I’m in a cab on my way to the Eurovision final in Turin with sparky Maria from Spain and a trio of hombre mates who are buzzing and then some about dancing-queen gyratrix Chanel’s chances.
I’ve already shared a plane ride next to Swedish singer Cornelia’s best mate from school – either that or she’s got an awful lot of photos of her – out to convince me her girl is going to take the win. Everyone is buzzing.
And everywhere in Turin absolutely no one, including 2014 winner and Eurovision legend Conchita Wurst, is laughing at the idea of UK’s very own SPACE MAN Sam Ryder flying to victory. In fact, they almost expect it. And that’s before we’ve got to the hopefuls from Norway, Italy, Greece or, of course, the much discussed Ukraine factor. The opening Give Peace a chance crowd chorus is a strong shout as to how the night might go.
Still, we all know anything can happen at Eurovision and often does, but this year promises to be a doozie on the douze points front. It feels like anyone can win.
If the merch stall is anything to go by it’ll be a UK v Spain dogfight – they’ve both sold out all their flags. Darn.
Once inside Turin’s cavernous Pala Olimpico – in the flesh it looks like a choc ice on stilts – the atmosphere is a weird mix of electric and chaotic. Italians are famous for football, wine, fabulous food and speaking really, really fast, but being organised… not so much. Like a swan that looks serene on the surface but underneath is paddling furiously, that’s the feeling you get before our mildly panic-stricken looking trio of presenters – is Mika real or is he a Disney fantasy? – take to the stage.
It’s an odd feeling actually seeing Eurovision in all its glitzy, gaudy, eccentric glory up close (well, close-ish, the PO is pretty enormous, though intimate compared to some past venues). What you get on TV is the polished product, just the head of the swan if you like.
Sat in the stalls you get to see the frantic paddling of a road crew handed the Herculean task of a succession of quick set changes – whatever happened to just standing at a mic and singing? – while a flotilla of stage managers grapple with a stage design that’s been a mighty headache ever since they discovered its key LED sun installation took way too long to do anything useful. Some acts disappear in a blizzard of lights.
So I find myself so weirdly mesmerised by all the peripheral shenanigans that a trio of songs have come and gone before I’ve fully cottoned on there’s a contest happening. Hardly fair on the bouncy Czechs, slinky hipped Romanians or wistfully melodic Portuguese: at home I’d have been scoring them on song, costumes, key change and dance routine – here they’ve been and gone in a flash.
Because there’s so much to distract you, from the pockets of flag-waving superfans clustered around the arena like a Game of Thrones gathering – it feels like an Olympic parade, only with way more sequins – to the Italian smart set clustered in a topiary hedgerow down front. The Eurovision crowd’s take on camp covers all bases.
Curiously, it feels like much of the Italian contingent in the crowd have turned up as much to worship at the altar of rock gods Måneskin in the interval as they have done to see the contest itself, so they’re mostly taking selfies. Me, I’m back to the business in hand because my song is coming on.
Yes, after years of songwriters criminally refusing to drop the name Keith into their lyrics, Norway’s wolf guys Subwoolfer have come up with the goods with novelty shot Give That Wolf A Banana – cheered by the best hats in the hall. They’re up and I’m all eyes on the stage now. Game on.
Keith Watson went to Eurovision 2022 in Turin with Booking.com
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