Eurovision 2023: I just had to be there! (Part III)

And… we’re back! Just in time for some holiday reading (Kate, I’m looking at you here…!) it’s the third part of my blog on this year’s Eurovision. I left you all exhausted and tired after a spectacular Thursday night and I’d like to say we were all up bright and breezy Friday morning except quite frankly, we weren’t. Friday was lazy day. I could have gone to the Eurovision Village (spoiler, I didn’t), I could have explored the sights of Liverpool (and… I didn’t do that either). What we did do, was find a nice food hall and filled up on Chinese food for a kind of lunch/early dinner thing which was really nice before the fun started again – but I’m sure my satay chicken dish is probably not what you want to read about!

As evening descended (and bags were moved to another hotel room!) the excitement built again. Already I’d been to the OGAE UK Eurovision meet up for the first time, a fabulous experience, though I’d severely underestimated my journey from the new hotel (2.5 miles, I was knackered!), and now it was back to the arena. Originally I didn’t have tickets for the jury final, however with big thanks to Martin, I was able to grab a ticket, in the fanzone no less! Whereas for the jury final the seating had given a good overview of the hard work the production team were doing to produce such a slick show, this was a totally different experience. From the moment I set foot onto the carpet it had a new sense of closeness. I had to pinch myself to believe I was there. Although I briefly went to the front – and yes you could go right to the stage(!) – I swiftly joined my friends at the back which happened to be right where the artists were!

Go_A perform as part of the opening act to Eurovision 2023's Grand Final.

Some of you may be wondering at this point what is a jury final? In short, whilst not televised, Friday night is not just a rehearsal for opening and interval acts, it is jury voting night for the artists. 50% of the total vote is made on Friday night, though the results remain a closely guarded secret until the Grand Final on Saturday. Hence, the atmosphere is absolutely amazing throughout. I could go into massive detail about each act and so on at this point, but instead I want to share with you my excitement when I realised that next to the ‘green room’ where we were standing, was a secondary stage… and even more exciting was the fact that Go_A were already there waiting to perform their part in the opening act as the show started. I’d interviewed them for ESC Fan TV two years ago, and I was tremendously excited to see them again. Of course, their performance of Shum was flawless, as were the other opening acts and then we were right into the thick of the performances!

Of course it was amazing to see all the artists perform, some of whom I’d seen on Thursday night, Loreen I’d seen win Melodifestivalen (a story for another time, perhaps) – but the special mention has to go to this year’s runner up. Käärijä. I cannot put into words how much noise, love and excitement there was in the room for ‘Cha Cha Cha’. I’d bailed briefly to go to the loo (Albania was always my toilet break song), got chatting to some other ESC folk I’d seen on my way back… and the arena, well it just simply erupted. In all my years of going to Eurovision events, it was just fabulous. Everyone in chorus, singing ‘Cha Cha Cha’. Absolutely brilliant, absolutely amazing. I can’t think of any other words to describe it.

Of course the other special mention of the jury final needs to go to the interval act entitled ‘The Liverpool Songbook’. What a marvellous blend of Eurovision and Liverpool! Again, the second stage came into its own here with artists such as Cornelia Jakobs performing Mel C’s ‘I Turn To You’ right in front of us, complete with water being splashed everywhere. At that point part of the fan zone seemed to be a bit like the splash zone but no one cared! The best moment for me however was the finale. Bringing a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat, Duncan Laurence performing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was understandably one of the best moments of the contest presentation. Whoever did that was spot on because it underlines so much about the whole Ukraine conflict but also about the Eurovision community. Believe it or not, the Eurovision community is a true community and I have made so many friends from it whether they be from Belgium, Cyprus, Sweden or even as far away as Australia!

Cornelia Jakobs waits to perform.
Cornelia Jakobs waits to perform I Turn To You.

The one thing that no one ever really mentions about when it comes to the jury final is the voting. Naturally, they need to run through and check the connections, but what about the artists? We’d loudly applauded Gustaph (Belgium), Lord of the Lost (Germany) and Mae Muller (UK) when they had gone back to their seats post performance as they were nearest to us – but would they hang around for the fake vote. The short answer is no. They hung around long enough to see the interval act rehearsal (and the insane amount of time it took them to fix the contraption that took Netta up to the ceiling!), and then it was a mass exodus… to be replaced by… members of the production team. When I attended the RTS lecture the following month, the fake vote and ‘standing in’ for different countries was discussed as one of the production team’s highlights of the contest and I can see why. However…. it was not for me. Gathering some of the eurocrew, we hightailed it out of the arena to get to Euroclub and Jemini perform their all time Eurovision classic ‘Cry Baby’….

Virtual Euroclub watching Charlotte Perrelli

And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything! We all know the real attraction at Euroclub that night was the queen that is Charlotte Perrelli. She did not disappoint, banging out her tunes such as ‘Hero’, ‘Still Young’ and the 1999 winning song ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’. I could have chosen to share a pic of her with you all, but quite frankly the Euroclub was so packed that night I couldn’t get anywhere near to get a decent picture, so you’ve got a picture I decided to take of some of the Virtual Euroclub gang and myself as we were watching her. A true sight to behold and a true Eurovision icon.

The usual dancing, chatting, 2am snackage occured as Friday turned into Saturday. Debates about who was the best at the jury final, catching up with old and new friends. Yes, the Eurovision experience was nearly over but there was still one day left and I’ll leave that for the final part.