Review: London Eurovision Preview Party

Excuse the photo quality - but Cafe de Paris was a fantastic choice of venue for the event

Excuse the photo quality – but Cafe de Paris was a fantastic choice of venue for the event

It’s a guilty pleasure for many, but there are also many hardcore Eurovision fans out there who enjoy nothing better than a good sing and dance to some of Eurovision’s greatest hits. Whilst its reputation in the UK may not be what it once was, there is a thriving Eurovision scene here as was demonstrated at Sunday night’s Eurovision preview party.

Ably hosted by former semi-final commentator Paddy O’Connell and Nikki French who had an ever changing wardrobe (yes, we were counting the costume changes) the event was Eurovision gold from start to finish with acts from many countries showcasing not just their entries for the contest in Copenhagen, but also a wide selection of other tracks.

Putting the fact that I’m a Eurovision fan aside, this event was absolutely amazing from start to finish. Firstly the venue was superb – I’ve heard this was the first year the preview party has taken place at Leicester Square’s Cafe de Paris – but what a setting! With a chandelier positioned right above the stage area, it gave the whole event a real special feeling. Then came the acts…

There were many, many notable highlights. The key moments for me were UK’s Molly Smitten-Downes performing ‘Children of the Universe’ – I genuinely cannot wait to see the staging of this in May. Also Ruth Lorenzo (yes, the one who was on X Factor) who is representing Spain this year performed her entry, but also gave the audience a truly beautiful and surprising operatic turn performing Nessun Dorma from Turandot – absolutely outstanding – the audience were at their almost loudest for this.

Perhaps it is a reflection of my own musical taste that Freaky Fortune, representing Greece were another one of the many highlights. Their song for this year is extremely catchy but what really grabbed me about their set was their ability to connect with the audience. They did this with two mega mixes – one of past Eurovision winners with everything from Wild Dances to Satellite featuring, and a second mega mix of pure 90s pop with some great mixing of Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Britney – it was amazing. One half of the act also comes from London – they knew their audience.

Obviously I will be reviewing the entries for this year’s contest in more detail nearer the time, however a final special mention has to go to Conchita Wurst, a drag act who is representing Austria. She was truly overwhelmed by the support she received from the crowd, and her entry is a true anthem that will strike a chord with Eurovision’s gay fans. In a set that was extended thanks to some intervention from Paddy O’Connell she also performed an amazing version of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that truly brought the house down.

There were also some fabulous special guests. Linda Martin (Ireland 1984 & 1992), Scott Fitzgerald (UK 1988) and most notably Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg 1973) all performed at various points during the evening with all three performing their Eurovision songs. Anne-Marie even performed ‘Tu te reconnaĆ®tras’ in English as ‘Wonderful Dream’ and like many of the artists was found in a foyer area signing photographs and meeting fans well into the small hours.

The performances of the night finished off as they began with Nikki French singing. Having kicked off the night with a medley of UK winners (we did win this five times ya know!) she finished the night by singing her 2000 entry ‘Don’t Play That Song Again’ even wearing the jacket she wore in Stockholm. For those not working Monday morning, three hours of Eurovision disco followed with Nikki joining fans on the dance floor though from what we observed there wasn’t too much dancing going on from her but after being such an energetic compare who could blame her.

In short the people who organised this mammouth event did an amazing job, whetting every attendee’s appetite for the main event in Copenhagen. A amazing time was had by all – and for me this could become a regular event on my calendar.

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Copenhagen, with the event being broadcast as usual on BBC Television. Semi Finals are 6th and 8th May with the Grand Final being held on May 10th. As usual the UK automatically qualifies for the final as one of ESC’s biggest contributors so get those union flags ready!