by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 1, 2009

Posted 15 May 2009 in by Catriona

This live-blogging is brought to you by the fact that I think I might be a little in love with my new tracksuit pants. It doesn’t count as infidelity when the co-respondent (so to speak) is a item of clothing, right?

So here we are for the first of the two semi-finals for this year’s Eurovision. Since Russia won last year, I’m hoping we have a reprise of the completely random ice-skater from last year’s competition.

I would like that.

I’m easily pleased.

Aw, vale Bud Tingwell. I watched some “Charlie the Wonderdog” in your memory this afternoon.

As a warning, though, this is a two-hour broadcast—I can’t guarantee there won’t be typing errors before 9:30 p.m. I’ll catch what I can as I type, but there will almost certainly be errors. I only hope they’re humorous ones. Like “agast.”

Of course, now we’re stuck in the pre-programme limbo of advertisements. The problem with that is that I become bored, and then I begin blogging about anything that comes into my mind. I’ll be good.

Or I’ll sit on my hands until the broadcast starts.

Nick will be moderating the blog tonight, so please feel free to comment on the entrants—as here we go! Eurovision for 2009!

We have Julia Zemiro as an SBS host again, this year. I don’t mind her, but I’m also not an enormous fan. She didn’t irritate me last year, though.

You know what will irritate me, though? If we don’t have Russian travelogues during the broadcast. We didn’t have them last year, and it irritated me.

Wait, planets? And beasts and plants speaking to each other? And people learning how to fly? Well, girls: do you think that the flower knows how to fly? Really, do you think it does?

A magic horse? Wait, what? What is happening here? Still, at least the magic horse tells the girls that they should probably be talking to a bird. Do you think the girls should have figured that out, instead of talking to plants?

Now there’s a dragon?! I have no idea what’s happening now. But there are fireworks, so I don’t particularly care.

I’d love to know what this has to do with Eurovision, though.

I do like that firebird.

Okay, now the host has mentioned “the magic world of Russian fairy tales,” I feel a little guilty for making fun of them. No, wait: a song that gives people wings? Are we speaking literally or metaphorically? Why am I worrying about this?

Ack! Are those children dressed as brides?

Oh, no: awkward banter about whether the (fictional, exclusively on a video screen) dragon might or might not have eaten one of the co-hosts. Followed by an incredibly awkward moment where the female co-host froze while reading the cards. And then a James Bond joke.

Welcome to Eurovision!

MONTENEGRO: “Just Get Out Of My Life”
Well, he’s half-naked already! Nope, he’s put his shirt back on.
Her dress is terribly cute—I imagine the people in the front row are appreciative, too.
What are the lyrics here? “Just get out of my head”? Or “just get out of my bed”? And was that really “Get out of my cyst”? It can’t have been, surely?
Well, he’s taken his jacket off.
I’d blog about the dancing, but I can’t stop laughing. Come back, man in the white trousers!
I love it! I have no idea what the song is about, or even what the singer’s doing, but that man has made my day.
I hope they get through.

CZECH REPUBLIC: “Aven Romale.”
Super Gypsy? Seriously? Is he wearing a cape?
Oh my god, he is! He’s wearing a cape!
And flares!
The woman with the violin and the stripey tights is giving me Bosnia and Herzegovina 2008 flashbacks. Not good ones.
This singer’s moustache is rather fabulous, though.
I have to say, though, cape or no cape, I have a feeling there’s something interesting behind this song, whereas I’ve forgotten the last song already.
But the cape! The cape!
I’m loving the Pop Art backdrop to the performance, too.

BELGIUM: “Copycat.”
Let’s see what’s happening here. The singer has had a cold, they say? Well, that’s promising.
Oh, what?
John, I thought you were kidding when you said he was an Elvis impersonator?!
Gold lame jacket, greased-back hair, “Copycat” spelt out in lights—and a double bass, for no apparent reason.
I love the red bob on one of the back-up singers, though. I have a green wig cut like that.
Unfortunately, I can’t make out anything this man’s singing. He’s being completely drowned out by the music and back-up singers—and his own appalling diction. That might be the cold, or it might just be a poorly mixed performance. I don’t know.
Funky lights, though.

Congrats on the staging, Russia! It’s been pretty impressive, so far.

BELARUS: “Eyes That Never Lie.”
Oooh, eerie green lighting.
What the hell is happening now?
Okay, so we’ve opened to someone standing on a table with a white sheet over them and a wind machine aimed directly at them.
No, I’m not making this up.
It’s a coffee table, if that helps.
And the lead singer’s wearing a white leather suit.
No shirt, obviously. This is Eurovision.
I’m not actually minding this song, though. Even with the strange sheet-draped man—but, um, camera? You need to stop twirling around like that, okay? I’m going to be quite ill if you don’t.
Now they’re projecting flames onto the sheet!

SWEDEN: “La Voix.”
Sweden’s are combining pop with opera? Kill me now!
I swear I’ve heard this song before. John, have you already made a joke about Andrew Lloyd Webber writing this entry?
NICK: Wow. She’s incredibly white.
But, as he points out, she has unearthly black eyes.
Oh.My.Goodness. She’s a Stephenie Meyer-style vampire! And she’s hasn’t eaten in days! Run, back-up dancers! Run for your lives!
The song? No idea.
She does obviously have a well-trained voice. But the song itself is just slipping off my eardrums.
Ack! Except for that note.
And what are the back-up dancers wearing now?
Oh, I see: distract the vampire with shiny things. Good thinking, back-up dancers.
Ow, my eardrums!

ARMENIA: “Jan Jan.”
Hmm, a song and dance that has taken the world by storm? We’ll see about that.
Ah, our first dry ice of the evening! That’s a vote for Armenia.
Actually, I’m loving the costumes—as is at least one of the cameramen. They’re quite fascinating, especially as we swing straight into a terribly MTV-pop chorus.
I’m not seeing much evidence of a dance that could take the world by storm, though.
NICK: Ah, exotic priestesses with garter belts.
Sadly, the costumes are the only part of this that’s interesting me.

Aw, they’re interviewing the white-leather-suited chap from Belarus, and he’s singing for them. That’s rather sweet. And a little painful, on that last note.

I’m thinking that Belarus are my current favourite. That’s out of six countries, mind—so take it as you will.

ANDORRA: “Get A Life/La Teva Decisio.”
Didn’t the Andorran singer last year wear a breastplate? I seem to remember that.
NICK (singing): Because I’m profoundly in love with Andorra!
And, once again, there are people fervently offering up thanks for their luck in obtaining front-row tickets. That is one seriously short skirt.
Actually, let’s not mince words—that’s a belt.
She did just sing “I know I’m right“? It sounded like “I know I’m white“, but that can’t be right, surely?
Ah, no—it was clearer on the second chorus.
Okay—now I’ve stopped to listen to the lyrics, I just have some advice for anyone considering a romantic relationship with the protagonist of this song—RUN!
When did stalking become romantic?

SWITZERLAND: “The Highest Heights.”
Ah, Switzerland. Fill in the Swiss stereotype here.
Hey, it’s U2!
I didn’t know they were in Eurovision! And they seem to have lost at least one of their effects pedals.
NICK: I think they might be a little too good for this.
And, ten seconds later . . .
NICK: They look like the guest band on an Idol live-eviction show.
This is insanely forgettable. I expect it to reach number 25 on next year’s Hottest 100.
Oooh, nice mirrory backdrops, but this song is doing absolutely nothing for me. In fact, I think it may be borrowing a little nothing on advance from the next act—so if I’m unusually excited about Turkey, that’s why.

TURKEY: “Dum Tek Tek.”
There’s much shouting for this act.
And fireworks!
And bellydancers!
No, wait—the bellydancers are wearing knickerbockers. Knickerbockers that are slit to the thigh. That is the most awesome thing I have seen all night.
NICK: Oh, they looked better in silhouette! How disappointing.
Still, the advantage is that you don’t need to be in the front row for this one.
And the dancers are wearing gold cuffs around their ankles!
There’s an onomatopoeic element to this song that I rather like—and now we have a male belly dancer in a rather gorgeous moss-green silk skirt that I covet.
I wouldn’t mind them getting through.

ISRAEL: “There Must Be Another Way.”
Apparently, this is controversial. In Hebrew, Arabic, and English—an anthem for peace.
Me being me, this is reminding me mostly of the final line of the Doctor Who episode “Warriors of the Deep.”
Yes, I know I’m evil. And shallow.
I’d like to talk about the song (and it does have a nice rhythm, and makes the most of the switching between the languages) but I’m distracted by the pseudo-bondage outfits.
It’s all very “extras from Farscape.”
And now there’s random drumming. For about ten seconds. And it looks terribly fake. Which it is, of course—but that’s not the point.
Eurovision shouldn’t look fake.
No, wait: I’ve drunk too much. Or not enough. I forget how it works for Eurovision.

I’m not enjoying these travelogues. They’re not telling me anything! And there aren’t any Moomins.

BULGARIA: “Illusion.”
Wait, has anyone taken their kit off yet? After the jacketless man in the first song.
NICK: Oh, man. He’s on his way to a RenFaire and he got lost! He’s singing for his mead!
Seriously—this is a terribly straightforward pop song, sung by a man in a home-woven blouse and a cape.
NICK (singing): Gimme gimme gimme a joust after midnight!
And there are people on stilts.
If Bulgaria don’t go through tonight, I am so out of here.
Now one of the people on stilts is swinging the other one around by the stilts. I keep waiting for her to go flying off into the audience! Are those stilts glued to her?!
And the lime-green boots!
I love them.

These SBS commentators aren’t snarky enough. They’re boring me so much I’m just blocking them out now.

ICELAND: “It Is True.”
Wow, this girl looks familiar—who is she reminding me of?
This is insanely dull. I’m sorry, Iceland: I know you produce excellent detective fiction (but have you thought that, very soon, it’s going to be quite obvious who the murderer is? I mean, you could fit your entire population into one parlour scene) but this is crazy boring.
NICK: How do they breathe?
I think he means the dolphins, not the singers.
I’m sorry, Iceland, but you know how I feel about space dolphins.

I’m seriously digging on the stage set.

FYR MACEDONIA: “Neshto Shto Ke Osta.”
Oh, wow. It’s 80s’ poodle rock!
We don’t get enough of that in Eurovision.
One of them is even wearing a bandanna! And I mean around his neck! Not on his head! I haven’t seen anything like that since—well, since we went to see Spaceballs: The Musical at a local high school last night, but that’s beside the point.
Bog standard rock, this. Soft rock, too. Sorry, Macedonia, but it’s true.
Bring back last year’s Azerbaijan entry!
Oh, wow: synchronised overhead clapping.
Hmm, I might change my mind on this one for that alone.

Damn, that’s a lot of people watching! I had no idea.

ROMANIA: “The Balkan Girls.”
Another child prodigy, eh? The last one of those led us to a flying space dolphin, so let’s see . . .
I’m fairly sure that’s Holly Valance, actually.
And I think we have a winner for the night’s shortest skirt.
Now, this singer has a chair shaped like a tree and her back-up singers are seemingly dressed as nymphs and naiads.
So why is this song about clubbing?
For someone who debuted on the folk circuit when she was three, I was hoping for something a little more, you know, folky.
This is just MTV-pop. There’s been too much of that tonight.
And too few people taking their clothes off.

These SBS commentators are not doing it for me.

Terry! Terry! Terry!

FINLAND: “Lose Control.”
Oh, what?
Just, no.
Rapping? Backwards baseball cap? Well, there are teeny little dresses. And firedancers.
Okay, Finland: so far you’re halfway there.
I need the following: less rapping, more wind machines, and someone to take their clothes off.
And maybe some fireworks.
I’m a sucker for fireworks.
Wait, someone put an industrial bin on stage and then set fire to it? Wow, they have relaxed OH&S rules in Moscow. Apparently.

And we have an ad. break before the final three songs. And then the voting! I hope Finland don’t go through—I’ve forgotten all about them already.

Dear Melbourne,

“Discover how easy it is to lose yourself in Melbourne” is a remarkably stupid tagline for a tourism advertisement. You’re just going to have a bunch of semi-hysterical would-be tourists thinking, “But I’d never be able to find my hotel again! I’d be trapped! Trapped! Like that creepy vineyard advert. with the skipping butler.” Just a word of friendly advice.

Love, Me.

Ah! Czech Republic man in a cape again!

PORTUGAL: “Todas As Ruas Do Amor.”
So, the SBS commentators love this song, do they?
Let’s see about that.
I’m kind of liking this already, but not for a very good reason—I like it because it reminds me of a Bravia advert. that I always loved.
And here we go upbeat!
And a lovely, lovely set: it looks rather like Clarice Cliff pottery, but with sharper, more modern colours.
The costuming is gorgeous, too.
This reminds me rather of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry last year, but without the sequel, where I woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “The brides! The knitting! NO, NO NOT THE WASHING LINE!”
Yes, I like this. Very much. And I wish to own her shoes.

Russia? Whoever is staging Eurovision is a genius! How are you managing these displays? They are quite, quite stunning.

MALTA: “What If We.”
Hmm, Malta’s song last year was called “Vodka.” I’m disappointed already.
Um, SBS commentator? When you’re commentating for SBS, you might want to rethink statements such as “She’s due.” Or at least work on your diction.
Why, no: I haven’t mentioned the song yet. That’s because I fell into a brief coma.
No offense, Malta, but this is doing nothing for me.
And suddenly I feel like I’m watching a Disney movie.
And yet no one has taken their kit off. Or did they strip off while I was typing? I’d be very disappointed if that were the case.
Key change. But a very half-hearted key change.
No, I’m not putting my vote behind this one.

This better not be anything like last year’s performance.
“1950s’ Russian propaganda posters will come to mind, but enjoy it anyway.” I beg your pardon?
Oh, wow: this is like Eurovision’s version of The Cure’s “Lullaby.” The costuming is rather lovely. And, as with every single performance tonight, the stage sets are stunning.
Is it just me, or does it look as though sometime in the last year, a billionaire died and left his entire fortune to fund the staging and costuming of Eurovision? It seems so much shinier this year than last year. And I use “shinier” in both a strict denotative sense and a Firefly sense.
The song? I don’t know. I don’t hate it. But it seems as though the lead singer’s incredibly intense, slightly psychotic performance face is at odds with the rather jaunty (in a rather militaristic sense) song.
I wouldn’t mind it getting through, I suppose.

And now they’re pressing the “magic button” to allow Europe to vote.

Of course, we have a delayed telecast, don’t we? So haven’t all the decisions been made?

We’re having a flashback to the performances, now. I’m not recapping that, though. I need a breather before we head to the results.

We still have seven minutes before the voting closes, so there’s a little travelogue of some major Russian successes over the past few years. Frankly, I’m finding these SBS commentators rather patronising here.

But then the Russian presenters do an insanely sexist little skit about voting, and I forget it all.

And now we’re recapping all the performances again. Seriously, again? Can’t we just have the results of the voting? Oh, I see: not for another three minutes.


Sorry about that. I wasn’t going to comment on the recapping of the original recapping of the performances, but, well, it was a flying space dolphin. It took me by surprise. (Yes, the third time around. I’m easily surprised.)

So voting has closed for the first semi-final. And now we go for an ad. break. Seriously, SBS? Now? Why not ten minutes ago, when nothing was happening?

Ooh, I forgot: this is the television station that decided the best way to follow up on the Eurovision semi-finals was to show ABBA: The Movie. Again.

Of course, the longer we pause here, the more I’m remembering how much I’ve drunk over the last two hours.

Do we have the results yet? No, not quite. We have some Russian performers (and the same old James Bond joke all over again) first. I’d like to say who they are, but I couldn’t quite make it out. (Just quietly? The presenters? Not so great.)

Oooh, it’s an army choir! The Alexandrasov Red Army Choir and some other people whose names I missed because “Alexandrasov” is a difficult word to type. And I’ve probably spelt it wrong, too.

Some fabulous dancing, but there’s something wrong with the sound mixing, because the loudest sound by fair is the squeaking of the rubber-soled shoes against the floor. Ooh, but now we have some lovely Cossacks—beautiful, beautiful costuming. I do so like the national performance aspect of the Russian semi-finals.

Sword dancing! Fantastic. And the choir is singing all the way through—they’re lovely, really. I do like a male choir.

Wow! These drummers are fantastic! Sam, are you taking notes? They’re even playing each other’s drums! And I didn’t mention the hip-hop dancers and cheerleaders and flamenco dancers. (Or perhaps they were Romani?)

Oh, what? Do we really have to listen to t.A.T.u.? Even with the military drummers? Nick’s cranky, because the vocals are so heavily processed, and he thought that was against the rules for Eurovision. I pointed out that t.A.T.u. aren’t actually competing, but he didn’t seem convinced by that argument.

Now, the Big Five.

FRANCE: Dull. I passed out and hit my head on the coffe table.
RUSSIA: I missed half because of my fainting spell. The rest didn’t impress me. A bit whingy.
GERMANY: Boppy. But not terribly exciting.
U.K.: Oh, really not my cup of tea. I hope they get some points, though.

And I missed the last one, because Nick changed the channel. Don’t ask me why. I don’t think I’ve missed any of the results.

The results:

Turkey! Well, the knickerbockers didn’t appeal to me, but the song was rather cute.
Sweden! Ah, the vampire woman. Hmm. She’s also freakishly tall. I’m not so sure about that one.
Israel! No surprise there. It was . . . well, I’m not annoyed to see it go through.
Portugal! Now am I am pleased about that. Lovely little song, that was. And I hope it has the same set as tonight, because that was so pretty.
Malta! Malta? Really? Wow. I wasn’t the slightest bit impressed with Malta.
Finland! What on earth is happening here? Finland? With the firedancers in the bolero shrugs? Why, Europe? Why?
Bosnia and Herzegovina! I noticed, during the recaps, that the men in that were wearing pants, but the women weren’t.
Romania! The strange naiads. I thought during the recaps that the chorus included the line “Going to shag all night” but that can’t be right, surely?
Armenia! Really? The costumes were great, but the song becomes more boring every time I hear it.
And last place goes to Iceland! No. No! NO! The flying space dolphins!

But what about Belarus? Oh, and the chappie in the RenFaire gear? He didn’t make is through, did he? Who was that? I forget so quickly.

Well, that’s semi-final one. I’m off, because my back is killing me. But be here tomorrow for semi-final two, when Nick will only change the channel during a key moment on pain of death.

Share your thoughts [20]


Wendy wrote at May 15, 09:37 am

i’m new to this eurovision caper…what’s all this magic horse palava?


John wrote at May 15, 09:41 am

Go Estonia! Oh, they must be tomorrow night…


Wendy wrote at May 15, 09:46 am

nothing like a repetitious chorus is there…and was that a pulp fiction dance move followed by some other john travolta dancing?


Wendy wrote at May 15, 09:50 am

oh belgium really…elvis?


John wrote at May 15, 09:52 am

I never joke about Eurovision: it’s too much a joke already.


Wendy wrote at May 15, 09:56 am

now that thing in the middle of the stage is all orangey and scary


John wrote at May 15, 10:08 am

Apparently they’re quite fond of the spinning camera thing, so maybe you need to take your sea-sick pills before it’s too late.


Wendy wrote at May 15, 10:18 am

this dum tek tek thing quite catchy i’m finding


Wendy wrote at May 15, 10:24 am

the russian comedy host duo…words fail me


Wendy wrote at May 15, 10:28 am

bulgaria lost me with the flat counter-tenor/falsetto


Nick wrote at May 15, 10:33 am

Wendy, I’m not sure being in tune is the point of Eurovision!


Wendy wrote at May 15, 10:38 am

oh okay. got it!
was hurting my ears though ;)


Nick Caldwell wrote at May 15, 10:46 am

Yes, Julia is being quite disappointing as Eurovision commentator. Far too positive and enthusiastic. I’m starting to try and visualise Judith Lucy instead. The singers wouldn’t stand a chance!


John wrote at May 15, 10:47 am

Portugal is coming up: it’s nice and folky, if I recall…


John wrote at May 15, 10:58 am

Unlike mine host, I adored BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA last year. This mob is just Coldplay with funny accents.


John wrote at May 15, 11:14 am

The female host is a cross between Brooke Shields and Hermione Granger.


Wendy wrote at May 15, 11:16 am

a flying space dolphin would take anyone by surprise no matter how many times they’d seen one before


John wrote at May 15, 11:43 am

Thank you, mine host, a sterling effort: go and have another drink…

And Wendy, if you weren’t in Bundaberg I’d invite you to the final extravaganza on Sunday night.


Catriona wrote at May 15, 11:57 am

Wow, that’s tiring. Just so it’s understood: I have no idea what I just wrote. I’ll go and read it in a moment, but first, the comments.

Wendy, even those of us who’ve watched Eurovision for years have no idea what the magic horse bit was about. Still, it’s beats last year’s semi-paralysed centaur.

And, John, you’re wronging me! I liked Bosnia and Herzegovina last year—as long as I kept my eyes closed. You have to admit, the mise en scene was quite, quite terrifying.

I’m gutted that Belarus and Bulgaria didn’t get through. Belarus was this year’s Azerbaijan—how could they not get through? Bit of a shame about the Czech Republic, too. Super Gypsy! Capes! Lovely, lovely Pop Art staging! It’s a crime, I tell you.

Still, at least Portugal got through.

And at least Switzerland didn’t.


Wendy wrote at May 16, 02:12 am

thanks John! I’ll be there in spirit (and perhaps on Twitter)…i think you have all converted me to the delights of eurovision! I’m very disappointed for the super gypsy as well.

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