to make you disappear completely from public view so god knows what they could do if they were pissed off with you.

The point at which the contest is most likely to lurch into an unplanned commercial break (while UK viewers are treated to the hosts awkwardly bantering over the sound of human howling) is during Hatari's performance. Back in February, the band challenged Netanyahu to a wrestling match and have given off signals that, if we must go to this place and do this thing, we're not going to do it quietly.

Back when it was Russia, the it was comfortingly easy to get outraged.. Because it's Russia, and Putin. With Israel, though, the politics are a lot more complicated - it's almost impossible to type the words "Tel Aviv" without wading into a confused chamber of rows stinking of racism, antisemitism, and bad-faith extrapolations in all directions. It's almost as if the politics of the Middle East is an easy thing to get drawn into, but becomes something of a quagmire should you look to leave.

If you'd like a calm, clear explanation of why holding Eurovision in Israel is fucked up, you could do a lot worse than read Abier Almasri's piece for Human Rights Watch. And if we are going to not pretend that we can't see where Eurovision is this year, maybe the best we can hope for is that as many voices like Abier's are amplified and help drown out the messages the Israeli government want to send.

If you're not looking for a calm, clear explanation of the politics of Eurovision 2019, though, you should send for Bobby Gillespie.

Bobby's already had something a red letter month. Denise Johnson tweeted this a few days back:

And a couple of weeks earlier Gillespie did a fashion spread. Now, doing a fashion spread is one thing. But when you appear wearing a three thousand quid coat in a newspaper edited by George Fucking Osborne, you might have lost the moral high ground a bit.

So, things weren't looking good when he went onto Newsnight and was asked about Eurovision.

He served up a take so bad it's possible Ben Gurion and Yasser Arafat, watching it from their not-really-that-different-heavens, might be able to make common cause on yelling "shut up".

"All of my heroes are Jewish" is both a refreshing reworking of "some of my friends are black", but also an amazing revelation about the Paint It Black era Rolling Stones.

But even before being awful about Israeli politics, Bobby has already been awful about Madonna.

To say "she's a prostitute" as a criticism, and then to rush out "not that there's anything wrong with being a prostitute" is perhaps the most radical attempt at a remix since Weatherall somehow shook Loaded out of I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have. You might think that Gillespie is a misogynistic arsehole - not, of course, that there's anything wrong with misogynistic arseholes. "She's a whore" was one of the most commonplace attacks Madonna had to weather during her early years, and as an insult says nothing about either Madonna or sexworkers, but a whole lot about the person hurling it.

It's less controversial to say that Madonna will do anything for money, but it's also not exactly revealing a hidden truth when one of the songs she's going to do tonight is The One From The Big Pepsi Commercial. It's also a bit much to take from someone who's just reissued Velocity Girl with a shiny new video, and promoted it in an article which contains the words "Givenchy jacket, £1,810; shirt, £476; trousers, £684 ( Gucci boots, £875 ( (Drew Jarrett)" as the image caption.

So here we are, then: The attempts to protest Eurovision haven't brought down the Israeli regime, or even stopped the contest. But they have managed to destroy Primal Scream for us.

Which is something of a long way round saying: welcome to the No Rock & Roll Fun 2019 Eurovision Song Contest Liveblog.

We'll be back just before 8.00pm...

Have just realised the football starting at 5pm has robbed us of the chance for a Eurovision Pointless.

Here we go, then. The gap between the TV and the streaming version of BBC One is now so huge you could edit out a swear-filled rant from Shaun Ryder between one and the other.

Oh god. There's some business with a pretend plane kicking us off, apparently piloted by last year's winner.

Oh, and waving scouts.

I'd forgotten they'd introduced the 'having all the contestants walk on at the start' thing; to give you a chance to have completely forgotten what they look like by the time they actually come to the stage.

Dana International is looking fabulous, but it's not clear why she's got El Al cabin crew stood behind her.

The sound mix is terrible on this. Hopefully they;ll sort it out before the event proper gets under way.

It's time to meet the presenters . Four of them this year. Probably one is there solely to wrangle Madonna.

"This is our third date" says the bearded host to the host in a corset, "and you know what happens on a third date".

Well, that's awkward.

This bit of cut-up old presenters talking about how you vote is quite a nice touch.

They've added a new touch, we're warned. The intro videos are going to feature the contestants dancing.

"How about we open tonight's Grand Final?" Yes, you've been going for quarter of an hour already, please do get a crack on.

Malta: Michela – Chameleon

Michaela is wearing a cheap rain mac of the sort you buy at Alton Towers when you forget your anorak; with a denim top over it.

There's some very Primary School Teacher doing the lights for a play effects going on here. Sadly, thats the most interesting thing about the performance. The song is like a watered down version of Baltimora's Tarzan Boy.

At least it can only get better from here.

I say that, there's plenty of time for it to get worse.

"She'll be thrilled with that" observes Graham Norton. That makes one of her.

Albania: Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës

Jonida is dancing in a pond.

She's performing from inside a crown of thorns, which is a provocative choice from Israeli State TV all things considered.

This sounds like it could be authentically Albanian, although I have no idea if that is the case.

Hang on, now it sounds like she's singing about Oreos.

They've added some fire to the stage set. Didn't improve Uncle Roy's barbecue party; didn't help this.

Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend

They could have made Lake Malawi stand in a pond for their dancing video, because that would have made more sense. Or at least a weak sight gag. Instead they appear to be dicking about on a wall.

Oh god, that drummer is clearly not playing that drum.

"He was my neighbour when we were 13" sings the grinning Pellow-like lead singer. I think we see where this is going.

I might be being unfair to the drummer; it could just be that he's six feet tall and using a kid's drum set. Perhaps he forgot his own drums, and that was all you can get in Tel Aviv on a Saturday? Is there a drumming animatronic bear at a kid's restaurant missing his kit?

Germany: S!sters – Sister

Oh, this isn't sisters like Buffy and Dawn. This is sisters like Shula and Elizabeth. The sort of sisters whose drama you wouldn't tune into if you were sat behind them on a long train journey. They're teating us to the sort of the thing that Elaine Paige and Barbara Dixon would have thrown out to test the mic levels.

The blonde one is wearing the 'sexy outfit', which looks like she's gone to a fancy dress shop and bought a 'sexy sexy outfit outfit'

Russia: Sergey Lazarev – Scream
Apparently did well in the public vote last time he appeared at Eurovision, says Graham.

Imagine that. Russia doing well in a public vote.

Sergey is dressed entirely in white, and singing in front of a BBC Micro rendering of a leap into Hyperspace.

Hold on, he's now standing in a shower.

This song is so slow, you'd be able to lead a funeral procession with it.

How can it only be 8.34? He's been singing this for an hour and a half.

Oh, we're up to a break already. A chance to talk to Jean Paul Gaultier for no apparent reason other than maybe Madonna?

Denmark: Leonora – Love Is Forever

This starts like it's going to be Orinoco Flow and then quickly morphs into the sort of plinky-plonky song that they might use in a Nationwide commercial.

"Don't get too political" she sings, confusing the instructions taped to the side of the stage with her autocue.

It's a testament to how poor this evening has been that this is the best thing we've had so far.

Leonora is climbing up a ladder from which a young version of Albert Steptoe is hanging off.

San Marino: Serhat – Say Na Na Na

"This song took five minutes to write" reveals Graham. Very little of that spent on coming up with a title.

Another all-white outfit.

"Be strong - look at me" says the background. I mean, you're no oil painting Serhat, but I don't think it's fair to say you'd need superpowers to gaze at you.

The backing dancer blokes have forgotten to put their strides on.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – Proud

Tamara presents a challenge. Is she meant to have an asymmetric bob, or does she just have a bad hairdresser?

The lyric so far is generic "say it proud and loud" stuff, which was pretty much the message of the last one. Given we're in a Contest where participants have been told to ensure they shut the fuck up, that's a little ironic.

I keep expecting this song to kick up a gear. It is running out of time to find that gear.

Nope. No new gear. She just shouts a bit.

Another break. Pencilled on beard man is throwing to commercials. Corset woman is sitting with the Maltese singer, who is being more animated than she was during her performance.

Pencil beard is with the German sisters. They don't entertain him with their claim they see each other as queens, so he heads off to someone else.

Graham's done the toast to the ghost of Terry Wogan.

Sweden: John Lundvik – Too Late for Love

Starts off dangerously close to Curiosity Killed The Cat's Name and Number, but then shifts into standard Eurovisionballadry. Oh, and then shifts again into a standard Euro pumper..

"Everything reminds me of your face" says John. What, everything? Doing the bins? Nigel Farage on the telly? A dead badger mouldering slightly in the drizzle on the side of the A37? Really, John?

Backing singers channeling off-Broadway performance of Sister Act energy.

Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi

They met on Instagram, warns Graham. Okay, Slovenia: double influencer power is go.

They're wearing all white, of course. Is tonight sponsored by Persil?

She's looking at him as she sings with the eyes of someone who had been promised everything would be alright and doesn't believe that any more.

Yeah, they're going to do this whole song staring at each other. This feels awkward.

She's pawing him now. This is just the ten minute freeview, isn't it?

Cyprus: Tamta – Replay

When Tumblr axed all the adult content on their platform, the deleted posts came to life. And they came to life as Tamta, with her 'rustle up your own PVC costume' approach.

The song are two verses of nothingness held together by a chorus of a robot marching downstairs.

"You're stuck on me, darling". Yeah, you'll get that if you don't use enough talc with your PVC.

The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – Arcade

The favourite to win tonight.

But first, a quick look back at Slovenia as seen on Twitter:

Back to the Dutch. Well, at least Duncan isn't wearing white, but he has bought a keyboard which is both too large and too small at the same time.

"My mind feels like a foreign land, silence ringing in my head" sings Duncan, and boy, does a foriegn country where it's quiet sound like a real treat compared with this year's song.

Greece: Katerine Duska – Better Love

Kat is doing some stuff in a library for her dance video, which must be annoying for people trying to use the library. I know libraries aren't all "shush" and "no noise" any more but you've got to draw a line somewhere, surely?

Florence And The Machine That Needs New Batteries, isn't it?

Oh, there are people fencing on stage. I hope they're really good at fencing. (Secretly thinking: it'd be amusing if they're not really good at fencing).

Kat reaches for a high note with confidence. Misplaced confidence.

"Burning feeling inside" she trills. Mmm. Try yoghurt for that.

Halfway point. Of the songs. Just of the songs.

Time for the home team.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – Home

Jesus Christ alive, that bust of Lionel Richie from the Hello video has been animated and thrown on the stage.

Is that a metal bow tie he's wearing?

Well, I think we can rest assured that a year hence Newsnight isn't going to be asking the lead singer of The Bluetones what they think about the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Oh, he's crying.

Norway: KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky

Presumably this isn't going to be the Norman Greenbaum one.

Why is Nick Tilsley off Corrie pretending to be Norwegian here?

He's just been joined by cabaret-tribute-to-mid-period-Madonna.

Oh, and a third voice provided by Varys, who has time on his hands now he's been burned off Game Of Thrones.

Ooooh I love love love their giant stag. The giant stag is the best thing so far.

United Kingdom: Michael Rice – Bigger than Us
Michael's used to the big occasions, having won that awful singing thing with Geri Halliwell and Rob Beckett in front of an audience of at least two dozen.

"It's bigger than us. It's bigger than You And Me." Yeah, but we'd rather be watching Crow and Alice.

This isn't a terrible song, and on the evidence so far, it's a lot less terrible than many of the other terrible songs we've heard. It doesn't deserve to win, but it deserves to do a lot better than it actually will wind up doing.

Another break. This time they've made the contestants come to the hosts. This is what they call a format tweak.

They're asking the guy from San Marino what he'll do if he wins, which is that level of cruelty you get when they ask people on Pointless who have offered no credible answers how they'll spend the jackpot "if by chance" they find a Pointless answer.

This is what we've waited for.
Iceland: Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra

Now, THIS is how you do a BDSM performance. It's like mid 80s Martin Gore has been brought on to do the visuals, while Skinny Puppy have chucked in the tune. VOTE FOR THIS WITH ALL YOUR LIFE.

Extra points for the prancing gimp.

"Verfur lyga" they snarl, and I don't think that's their safeword.

Estonia: Victor Crone – Storm

Poor Victor Crone, having to follow that. I'm not sure they'll even have had time to mop the lube up yet.

Victor has come on after the sex people with the air of Ralph McTell the week Alphabet Zoo reached the letter Q and the format's weakness has just revealed itself to him.

"When it all calms down, we'll be safe and sound" sings Victor, making a love song sound like a Protect And Survive leaflet.

Belarus: ZENA – Like It

This year's favourite for the 'send the show to somewhere problematic' option.

"Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Paris Hilton. And Paris Hilton will be being Gwen Steffani."

To be fair to Zena, this is the first song tonight that sounds like it would fit in the current Top 40. I mean, not the Top 10 or the 20, but it could certainly hold its head up down in the lower 30s.

Azerbaijan: Chingiz – Truth

Takes some balls for someone who has a Jimmy Hill style protrusion to go on stage with a name that starts with Chin.

He's being operated on by one of the robots that used to build Fiat cars back in the 1980s for some reason that isn't entirely clear.

Hats off for making "shut up about it" a hook, though. And "I'm in the mirror/so fucking bitter" is a great line. This isn't offensive.

Oh, and the massive head from the Space Sentinels has popped up to do backing vocals.

"She is a killer with that freaking perfume." Yeah, we've all been sat behind someone like that on a plane.

France: Bilal Hassani – Roi

Imagine if a PSE lesson was made flesh. Yeah. Like that.

"Only you can choose who you want to be" says the backdrop. John Whiterow'll have something to say about that in the morning.

Graham Norton: "this show gives exposure to people who wouldn't normally get this sort of exposure". Mmm, this is true. Oh, if only you were in a position to allow people like that on the TV more often, Graham . eh?

Italy: Mahmood – Soldi

Mahmood's shirt is made from wallpaper found in an Indian restaurant which closed in 1984. He's also still got his housekeys on a long chain dangling from his waist.

He looks really, really angry. Oh my god, and they've just flashed "it hurts to be alive" on the wall. This is all really uplifting, then.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – Kruna

Nevena is the only person who's bothered to hire an evening dress for the show. She's singing a song which sounds like it could be about her recent divorce.

Meanwhile, Twitter is still talking about Italy:

Switzerland: Luca Hänni – She Got Me

Luca is sexy, in a 'I haven't had it for a while and you clearly know your way round a zipper' sort of way. The sort of sexy that does quite well as the clock edges towards closing time.

He's singing a song about "the kind of woman that mama likes", and so it's possible he's just helping his mum get back on the dating scene.

The chorus is just repeating Dirty Dancin', which is just lazy. I bet there was a draft where he was going to be shouting out "Top Gun".

Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity

At last, I suppose, we've come to terms with Australia being in Eurovision. So let's not pretend we never learn anything year on year.

Proving their commitment to Eurovision, Kate is wearing a headpiece based on the 1970s Eurovision logo. She's singing on the top of the globe. Maybe thats a nod to the 1970s BBC One ident? Are we going to see her spinning off on a flying Y, like Dusty Bin at the start of 3-2-1?

When you're thinking about Ted Rogers, it's a sign that the song isn't very catchy, for all the cheap operatic trilling thrown at it.

Now on a massive pole, like Simon Stylites.

Spain: Miki – La Venda

We're nearly there. One last push. Oh, Miki, will you be so fine, so fine you'll blow our minds?

Good use of the old Celebrity Squares set here, Miki.

This is impressive. Lots of colours. Lots of energy. Lots of bounce. And a body popping whicker man. It's the polar opposite of Iceland. It's the sound of optimism. It's not bad.

Pencil beard is calling for a toast - "I don't drink, sorry" he says, as if it's impossible to toast with anything other than alcohol. Unless he doesn't drink any liquids at all. Maybe he's on a drip.

Goggles, foil dress and corset have just opened the voting. So time for the last couple of hours of our lives to flash before our eyes again.

"It's a scientific fact" says tinfoil dress "that we're more alike than we are different".

Is it, though?

Conchita Wurst has been dragged out on stage again, dressed a little bit Frankie Goes To Accessorise.

We're now balls deep in singers you've forgotten winning doing songs you'd forgotten won.

Oh hang out - this one didn't even win. It's last year's forgettable second place song.

And, yes, I'm afraid I haven't forgotten the Christopher Biggins Cybermen, who are back too.

Pencil beard is bringing Gali Atari on stage now. You remember. From 1979.

In the BBC Newsroom, Clive Myrie glances at the screen, sighs, and puts on an eye mask. It's going to be a while until he's going to be needed.

Graham Norton is reading out a really long list of names of people who are having parties. It's like listening to Junior Choice.

Oh god Madonna's wearing the eyepatch.

She's just said "everyone here is from all over the world".

Oh, Jesus, she's making the crowd chant "music makes the people come together". You know, from the one that had Ali G in the video.

Sweet hell, she's not even the next act. They've brought on one of Israel's most celebrated musical performers. The Idan Raichael Project, apparently. He's shouting out "make some noise", and - to be fair - getting more response than Madge did.

"Do you know what Eurovision is?" Goggles man asks Quaver. His eyes scream back "if I knew, do you think I'd have come?"

Over in the green room, meanwhile, a mindreader has turned up. It's like a shit bit from a Paul Daniels.

This is not a trick; if you ask anyone to name a Eurovision winner they will always choose Waterloo by Abba.

"Don't let all the fun distract you" says Pencil Beard.

To help with the fun not distracting you, they've dragged last year's winner back to do her new song. It's like a cold cut found outside a Palomar Faith recording session.

Foil dress, who is no longer in a foil dress, appears to hit on Netta. She is rebuffed. "I'll do my walk of shame then" says foil dress. But... you'd only do a walk of shame if you'd not been rebuffed.

This hasn't been though through.

We still have two songs from Madonna before we even get to the voting bit. Somehow I don't think we're going to be done by 11pm tonight.

Finally, we're getting the chance to see Madonna. This is so late, the pub Bobby Gillespie was planning to storm out of has already called last orders.

Oh, look, it's the Total Eclipse Of The Heart video.

Jesus, Madonna missing notes. This is quite bad.

Why is she doing this silly accent?

Gingerly picking her way down the stairs.

I suppose at least nobody knows or cares what the new one is meant to sound like, so it won't be as disappointing.

This is so bad. "Your voice can take me there", perhaps, but unfortunately Madonna's voice can't get you there.

Now about to do a cover of Frank Muir's Fruit and Nut adverts.

Erm, people with gas masks dying on stage perhaps a bit ill-considered given the circumstances of this contest.

Quaver's on stage, doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting.

This is what she chose to do from the new album. You wonder what the rest of it is like. But not so much that you'd fire up Spotify.

Oh, a tiny Palestinian flag on the back of one of the dancers. Well, Madonna, that's certainly answered the critics there.

At last, the voting is over.

Clive Myrie is heading out to get a burger.

We now seem to be getting a message from the Tel Aviv tourist board delivered by Gal Gadot. What can YOU do with three minutes in Tel Aviv?

Goggles and Pencil Beard are behind a table ready for the scores to come in.

We all want the scores.

Portugal are up first, doing the 'who has two thumbs' stance - 12 to Netherlands

Azerbaijan have the narrowest tie in the world. 12 to Russia.

Malta's Ben is someone waiting for a Grindr hook-up: 12 to Italy

North Macedonia stares nervously into space. 12 to Italy.

San Marino have spent their entire 2018 GDP on that necklace. 12 again to Italy.

Italy heading out into the lead. UK still on a solid zero.

Netherlands have thrown a boa on to stop the cold biting. Sweden get their 12.

Montenegro's off-the-shoulder dress looks more like they couldn't afford the whole thing. 12 to Serbia.

Estonia appear to be doing their bit via Skype. 12 to Sweden.

Poland's turn next. He's posing for a 1980s dating video. 12 to Australia. This is quite jerky voting.

Alex James left in the washing machine turns up to do Norway. 12 go to Czech Republic. The UK have got our fist point

Spain have got a beautiful dress on; 12 to Sweden.

Austria's perky bloke has an equality t-shirt. 12 to North Macedonia.

Italy are in the lead.

Rylan! Rylan! Hey - how are you in London when you were in Tel Aviv yesterday? Did you really fly home to do this bit? UK's 12 to Macedonia.

Confusingly, Italy have got the Eiffel Tower tattooed on their arm. Denmark get their 12.

Albania have rolled their sleeves up for this one. They give 12 to North Macedonia again. They're starting to firm up a lead.

Hungary have shown up in an old thornproof. 12 to the Czech Republic.

Moldova give 12 to Macedonia.

Ireland are glittery; 12 to Sweden.

Belarus are being attacked by crows. They've given 12 to Israel which has lifted the hosts from being a solid zero.

God alone knows where Armenia got that outfit. 12 to Sweden.

UK on 11 now, which is probably few than we deserve, but more than we'd expect.

Romania got dressed in the dark, and is yodelling. 12 to Asutralia.

Cyprus is as you'd expect. 12 to Greece. Who would have guessed, eh?

We're about halfway through. So they've gone to commercials.

Australia kick off the second half. They've got two people to deliver the scores, but one does have sticks in their head. 12 to Sweden.

Russia (I wish the hosts didn't always sound slightly uncertain when they say who's coming next). Oh, he's playing the fucking piano. Clive Myrie is sobbing into his pillow. 12 to Azerbaijan.

Germany's Barbara looks like the woman on the front of all German magazines. She's pretending to be Australian. 12 to Italy.

Belgium is the ghost of George Michael and loves Madonna. So that's one person, then. 12 to Italy.

North Macedonia are heading out into a commanding lead.

Sweden is wearing pyjamas. 12 to the Netherlands.

Croatia send kisses from Zagreb and give 12 to Italy.

Lithuania's "12 Points To Go" tshirt is probably funny if you're Lithuanian. 12 to The Netherlands

The UK hasn't picked up a point for quite a while now.

Serbia are ready to fire a shotgun, but stylishly. 12 to North Macedonia.

Iceland's jacket might be an electronic circuit. 12 to Sweden.

Georgia have broken off from pouring the wine at a wedding to give 12 to the Czechs.

Greece are doing a tribute to Bill And Ted. 12 to Cyprus. The booing when Cyprus gave Greece 12 is reprised.

Latvia want to yack on about music being a universal language. 12 to the Netherlands.

Czech Republic do a lot of waving. 12 to Sweden.

Denmark really looks like you'd hope. 12 to Sweden

France are chic, in an Amelie sort of way, though disappointingly don't have the Tower of Pisa tattooed on their arm. 12 to the Netherlands.

Christopher has a natty windcheater. 12 to Sweden. Every time he gets 12, John Lundvick does a pose which is meant to look greatful but screams 'heart murmur'

Switzerland have sent Bill AND Ted. 12 to North Macedonia.

Slovenia know they're coming late so have pulled out the stops - 12 to the Czechs.

Last jury vote is Israel and the last 12 to the Netherlands.

So at this stage, Sweden have overhauled North Macedonia. The UK has 13, and aren't quite bottom.

Clive Myrie's last tube has left.

Bring on the popular vote.

Apparently we've got to have some waffle.

A lot of waffle.

The public have given the UK three points. Or "the bum's rush" as it's known.

Yep, UK solid bottom whatever happens now.

Germany got nothing at all, though.

Norway have got over 200 and jumped from lower arse of the board to the top.

Iceland flashing Palestinian flags as their score comes through.

Italy take the lead, but Netherlands, Sweden and Macedonia to go.

North Macedonia only got 58 points. Blimey. That's brutal.


It's fucking Sunday.

And they're dragging this out.

Sweden only get 93 points. And the look on his face.

So the Netherlands win.

Their first win since 1975.

Duncan Lawrence takes the stage to belt out the song with the credits rushing over it. Over an hour late. I suppose we shouldn't have expected Israel to respect the boundaries of the schedule.

Duncan asking the audience to "sing it", as if they might have been able to remember any aspect of his song.

So, what have we learned? Greece and Cyprus are the only countries who are prepared to run the risk of booing through mutual back-scratching. Madonna's voice has gone to shit. The UK got the result it didn't deserve but should have expected. And at least next year we might be able to avoid holding a silly song contest in a human rights disaster zone.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Liveblog: Eurovision 2018

During the Second World War, the Ministry of Defence ejected the inhabitants of Imber from their village, so that their homes and streets could be used for training purposes. All these years on, the MOD still controls the settlement and limits access, although once a year - just once a year - the Church is thrown open to hold a celebratory service.

In much the same way, No Rock & Roll Fun has been depopulated for generations, and its comments areas reduced to being used for testing ballistic bollocks of SEO spam, but on this one, very special day, we're allowed back inside to mark the occasion of Eurovision.

Although since we're here we'll also point out that Bono's son is as much of a tiresome arse as his dad.

We'll be back in about an hour, where we'll bring you exactly what you haven't been missing since we went on hiatus: gratuitous rudeness about musicians just trying to do their best; shoehorned in gags about Brexit; high-concept puns that miss their targets and really, really bad typos.

Did you miss us?
While we were away?

*sounds of silence sweeping through the air*

If you're looking for a better way to follow Eurovision, by the way, @neilslorance could be your man:

Pointless is doing a stage actors special, rather than a Eurovision special, which is all wrong.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm writing this on drugs: LemSip Max. The daytime ones, which are Iron Man colourschemed; not the nighttime ones which are Spiderman colourschemed.

We're sharing this country with some sour-faced types, aren't we?

We're off! Graham Norton is promising us we'll see every nook and cranny of Portugal tonight. Thank god it's a small country or we'll be here all night.

Is this last year's winner kicking us off? Didn't catch what Graham said, and have no memory of the song which won last year.

No, hang on, Michelle Williams doing Gwen Steffani is now on, doing something to the sound of men drumming on a bridge. This is not a euphemism.

There's some business with flags this year, with your Uncle Dan and his son Matt, just out of prison, being allowed to do their wedding disco dj act, as flags of all nations are paraded on stage.

It's like a little chance to take against the singers before they even have a chance to sing a single note. It saves time, I guess.

The flag bearers are dressed like sailors. Well, not sailors, Jean Paul Gaultier's idea of what sailors might look like.

"There is no clear winner here" says Graham Norton, which is something you'd have thought he'd have learned as standard during the half decade he's been doing this.

Oh, turns out he means there's no clear favourite.

Theres a bunch of ballads, promises Norton. Great, that'll keep the energy up.


I think I saw at least one person channeling Starsky And Hutch pimp stylings there, so there's that.

The hosts are coming on. Oh god, there's four of them. It might be Four of Diamonds, finally bobbing back up to the surface.

We have the power, it's promised. ("Alongside the juries", so not all the power then.)

Graham explaining how we vote in the UK. You have to #usepens, apparently.

Under The Ladder

Melovin is meeting a horse in the pre-performance role. Interesting name. There's only one Melvin with the hole in the middle.

Holy shit he appears to have been buried alive. What the hell?

His coffin has opened up to eject him, like a weird vampiric Stannah stairlift.

"Curtains down, I'm laughing at the trial" he sings, like some sort of far eastern David Platt.

He also suggests that the wind is always fair, which for someone who gets is whipping into him straight from the Urals is quite generous.

His coffin has now turned into a piano.

Amaia y Alfred
Tu Canción

Amaia and Alfred have cooked some food in the hot springs of Portugal. In real life, they're a couple - but have only just become a couple. Whether their relationship will be able to withstand performing this plodder in front of millions is anyone's guess.

(Spoiler: it won't)

They're singing in Spanish, which is interesting - this year is the year that a record number of contestants are doing songs in their own language rather than English. Like we've gone already, isn't it?

Lea Sirk
Hvala, ne!

Lea Sirk has gone to look at a lighthouse. That's a sign that Portugal is running out of nooks already, isn't it?

Disco! Disco! Disco! Disco!

This sounds like something that would have turned up in the second half of The Hitman And Her. The bit where you wake up and realise you hadn't made it to bed yet.

She's not bad. It sounds like a disappointing track from an otherwise OK album.

Hang on, she's trying to get the audience to clap and sing and along.

Ieva Zasimauskaitė
When We're Old

A wind farm. We're now into the 'underwhelming school trip ideas' part of the pre-song films.

Is she going to stand up and have some drums kick in after the first verse? Or is she intending to sit down for the whole thing and let it dribble towards us?

Nope, she's going to sit for the whole lot and let the heavy lifting be done by some superimposed ghosts.

Hang on, she's up and moving about. (I haven't said that with the same level of relief since my gran got over her fall in 1977)

Someone has now turned up to help her off the stage.

Graham says it was pared back. True, but pared back leaving nothing.

Cesár Sampson
Nobody But You

Cesar has been sent cycling.

Cesar's aunt is Pepsi out of Pepsi and Shirlie.

He's got a nice shiny shirt on, which I bet is making him sweat like a bastard. "It wouldn't be right, letting you go" he says, which maybe sounded less creepy when he wrote he.

So, in the Pepsi family, he's very much the sugar-free version.

Elina Nechayeva
La Forza

Elina is being forced to scramble up the side of a mountain to introduce her song. So she's putting in the effort, then.

Oh my, her dress appears to be a functioning brain of a giant sea mammal.

This is an opera style song and not one of the good operas. It's an opera written by someone who doesn't really like opera and thinks it's just women going "waaaa-lllaaa--aaaaah" at a high pitch. I think I mean Andrew Lloyd Webber, don't I?

Alexander Rybak
That's How You Write A Song

There's a hostage to fortune in that song title right there, isn't it?

Alex is looking at some street art before the song. He's done a picture of a doggy.

Oh, jesus, he's got ghost instruments. He's done air guitar, air drum and air violin in the first ten seconds.

The track sounds like it desperately wants to be advertising a second-string fizzy drink at some point in the mid 1980s. Something not quite as good as Quatro.

Oh, enough with the doo-dabby-dab-doo-heys.

Alex seems convinced "how you write a song" is just splotting out some jazz-scat words in a jaunty fashion. Clearly never seen Words And Music with Hugh Grant, has he?

Cláudia Pascoal
O Jardim

Home team time. Claudia has been sent to meet some jolly Jack Tars on a sailing clipper. She doesn't look thrilled.

She's started singing now, and still doesn't look thrilled.

Very much pitched at the 'we don't want to be embarrassed, but we really don't want to have to host this again next year' sweet spot.

The hosts have popped back, and did a joke about listening to music "straight" - "well, that's one way to put it". Because it's gay. DO YOU SEE?

There are adverts in the rest of the Europe. We get people doing creaky gay jokes.

United Kingdom

SuRie's pre-song bit looks like one of the Aldi adverts where they make people go to farms as punishment for being rude about discounters on Twitter.

She might have picked this song up at an Aldi, too, come to that. It's a 'great summer of sport on ITV4' idea of anthemic.

There's an incident - jesus, someone's pinched her microphone. She's carried on like a pro, though.

She looks really pissed off. May have got her some sympathy votes, though.

Panicky cut to the green room, where they're doing a really nervy interview to try and cover the problem without referencing what actually happened.

She's so relieved to pass back to the music.

Rylan's fucking ready for a fucking fight:

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika
Nova Deca

This is quite nice in a Dead Can Dance meets Ming The Merciless way. But meanwhile, let's take a look at that stage invasion again:

Michael Schulte
You Let Me Walk Alone

"Germany's answer to Ed Sheeran", apparently, which you would have thought would have been "no, thank you"

Michael goes to see some birds.

Oh god, he's not an answer to Ed Sheeran; he's like the North Korean nuclear program's attempt to create an Ed Sheeran.

One love! true heart! His lyrics are basically a stream of shit tattoos. I suspect the chorus is going to be "peace, but written in Sanskrit."

Eugent Bushpepa

Eugent is wandering down a canal, like a poor man's Timothy West.

Tuck your shirt in Eugent. You're on the television.

He's clapping... but not in time with the song he's singing.

This is 'hair band, but somehow they've been booked to do a wedding and so are doing their best'.

Madame Monsieur

Ooh! A funicular railway. If Monsieur ever quits, Michael Portillo would be happy to fill in.

Some serious shoulder pads going on here with Madame.

I'd been hoping it was going to be a solo artist playing about with gender, but instead they're just a translation of Him And Her without the Zooey Descahnnel.

It's good that someone is addressing the European refugee crisis at Eurovision. It's just a pity the song is such a hostile environment to a tune.

Czech Republic
Mikolas Josef
Lie To Me

Mikolas has been sent to do whatever the Portugese equivalent of Morris dancing is.

Oh god.

Just no.

It's a Hubba Bubba advert.

If the Fresh Prince was Prince Edward and not Will Smith.

Higher Ground

Yes, Denmark. You're Vikings. WE GET IT.

Very much the opening theme to an attempt by European broadcasters to make something for the Game Of Thrones audience.

"Freeze the arrow in the air, make your mark and leave it hanging there." That's not how arrows work.

Jessica Mauboy
We Got Love

We've finally all got over Australia taking part, right? They've been doing it for years. We're no longer surprised, are we?

That's a no, then.

I like her dress. Like a proper Dairy Milk wrapper from back when they came in foil rather than plastic.

It's only two-thirds of a song, though, which is a shame.

A scheduled break now, with a less panicky visit to the green room. This does mean they're doing a bit of prescripted bantz, though. I think I prefer it when they're all confused.

Saara Aalto

Saara has been sent off to do some golf. So she's suffered enough.

She's come dressed as a soap opera goth. And holy shit she's been strapped to one of those rotating wheels that magicians assistants are lashed to so that they can have knives thrown at them.

And her dancers are like Nazis from a sci-fi series set in a near future dystopia on BBC One for Saturday nights in the 1970s.

SuRie has been offered a second crack, but she's turned it down.


First pan pipes of the evening.

Meanwhile, looking back at the awkward green room bit:

Back at the Bulgarian entry, and never have so many people put so much effort into a song with so little result.

My Lucky Day

The band have been sent to... some trees or something. Oh, a country house.

DoReDos was, of course, used by most Moldovan PCs until they got hold of some dodgy copies of Windows XP.

They're singing behind the doors from Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In.

"I walk into temptation; something tells me we can make some music." Yes, but you really should resist that temptation based on this.

"Oh my god, I love your chicken" the host says to a member of the audience.

Benjamin Ingrosso
Dance You Off

Benjamin has also been sent to a farm. They're really running out of ideas now. He's making cheese, like he's doing one of the dull 'local colour' bits on Escape To The Country.

Ooh, he has some slinky hips.

It's fair enough to admit that he's basically bought a 'How To Be Michael Jackson' guide from the back pages of a comic, but at least he read it to the end.

He also appears to be doing a vocoder voice with his actual voice.

Viszlát Nyár

Some sort of wandering about at a castle for their pre-song bit.

Oh, this is tonight's ROCK ENTRY.

This is the sort of rock that won the Cold War, people. Give it some respect.

Little bit more respect.

Okay, that's enough respect.

You can buy Levis in any high street in Eastern Europe now. Your work is done, guys.


They don't even seem to have bothered to come up with something for Netta to look at. Just got some people to hang around with her.

Bjork, if Bjork was made with High Fructose Corn Syrup and artificial sweetners.

It's got some snap to it, but it's so self-consciously quirky that it's hard to like.

The Netherlands
Outlaw In 'Em

Waylon's making bread - no, hang on, he's making those tarts they sell in Nandos.

Waylon is the Starsky and Hutch pimp dude - remember him, from two hours ago? Although this song is more designed for a southern cop series - he's a maverick, struggling with a divorce and a drink problem; he's getting his ass busted by the suits down at City Hall.

"Everyone's got a little outlaw in them" he sings.

Ryan O'Shaughnessy

Ryan has gone off under water, because they've run out of dry land to take people onto.

This is the song that upset the Chinese, because of the same-gender snogging in the dance routine. It would have also upset Chinese gays because frankly if you're going to have two hot boys kissing, they deserve a better soundtrack than this.

This is a fair point:

Eleni Foureira

They've sent Eleni off to do some cooking in a greengrocers.

Now, that's a statement outfit. Can the song rise to the outfit?

Oh, yes. It can.

Although now it sounds like there's a kazoo somehow got into the mix.

One left to go...

Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro
Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This bunch have been taken to a circus. They're cruel bastards in Portugal.

Ah, a jolly song about all the terrorism in Europe. That's a high spot to end the contestants upon.

And we're done. All over. Except the voting. And... this bit in the middle.

They're explaining the voting, and reminding us of the many horrors we have survived this evening.

Here's a grab of that invasion:

A wartime scientist is rushing on stage to stop a Butlin's kid's show pirate from interfering with Annie Lennox.

We're about to celebrate Lisbon, everybody. A place that brings together "songs from all places". Including, it turns out, from under the fridge.

If the stretching of the pre-song films didn't make you think about cancelling plans to fly to Lisbon, this musical celebration will have you trying to get your money back off from EasyJet.

Another voting recap. Even when Hitler died they didn't make him have his life flash TWICE in front of his eyes.

If I'd seen Dennis Nielsen had died before that last entry, I could have gone with a more topical monster.

The worst thing about Twitter is that we get Graham Norton reading out a long list of people having parties.

He's also chiding the stage invader. It's not what you do, no matter how worthy your cause, scolds Norton. Yeah, rot in hell, Emily Davidson.

Portugal now explaining why they didn't win for 53 years with a 'comedy' bit. This comedy bit explains why they won't win for another 53 years.

Still an hour of this go, everyone.

Turns out Moldova was more interesting from behind:

If you've been wondering what the most shoe-horned reference to Eurovision would be on timelines this evening... I'm calling it for this:

Ah! This is last year's winner, but doing his new single. He seems blissfully unaware that European viewers give about as many fucks about his new single, as points Norway traditionally get given.

Now he's going to do a duet version of last year's winner. He's really spoiling us.

Did last year's winning song really last fourteen years? Because it is right now.

Why are they doing the voting recap again? We've had long enough to do a fucking postal vote, never mind a phone-in.


They're finally closing the voting.

They're doing that bit where an old guy mutters into a microphone.

We're into the scoring

Ukraine - Charlize Theron in spy mode gives 12 to France. Nothing to us.

Azerbaijan's Matt Baker gives 12 to Albania. Abania now lead on alphabetical ordering.

Belarus have two members of some sort of shit cult giving 12 to Cyprus.

UK still on nothing.

San Marino has someone wearing a bow tie and padding his part with a big envelope. 12 to Israel.

Netherlands have last year's girl band giving 12 to Germany

The voting is all over the place, although the UK has got fuck all from everyone.

Macedonia makes a joke about Beyonce which doesn;t make sense. Estonia get their 12.

Malta are in front of a fountain. She flatters the hosts, she flatters the show, and gives 12 to Cyprus.

Georgia's woman looks bald due to a lighting mix up. UK still on nothing; Sweden get 12.

Spain, in a flamboyant jacket, give 12 to Cyprus.

Austria pretends to be a chicken and gives 12 to Israel.

Denmark gives 12 to Germany.

UK are still on zero.

Mel out of Mel and Sue is doing the UK scoring from Uxbridge. 12 to Austria.

Israel currently in the lead. UK on the cold bottom.

Sweden's guy starts with his back to the screen - 12 to Cyprus, who he reckons has the best dancers he's ever seen. Doesn't get out much, then.

Latvia give the UK two points, and 12 to Sweden.

Albania's bank manager dude gives 12 to Italy.

The voting is zipping along, compared to the interval. We might even get the news early.

Croatia give another 2 to UK; 12 to Lithuania.

Ireland. Nicky Byrne has a pile of hair on his head. No points for the UK. 12 to Cyprus. Let's put a hard border in, then.

Romania has asymetrical long hair, which is a thing. 12 to Austria.

Czech Republic's 12 to Israel puts them back in the lead.

Iceland are wearing a football top; 12 to Austria

Moldova have a girl from a perfume counter with a cut-glass RP meets Eastern European accent. 12 to Estonia.

Belgium wishes she was there to party with the Lisbon girls. She doesn't really. 12 to Austria.

Oh, we've gone to a break. Just when it was zipping along.

Back to the voting.

Norway look like they were halfway through making a Daft Punk outfit but ran out of time. 12 to Germany.

UK stuck on 4.

France give 3 to the UK, and are wearing a horrible 'flesh' coloured suit. Possibly made from flesh. 12 to Israel.

Italy gift 6 to the UK. We're really trundling forward off the bottom now. 12 to Norway.

Australian bloke shows off he can talk Portuguese. 12 to Sweden.

Estonia breaks off from doing a serial killing to give 12 to "the amazing Austria"

Serbia give 12 to Sweden.

Cyprus have an ill-advsied 1980s jacket and seems to think the scoring works like last year. 12 to Sweden.

Armenia looks like you'd expect; praises "the most dynamic show ever" so clearly missed the interval. 12 to Sweden.

Bulgaria found it all emotional. 12 to Austria, who are starting to build a lead.

Greece are wrapped in bacofoil. Does a La La Land joke which falls flat.12 to Cyprus.

Hungary have a TV presenter on hand; 12 to Denmark.

Montenegro remember we exist, and give 2 points. 12 to Serbia. The stadium is booing, which is a bit rich. Save that for Twitter.

Germany is in the worst bridesmaid dress of the night. 12 to Sweden.

Finland has a mini Bjork for the scores, so it makes sense 12 to Israel.

Russia. 12 points to Putin. No, Moldova, which is even more surprising.

Switzerland has a lot of hair. 12 to Germany. The UK has had another dry patch.

Israel have given 8 to the UK. 12 to Austria.

Poland has even larger hair than Nicky Byrne for the 12 to Austria.

Lithuania have made out like a bandit at TK Maxx. 12 to Asutria.

Slovenia have dressed for a sexy winter funeral. 12 to Sweden.

Last knockings from the jury votes is Portugal. 12 to Estonia.

UK end up on 23 from this part of the votes.

Now, let's open the floodgates and let in the viewers votes. The wisdom of the crowds.

Oh, we're doing some backstage business first.

"This will be exciting" says old bloke.

Well, probably not. But let's do it anyway.

Okay it is a bit exciting.

It's shaking things up a bit.

25 to the UK to bring us up to 48. Solid bottom quarter performance.


There's a lot of half hearted flag waving as people get large points totals that won't take them to the top.

Okay it's pretty exciting. Providing Israel don't win.

Bollocks. Israel's plinkyplonky turkakakla stuff has just edged past Cyprus right at the end.

Graham Norton briefly forgets we're the UK and thinks we're Australia.

The UK came 24th our of 26th. If the stage invasion helped her vote, she'd presumably otherwise have been in negative equity.

Now we're going to ave self-consciously quirkiness all over again. I think I dislike it more this time.


Next year, we should enter the ghost of Peter Glaze doing something from Crackerjack. It's our only hope.

"We'll see you in Israel" says Graham Norton, showing more hope for the Middle East than most political commentators right now.

Well, this has been fun. Thanks for sticking with us for what has felt like seventy hours of torture. See you back here next year, probably...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester; Manchester, England

It's the side details that really sting; how for many last night this was a Christmas gift; children calling their parents during the interval, thanking Mum for letting them go.

Last night would have been the first gig for so many there; the first real gig; the first gig without a parental chaperone. Becoming an adult; becoming grown-up.

Learning to be in a different sort of crowd; in the dark, sharing an experience. Learning to be.

It should have been a story; a throwaway line on a first date ten years hence - "my first gig was Ariana Grande... I know, I know... there were massive pink balloons bouncing off people's heads". It shouldn't have been a horror story.

Ten years hence, it should have been a half-defiant smile at the musical taste of your younger self - because you never really lose that love for the songs that carry you through your teenage years, because there's always a debt there; because those songs, those moments, those gigs are part of you. Your warp. Your weft.

In the dark, in those clubs and arenas, you learn who you are. You learn how you are. You feel your wings spreading. You feel lifted.

And not everyone in those spaces is pure and honest, but alliances are formed. Strangers look out for each other. People you will never speak to, whose names you will never know, will form partnerships with you to push back the bullies and the louts.

You learn who you are. You learn how you are.

There's no shortage of love letters to Manchester in popular culture. Hell, a lot of popular culture is a love letter to Manchester, and its environs. And seeing Manchester rallying in the face of the unimaginable, you're reminded why.

The families of 22 people are waking up to a world changed, unexpectedly, inexorably. Thousands more have many dark and difficult times ahead.

But listening to the radio; reading Facebook and Twitter, you could see Mancunians coming together to help - small acts of kindness; amazing acts of generosity. Caring. Helping.

Alliances with strangers. Partnerships to push back the horror.

In the dark, you learn who you are. You learn how you are.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eurovision 2017: The Liveblog

An empty room. A figure enters, a cloud of dust billowing up in the light of their torch. They tug at a dustsheet, revealing one of those big old tape-driven computers underneath.

They push a button.


They push more firmly.

"Come on, come on."

The tape spins a half-turn.

The figure pushes the button once again.

This time, the tapes spin, and, slowly, the lights go on in the room. The figure pulls another dustsheet off a computer terminal, sits down and types a sentence:


They make a mental note to never do this in the NHS IT nervecentre again, though.

According to the Daily Record, despite Brexit, the UK should clean up tonight:

That's because it's been predicted the United Kingdom will wow its European neighbours and not finish last, for once.
Yay! Not finishing last "for once"

(Although the last time we actually came last was 2010, so... that's not exactly a great leap forward.)

Meanwhile, that same mean spirit of Brexit which is going to drag us out of the EU and into the 1950s is showing up elsewhere. BBC News reports:
The poll of 1,650 Britons by YouGov found 56% would quit the competition.
And it found those who backed Leave in the EU referendum were most likely to want to drop out, with 76% to 21% in favour of quitting. Remain voters were 65% to 35% in favour of competing.
Good god, how shrivelled must your face be to think that Brexit has to mean an end to singing with our nearest neighbours? Jesus, it's even got Australians in it. Australia is happy to be part of it, and they've never even thought about joining the Euro.

If you're trying to avoid Doctor Who to save it for later, this is worth a few minutes of your time - Paul Cotterill on his Dad and Eurovision:
From childhood memory, dad did not speak not much at home, and spent free time alone on the hills or on his bike, though he always took us out when he could, to show us how to navigate in the mist, and how to “just get up that one last hill, son.”

Yet for one night every year, this strong, silent man — a man who might even be described as drab and fun-free — would be glued to the most undad-like glintz of Euro Song on TV (well, as soon as we had TV — I think we were late adopters); I can still remember his utterly confident prediction of an ABBA win in 1974 as soon as he heard it.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine, the Russians have blocked Eurovision, as France 24 reports:
But not all Donetsk musicians are sorry to see Eurovision skirt them by.

Yevgeny Ryba is the lead singer of a popular local rock band called Duglas and treats the pop extravaganza with a big dose of disdain.

"That is not real music," the 40-year-old huffed while taking a break in a local music cafe.

"There is no Eurovision on TV? Fine. They do not show Indian cricket here either," he said with a sarcastic grin.

Ryba's band performed in Donetsk during Eurovision's opening gala ceremony in Kiev last Sunday.

He argued that shows such as his have created a "cultural renaissance" out of the ruins of war and alleviated the constant sense of crisis in the region.

Chkhan agreed that "no one really knows what country we will end up living in".

But she also laughed off the suggestion that the music scene in Donetsk had risen to international standards.

We were robbed of the chance of seeing Kazakstan taking part this year - they got really, really close. Wikipedia reckons:
Kazakhstan – Khabar Agency became an associate member of the EBU on 1 January 2016, opening up the possibility of a future participation. However, the EBU announced on 28 September that while Khabar Agency were unable to debut in the 2016 contest because they did not have active membership, they are reviewing the rules for the 2017 contest, which may include opening up the possibility of Khabar Agency making its début in the contest. However, Kazakhstan was not on the final list of participating countries announced by the EBU on 31 October 2016.
Not to be. Maybe they can take our place next year.

And we're off

Children running through the not-war-torn bits of Ukraine. Ooh, and a beautiful doggy. Isn't Ukraine beautiful (apart from the war-torn bits?)

Looks like the Ukrainian lottery machine has broken and spilled its balls everywhere.

They're doing a flag parade - "a new tradition" says Graham Norton, although something is either a tradition or its new. Don't pull that Elf On The Shelf shit with us, Eurovision.

The professional juries have already voted; Norton explains who our jury were - none of them household names.

The flag parade isn't really a parade; it's just the singers emerging from the darkness to wave and walk towards a baying crowd.

The Americans aren't watching live this year, apparently. Despite all that hoopla last year when Logo signed up for it.

The three presenters are very diverse - one has a beard, one has a glittery jacket and one looks like a cowboy from a low-rent Westworld.

Seymour is a Euro fact machine, which is like a love machine. But with facts. What? What does that mean?

And we're off, again, but now properly.

Israel IMRI "I Feel Alive"

Imri is having all kinds of fun in the into video.

He feels alive everytime we come around, apparently. This sounds like the sort of moribund corpse that you find in the darker corpse of a Ellie Goulding album. It doesn't quite ever get as uptempo as it needs to.

And to be fair, Goulding can usually bring something like this off; Imri, though, sings with the conviction of a man who knows that his chorus isn't really a chorus.

Poland Kasia Moś "Flashlight"

For a moment I thought that was Fleshlight, which would have been interesting.

Poland are being represented by Eva from Coronation Street.

"Fire... like a burning desire"

Really? Fire like a burning desire? Really?

Hold on, though, the giant light dog in the background is interesting. Or is it a stag? Hard to keep track.


Norton's suggesting the Polish diaspora might carry it for Eva and Her Giant Dog.

Belarus Naviband "Story of My Life"
"This is a bit Mumford and Sons" says Norton, and not in the tone of voice you'd usually use for a dire warning.

Oh, god. They look like Persil Automatic have tried to recreate the White Stripes for an advert.

The song is... artisan. In other words, it sounds like it's been made with dirty hands. My suspicion with most things from Eastern Europe that sound jolly and folky is that they're actually singing about the crushing destruction of other nations, and the success of collectivisation.

There's even some yodelling. That should see them sent back to the State Farm.

Austria Nathan Trent "Running on Air"

The preview vid shows Nathan (who has chosen this name, apparently) in "the studio" nodding along to "the mix".

He's sitting on a half moon, like he's the Dreamworks logo.

Did he just say "if you let me down I'll drown like an edelweiss"

Did he just say "I can't dream of tacos, even if your life's a mess"?

"If you put me down, I'll just get up again" says Nathan confidently. Yeah, I've had cats tell me that in the past.

"I'm sure there'll be good times, there'll be bad times..." Well, you're half right.

Armenia Artsvik "Fly with Me"

Ooh, I like the billowing smoke monster on the edge of the stage.

This is what the Banarama reunion would be like if Shakespeares Sister had been in charge.

"I'm not sure these ethnic instruments have a Goth setting, captain, but I'll see what I can do".

Netherlands O'G3NE "Lights and Shadows"

The Netherlands team are out doing some shopping, which is an incredible insight into their life. Three sisters, apparently, and two of them are twins, which sounds like a "brothers and sisters have I none" type riddle.

Two are wearing short skirts and one of them doesn't think they need to do that sort of thing to win.

Kudos for crowbarring the phrase "on a scale of one to ten" into a pop lyric, although the song is more "show us on the doll where he hurt you".

Looks like the other channels have gone to adverts, lucky sods. We're left with people karaoking an awful version of Volare.

Back to the music:

Moldova Sunstroke Project "Hey, Mamma!"

This band are almost identical to the trio of presenters. Apparently they delighted us in 2010 as well. Moldova isn't a big country, so I guess it's like jury service and you can end up having to do it repeatedly.

This sounds like the sort of track they'd use to advertise tape cassettes in the 80s. Complete with cool guy playing a saxophone.

You're grown men, stop hassling your mothers, dudes.

See you in 2024...

It felt like it was over, but they've decided to go "Hey Mama, hey ma ma ma" until we all die of old age.

Hungary Joci Pápai "Origo"

He's bringing a milk churn on stage. To play. Like he's a rural version of Stomp!

Joci is dressed like he's recently been cashiered from a 19th century army.

He's got a perturbed face; as if he's not entirely sure why he's been sent to a song contest when he was meant to be ensuring the cannon were fully charged.

Spot of Hungarian rapping, which shows that it's not a language that naturally embraces hip-hop styling.

Italy Francesco Gabbani "Occidentali's Karma"

This was an early favourite,

Francesco accompanied by the grandchildren of the Spinners, in matching sweaters.

This has been a big radio hit right across Europe, which to be honest makes me feel a bit better about Brexit for the first time since June 23rd. Maybe UKIP had a point.

A man dressed as a gorilla on stage now, which - if memory serves - was one of the gimmicks End Of Part One proposed for Party Political Broadcasts. The monkey is meant to be the best choreographer in Italy, but he's not even very good at wearing a gorilla suit.

Denmark Anja "Where I Am"

"Your love is repeating".

Try Gaviscon, love.

This song very much stuff which would be better thrashed out with your mates over a third bottle of wine rather than performed at Eurovision.

Portugal Salvador Sobral "Amar Pelos Dois"

The restaurant is closing; just a couple of tables left; the pianist loosens his bowtie and tries something he's written for himself. The barman stops wiping the glasses and listens; his mind drifts to a forgotten time, and a lost love.

I'll bet Salvador's spent ages desperately trying to work out how to crowbar a man dressed as a gorilla into this, though.

Bit of business between the presenters. They're reading out tweets.

Azerbaijan Dihaj "Skeletons"

Right, so they're in a schoolroom; she's got goth make-up and a cheap mac over an even cheaper negligee.

In the intor video they looked more like a third-string Indie Top 20 act (a Salad, or something in that order).

Oh! It's that guy with the horse head who used to do Big Brother's Little Brother with Russell Brand. I never thought he'd work again.

Blackboard's over. This is the most kickass detention since the Breakfast Club.

It's not quite as interesting as they thought it was.

Croatia Jacques Houdek "My Friend"

Instant conspiracy theory in the room is that this is the Hungarian again in a different poorly chosen jacket. There's a reason for this jacket, though - half formal, half rock. He's a shapeshifter, see?

Jacques is doing something that is half 70s MOR, half the Three Tenors. "Do your best, take a test" he appears to be singing.

Australia Isaiah "Don't Come Easy"

Well, yeah, nobody wants that.

Lovely head of hair. He's clearly been carried a long way on his hair alone.

"It don't come easy; it don't come cheap" he emotes, like a man singing about IT security in the health sector.

More business from the side of the stage. "Give yourself a cheer" encourages whichever one of the three presenters was hanging about. "People here don't even have to wear shoes" he explains.

Greece Demy "This Is Love"

She's got massive hands. You could clear a septic tank with those hands.

This sounds like the sort of song you'd write if you wanted to write a song that sounded like a Eurovision winner.

Half naked men have just popped up from the ground. Maybe they were having a look at the tank while they were down there.

Spain Manel Navarro "Do It for Your Lover"

The run of 'Don't come easy, this is love; do it for your lover' suggest Eurovision doing one of those Spotify playlists

There is a dancing VW camper in the background of this; you would be able to extrapolate the rest of the look and act from that one detail alone.

"Hey, we've bought our guitars to the beach, and we've got a song to sing..."

They've now been superimposed onto surfboards.

Disaster! His voice broke halfway through the performance.

"Wrong notes there; I wonder if something's going wrong technically" says Norton, generously. Yes, something's technically wrong. These people aren't technically singers.

Norway JOWST5 "Grab the Moment"

Fucking hell, it's the ghost of Jim Diamond.

"I'm going to kill that boy" sings ghost Jim, which surely should have been enough to have him detained.

Oh, he's going to kill the voice in his head, not a boy.

Wish he'd kill the voice in our heads, which is his voice.

There's still two hours of this to go.

There's been a comedy insert. Let's all of us pretend it didn't happen.

United Kingdom Lucie Jones "Never Give Up on You"

Started out at 28-1, you'll recall. So very much the Corbyn of this particular battle.

Stacey Soloman, this could have been you.

Lucie singing like there's a really bad smell under her nose.

One of her eyebrows is a lot higher than the other, and I can't tell if this is acting or just how she came out the box.

"Don't let go when you're so close". How many songs in this Eurovision sound like the lyrics have been cribbed off a poster in an HR office?

You expect the song to burst into something bigger, bolder, better but when it hits the point where that should happen, the gauge is just turned up to Slightly Less Mild.

Cyprus Hovig "Gravity"

The intro film for this makes Hovig sound so dull they're superimposing a warning about flashing lights to try and inject some danger into proceedings

He's a rip-off Rag And Bone Man.

Gravity is the force which drags you down. Never has a song been so aptly named.

BREAKING: Wish I'd known this important detail before:

Romania Ilinca and Alex Florea "Yodel It!"

Rap meets yodelling.

Words like 'small children meet chipping machine'

In a strange twist, the yodelling is actually the best bit of the song; the rapping is horrible. Who would have put money on that?

There's canons on stage; hope the guy from Hungary is secure backstage, otherwise we could be in for a tragedy.

Germany Levina "Perfect Life"

First lying down on the stage of the evening

The lighting makes it look like her head's on fire.

This. Song. Has. Emph. Atic. Beats.

Ukraine O.Torvald "Time"
Was feeding the cats during this, but could see it was a band going "we're a proper group and we do proper music", with all the late period Ocean Colour Scene that implies.

Belgium Blanche "City Lights"

Was so hoping this was going to be a tribute to Blanche from Corrie.

Blanche looks terrified. More rabbit in headlights than city lights.

Hang on... she's starting to seem a little more confident. "Hey, this isn't so bad, is it? It's going well. I AM going to get through this. Thank god I took the rescue remedy before going on stage."

I bet she's hoping she doesn't win and have to go through that again, ever.

Sweden Robin Bengtsson "I Can't Go On"

You and all of Europe, Robin.


It's like a meerkat in a shopping bag.

Graham Norton warned us about the Australian's eyebrows, and yet didn't mention the cock flapping about like a codfish in a drained ocean?

Bulgaria Kristian Kostov "Beautiful Mess"

"Born in this century", making us all feel like Bulgaria's Great Uncles.

Kristian is like a baby Michael Mcintyre.

Oh, hang on, he's singing, isn't he? I spent so long wondering if there was some sort of structure holding up his hair, I didn't notice.

France Alma "Requiem"

Was so hoping this was going to be a tribute to Alma from Corrie

Instead, it turns out to be Kym Marsh marching across a European wasteland. Just shaded into some jaunty marching, but still marching.

Just been discovering how fucking hard-to-get Luxembourg played this year:
While RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg (RTL) announced on 25 May 2016 that they would not participate in the contest, the Petitions Committee of the Luxembourgish Government announced on 21 June that they had received a petition calling on RTL to return to the contest. The Luxembourgish Government have decided to debate the proposals set out in the petition, and the possibility of Luxembourg returning to the contest in future. RTL reiterated its intention not to participate on 22 August.

Meanwhile, Turkey's not here for reasons:
Turkey withdrew after last participating in 2012, due to their discontent at the introduction of a mixed voting system to the contest and the automatic qualification of the Big Five for the final.
Yeah, because if we've learned one thing this year it's how much Turkey values democracy.

Anyway, all the songs are now over, and Europe as one is heading to the toilet. And then will hit the phones, and vote vote vote.

Oh god, they've dragged back that Biggins-in-space performer from some years back, like a drunk glam teletubby.

They're brought us Ruslana, who might be the last Great Winner of Eurovision. This is better than pishy Timberlake last year.

And she's wearing Chain Mail.

Can we write-in this as a winner?


They're now going to bring together the traditional and contemporary sounds of Ukraine, which I bet sounded like a brilliant idea at the breakfast meeting where they came up with it.

Actually... this is pretty cool. Mainly because they're dressed like sexy Stormtroopers.

In the 'halloween costume' sense of 'sexy Stormtrooper', and the Star Wars sense. Except Halloween costumes never pay to licence brands, so they'd be Sexy Space War Fighters.

They're talking to a fan. It's hard to say who looks more uncomfortable.

Presenters have done a costume change, but as you can't remember what they were wearing earlier it's a moot point.

The winner of Junior Eurovision is on, despite it being way past her bedtime. She's a better presenter than the actual presenters. She's not a good presenter, but she's better than them.

Recap of the contestants again.

Meanwhile, a message to Europe:

Jamala's on now. Of course, last year Russia moped about her winning song, because they thought it was critical of Russia. Which it was.

Graham Norton's just apologised for a glimpse of a "bare bottom" during this performance.

Choosing a Eurovision winner, says one of the hosts, is like choosing a chocolate from a box. Difficult, because there's so many delicious ones to choose from. Clearly they've never had Dairy Milk.

The voting is about to begin.

"The grand wizard" might not be who the Ukrainian hosts think he is.

Off we go to collect the points from the juries...

Sweden first... 12 to Portugal

Azerbaijan has turned up in a tshirt. Cool. 12 to Belarus.

San Marino are hiding behind a giant carboard cut out for some reason. 12 to Portugal.

UK currently have just six points, but that's midtable right now

Latvia have spent the entire budget on hair extensions. 12 to Portugal.


Israel are showing off their skills at languages, and running through the times they've won. IBA are closing down, says their host, and won't be taking part any more. That's brought things down a bit. They give 12 to Portugal before sliding off into the night.

Montenegro give 12 to Greece, which is a surprise.

Albania have the Very Best Waiter in Tirana giving the scores. 12 goes to Italy.

But Portugal still way out in front.

Malta pass 12 across the sea to Italy.

Macedonia's evil magician gives 12 to Bulgaria.

"Greetings from Denmark... where I am". Yes, that's the point. 12 to Sweden.

Austria are very excited. 12 to Netherlands.

Portugal have broken 100.

Evil twins from Norway stop floating and knocking on windows long enough to give 12 to Bulgaria.

Spain's jury leader looks so regal, she can barely bring herself to talk to us. 12 to Portugal.

Germany are on zero. That's a fucking outrage, Europe.

Finland have been independent for 100 years. Putin's sitting at home saying "that's enough". 12 to Sweden,

France have obviously got the Eufeel tower in the background and won't shut up. 12 to Portugal

Greece have borrowed the white jacket, but must try to stop getting grass stains on it. 12 to Cyprus.

Lithuania give 12 to Portugal

Estonia have nipped out of a wedding to give 12 to Bulgaria

Moldova say "you've done a great job, really." Clearly being sarcastic. 12 to Romania.

It's unlikely the split voting is going to overturn Portugal's lead.

Armenia could only afford 3/4 of her dress. 12 to Portugal.

UK languishing in the middle of the table.

Oh, god, they've had to fit in an ad break which means the awful scoring procession has been stopped for some really horrible comedy dancing.

Bulgaria says "looks like you're having a lot of fun over there", so clearly can't see a TV screen. 12 to Austria.

Iceland's votes being shared by Edward from the League of Gentlemen. 12 to Portugal.

Serbia are smiling too much. Portugal have broken 200.

A human/koala hybrid from Australia now. 12 to the UK. That's because Australia don't give a shit about Brexit.

Italy is sharing their good karma with us, and if she leans forward in that dress, we'll be sharing a lot more. 12 to Azerbaijan.

Germany giving votes despite still being on a flat zero. The hosts have just made the crowd cheer for Germany, which is a bit patronising. 12 to Norway.

Portugal appear to be wearing a halloween nurse's outfit. 12 to Azerbaijan (nothing to Spain, you note)

Switzerland's boy-man gives 12 to Portugal.

Netherlands have brought a puppy. "This is Tammy, the most wonderful girl in the world." Ukranian host seems as disturbed as the rest of us. 12 to Portugal.

Nicky Byrne is doing the Ireland votes but he doesn't have a puppy. 12 to Belguim. Nothing for the UK.

Georgia is sleeping in his car right now, but just until things get sorted out, right? 12 to Portugal.

Cyprus is wearing those funny Groucho Marx glasses. 12 to Greece.

Sounds like some booing in the audience for that.

Belarus give 12 to Bulgaria.

Romania refreshingly wipe-clean tonight - it's not a sexy dress, looks more like something you'd wear for woodworking. 12 to Netherlands.

Hungary give their 12 to Portugal, and take them past 300.

Slovenia pass 10 to the UK, and make a joke about the pub. 12 to Portugal.

Belguim got their hair done at Audrey Roberts. 12 to Sweden.

Spain on nul still

Poland give 12 to Portugal.

Katrina out the Waves reminds us she won 20 years ago; the hosts say "the year I was born". Katrina glowers. 12 to Portugal.

Croatia's dress is a tribute to architecture. If not morality. 12 to Hungary.

Czech give 12 to Portugal.

Last jury is Ukraine, 12 go to Belarus.

It seems unlikely that the popular votes will overturn Portugal's lead.

Norton suggests our indistinguished middle table position is "going quite well".


They're trying to explain the voting system. It still doesn't make much sense.

Host is behind the judges table saying he wants to touch everything. Judges looking scared.

They're milking this.

Spain have finally got some points.

12 to the UK, which isn't good news at this point of the show.

They ought to be counting down how many available points remain on the screen.

Hungary have bounced from near bottom to quite high up.

Actually, this is quite tense after all.

Until they start milking it again.

Belgium did really well in the popular vote for someone who was terrified.

Portugal win.

Hang on, which one was Portugal? Oh, yes. That one. Closing time song.

He's been given a giant glass microphone and jesus was that a gunshot?

They want "even something" from Salvador. He says something tart about bringing back real music.

"The amazing year comes to an end" says one of the hosts. They don't want to hand over so they're talking and talking and talking.

Salvador is going to do his song all over again. Appropriately, they're going to roll the credits over it, aren't they?

His sister is singing a bit - she's got a better voice than he has.

Obviously, if his sister had sung it for the competition Portugal would have super-won it.


Well, that's that for another year. What have we learned? Only how much the guy from Netherlands loves his dog. And that, perhaps, is enough.