- Our song-by-song guide to tonight's finalists
- Meet Michael Rice, the UK contestant
- Why is Madonna performing – and why does she play at being Jewish?
- Podcasts, hip-hop and Wonder Woman: How Eurovision became cool
- From wacky to woke – when did Eurovision get so serious?
- Australia dazzle with operatic performance
- Italy tussles with Switzerland and the Netherlands for bookies' favourite
She came, she saw (out of one eye), she brought Jean Paul Gaultier with her: it may have been the 64th Eurovision Song Contest but last night in Tel Aviv was the Madonna show by another name, with her two-song performance providing more entertainment than any of the 26 acts that came before or after. Leading a chant of "music makes the people come together" - a line from her 2000 song, Music, she attempted to heal the wounds of the Middle East through pop. Even if her own - opening with Like A Virgin and finishing with Future, from her new album Madame X - was a little off key.
Her calls for unity felt less absurd than they might otherwise have, given that the days leading up to the competition had seen renewed calls for a boycott, intensified by recent outbreaks of violence in Gaza, where more than 20 were killed a fortnight ago.
Some 200m viewers tuned in to see her perform as her newest alter ego, Madame X - which earlier this week looked unlikely, as rumours raged that Israel’s staging of the event for the fourth time had proved controversial enough for even the Queen of Pop to turn down her invitation. Yet on Thursday night her performance was finally confirmed, though protests continued right up to showtime on Saturday, where a few dissenting banners were seen close to the Expo as the curtain came up.
By the end of the performances, none had been seen inside inside, unlike the semi-final two nights prior. That was until the scores were announced for anti-capitalist fetish fans Hatari, Iceland’s entry, who responded with a display of Palestine banners.
That aside, things went off without a hitch.
Eurovision’s well-worn mix of sugary pop and spangles did the trick, as did cameos from winners of Eurovisions past - Verka Serduchka, still sporting the sequinned headgear and sunglasses that found him fame in 2007, 2015’s "bearded lady" Conchita Wurst and last year’s winner, Netta, to whom a shrine has been erected on Tel Aviv’s beachfront this week.
But these flashes of colour - including Australia’s entry Kate Miller-Heidke , whose performance saw her wafting several metres in the air, dressed as a galaxy-dwelling fairy - highlighted just how much tamer this year’s show has been. Perhaps because of the myriad distractions outside of the event - beyond the boycotts, which were backed by the likes of Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel , even Brexit threatened to stoke up fires new when it came to the leaderboards.
Whether the United Kingdom’s entry Michael Rice, a 21-year-old former waffle-business owner from Hartlepool, was deliberately inoffensive as so not to further rankle our European neighbours was not made clear. His placing as last - was not particularly surprising, nor was the ultimate victor being Duncan Laurence, the Netherlands’ entry, who had been the favourite all the way through.
Yes it was all fairly predictable but at least harmony - if not always of the musical kind - won out on the night.
Going Dutch: TV critic Michael Hogan weighs in
Eurovision was going Dutch. After the contest overran by half-an-hour and heavy-lidded viewers lost the will to live, let alone stay up, Duncan Laurence scored a Netherlands win for the first time since 1973.
Bearded pianist Laurence made it to the semi-finals of his nation's version of The Voice but fared way better on the international stage. P ower ballad "Arcade" was a fairly forgettable song but he seemed like a nice enough fellow.
The more worthy Sweden and Italy were cruelly denied in the home stretch. North Macedonia looked like contenders for a long time but bombed in the public vote. Elsewhere, the voting was the usual farrago of partisan alliances and baffling randomness - plus the odd pro-Palestinian protest.
Meanwhile, the UK's poor Michael Rice comes home bottom of the scoreboard with a mere 16 points - 13 of them from the professional juries, just three from the public vote - but hopefully his head held high and his pride intact. Terribly harsh yet perhaps an indication of our current standing in Europe.
So concludes a bizarre yet strangely compelling four hours of television. If you lasted the course, you deserve a medal and a nightcap.
'This is to dreaming big'
An astonished Duncan Laurence will take to his piano and his beloved enormous light bulb as the four hosts tell us all we're the true Eurovision spirit. It's almost 2am in Israel.
Duncan Laurence is off to the stage
As everyone else reels from those votes. In Edinburgh, Charlotte Runcie says, "The Norwegians next to me are outraged that they got shafted by the jury. They’ve left the pub!" The rest of us are cracking on with booking our tickets to Amsterdam.
And the winner is: The Netherlands
Duncan Laurence wins the Eurovision Song Contest for the Netherlands for the first time since 1975.
Sweden were given 93 points by the public, which means they take an admirable second (and tight) place in a strange and tension-filled round of voting. What a bizarre evening - even by Eurovision's standards.
North Macedonia loved by the jury more than the public
Just 58 public points for North Macedonia, meaning their lead is over.
The Netherlands take the top spot
261 points from the public for The Netherlands, which has pushed them into pole position
Might Italy win?
253 public points for Italy. Which takes them to 465 in total, which is dwarfing Russia in second place.
Australia are out of the race
131 points for Australia, which takes them to fourth place. Operatic pole not winning this time around.
Now Russia are in the lead
244 public points to Russia, which knocks Norway out.
We are in dangerous risk of coming last
And suddenly Norway is in the lead
Nearly 300 public votes for Norway, so they have been catapulted into the lead.
...but at least we didn't get zero
Like Germany did. They may want to deploy some of those consoling lyrics from Sister, their entry song.
Just three public votes for the UK
Poor Michael Rice. Just three public votes for the UK. That did smart a bit.
Everybody is getting a little weary and delirious
Is this the longest over-running Eurovision in recent years? Certainly feels it. Charlotte Runcie sends respect to Sweden "for just singing during the green room bit to avoid awkward chat".
And now the public vote takes place. Everything could change. And then, importantly, we can all go to bed.
Final jury votes are in:
And the top three is as follows:
1. Sweden: 239
2. North Macedonia: 237
3. The Netherlands: 231
Madonna's political flags had not been sanctioned by Eurovision
While the voting results are still rattling on (put that guitar away), here's a statement from the organisers of the contest regarding those flags Madonna's dancers wore on their backs:
'Five points to San Marino. None for us'
It's not going to be a golden Eurovision for the UK, is it.
North Macedonia remain in the lead, but Azerbaijan have knocked Italy out of the top three.
Is John Lundvik the Swedish Craig David?
He likes to sing conversational epithets and say "we're all winners".
This only makes me love him more.
Tamara Todevska, apparently having a heart attack
We've 20 juries left to vote and so it's back to the green room for a few more awkward interviews. This time with Tamara Todevska, North Macedonia's entrant, who can confirm that the 135 points she's racked up are "amazing".
North Macedonia take the lead
It's becoming a clear sweep for Tamara Todevska, who represented North Macedonia with Proud. They're currently leading a country mile with 113 points ahead of Sweden with 93 and Italy with 82. Of course, this is the jury votes - it could all change with the televote.
Scott Bryan: " Really quite surprised with how the judging is going so far: North Macedonia is a song that I didn't register at all as being a favourite, yet it currently leads the leaderboard.
But will the public vote change it in a totally different direction?"
Charlotte Runcie: "It would be a massive massive shock if North Macedonia won. But the televote is likely to overturn their lead."
To deliver our verdict politely and, crucially, speedily. Our professional jury awarded 12 points to North Macedonia. Which is bizarre.
Still no points for the UK
But many points for Estonia and their refreshingly efficient voting delivery.
Madonna was definitely flat
As confirmed by Michael Hogan:
Regardless of the politics and money, it's truly extraordinary to get a giga-name like Madonna for Eurovision - and surely boosted the global ratings by many millions. It's certainly several steps up from Michael "Lord Of The Dance" Flatley during the Ireland years. Dressed as a sort of rhinestone pirate, her pre-performance banter with the host was cringe-inducingly awkward and the wait was interminable but once she took to the stage, all was forgotten. Unfortunately, the performance fell flatter than Madge's vocals.
She opened with a robe-clad, Gregorian remix of Like A Prayer - celebrating its 30th anniversary, scarily - which was horribly pitchy and needed to crank into the original version but never did. This was followed by Future, her autotuned, reggae-flavoured new duet with Quavo. This ended with Madonna falling backwards off the stage, quite possibly out of embarrassment. Viewers were hoping for a redeeming third number to go out with a bang but no. That was that.
The staging was interesting but the music wasn't. Madonna's deeply disappointing two-song set got a muted reception in the arena, and was met with widespread thumbs-downs and raspberry noises on Twitter. She was outshone by most of the 26 contestants. Not quite nul points, but not many more. Anyone who'd waited up for Madonna would have gone to bed with bottom lip out and shoulders slumped. Heaven help me indeed.
Three countries in and still no points for the UK
Italy, Netherlands and Russia have all racked up top marks, though.
It's results time
That enormous interval is finally coming to an end. The results are in from the 41 professional juries.
Is Madonna struggling?
It's not the finest vocal we've ever heard. Even given a little wiggle room for live performance etc, Madonna's managed to turn classic Eighties hit Like A Prayer into somewhat of a dirge. She seems to be struggling with the higher notes and even the strength of the choir can't mask it.
Tellingly, her new song Future, has been treated quite considerably with post-production techniques and sounds robotic. It's certainly more bearable to listen to than that rendition of Like A Prayer but as a song, I'd rather take Slovakia's entry - which is saying something.
Social media seems a bit taken aback by the whole thing. As Scott Bryan sums up: "Am I the only one who thinks that performance was remarkably flat? Did it sound out of tune? A lot of people seem to say it was."
Charlotte Runcie is also underwhelmed: "These eurovision interval acts with big stars are supposed to be the new superbowl half-time shows... I’m not convinced." In the arena, Charlotte Lytton confirms that the sound was "bad".
Graham Norton describes a "muted response", which is telling considering how much of an icon Madonna is.
Like A Prayer
Turns out that is quite an impressive ecclesiastical-looking building after all.
With a massive choir too.
Presumably all this extra faffing about is giving Madonna time to draw up her plans and gather her chisel to "literally build a chapel" on stage imminently.
Will Eurovision over-run?
If this feels like it's going on rather a long time, you might be right. As Scott Bryan has pointed out: "We are supposed to have Madonna perform two songs, have all of the televoting and announce the winner in a single hour."
We may have only 15 minutes left to vote, but Charlotte Runcie, an experienced Euroviewer, is well-versed in these things: "We’ll be here til dawn let’s face it."
Game of Thrones stars are watching Eurovision
Well, after Euron Greyjoy was killed in last week's episode Pilau Asbaek has had more time on his hands:
It feels like they are padding for time
After the splendour of Australia's performance, the hosts seem to be struggling with this series of car-crash interviews and turgid performances. "The entire show has fallen apart in the past 10 minutes and I am thrilled," says Scott. They've just introduced "the world's greatest mentalist" – by which they mean "mindreader", Graham Norton has helpfully clarified.
Madonna just quoted her own lyrics
And then made everybody repeat them back. Will this go down in history as one of the strangest television interviews ever? Quite possibly.
Charlotte Runcie's had a revelation: "Literally only just realised that pirate Joan of Arc is Madonna"
As one Reddit user spotted, Madonna’s hands were "fidgety". Could the Queen of Pop possibly be nervous?
Scott Bryan is ready to welcome back Justin Timberlake after that interview, saying "all is forgiven". The former N*Sync star performed Can't Stop the Feeling on Eurovision in 2016. It wasn't great.
HERE SHE IS
We suspect Madonna is not daring to dream.
Iceland's campaign is admirable
From Charlotte Runcie in Edinburgh:
I don’t know why there are 12 leather-clad Icelandic women in this bar but they just made me vote for Iceland. I’m not making this up.
Michael's keen for Madge
Aren't we all, Michael Hogan:
Imagine it'll be Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland or Italy. But I'd love to see France or Australia win. Meanwhile, that time-filling medley was like when they get the X Factor oddballs back for a freakshow group number in the final. Now, is it Madge O'Clock yet?
The Eurovision fever dream interval continues
We are really getting into the depths of Euronerd meta-knowledge here. As Charlotte Runcie says: "This whole interval act is like finding a nest where Eurovision has been breeding with itself"
This, for the uninitiated, is Netta, the Israeli singer from last year's competition and one of Eurovision history's "wackiest" entrants. Famous for singing like a chicken.
As Scott Bryan has pointed out, all they needed to do was bring back Riverdance and that would have been the end of Eurovision.
Who we're voting for:
Here's who The Telegraph Eurovision team are voting for:
Czech Republic: completely cheesy and has the energy of ten lucozade bottles
Switzerland: I want to know his gym routine
Australia: I want them to win
Australia because that staging was a net contribution to humanity
Italy because he was great and I’m surrounded by Italians
Sweden, because that song was an absolute pop. And who doesn't want a Eurovision winner called John?
Czech Republic, purely for that Mockney accent.
Switzerland, Italy (sorry Scott), and Spain, purely based on crowd enjoyment.
Eurovision Royalty here. Any Euroviewer worth their salt will still remember the astonishing performance of Pheonix that Austrian contestant Conchita Wurst won with in 2014. Here, he's replaced the wig for a PVC bakers boy cap and a nice muppety shrug. Lurking offstage is MånsZelmerlöw, the Swedish entertainment polymath who took Conchita's crown in 2015.
Also, can we just point out that the presenter asked Måns if Conchita made him "sweat with jealousy"? Is this an Israeli thing?
A reminder, while we recap all of the acts that we forgot in the wake of Swedish John's amazing eyebrows, Norway's Sami singing and Australia, in general, of how the voting works:
Juries made up from professional music industry types in each country have already cast their votes during the dress rehearsal yesterday. Those points will be announced first. Meanwhile, the televote takes place across Europe – this is where viewers come in. The televoting results are announced after the jury votes, meaning some major drama can unfold as the contest closes. Which is why it's worth staying marginally sober to avoid too much heartbreak / confusion.
WELL DONE EVERYONE
We made it. Twenty-six songs. You've earned a beverage and a bop. Obviously, there's still the purgatory of the voting to go through, but until then, be cheered by this life-affirming story from Charlotte Runcie in Edinburgh:
I have now made friends with the Norwegians! Truly Eurovision brings us all together.
The gay men in this pub, for their part, are united in their strong affections for Switzerland.
Song 26: Spain: Miki with La Venda
Poor Miki, having to follow operatic princesses on poles. Still, here Spain's entry is, with a paintballed house and some dancing robots. "And finally Spain, whose set is firmly in the 'all of the ideas we had left' category," as Scott puts it.
Really, everyone just wants to see Madonna now, don't they? Only a matter of minutes before we see her "literally" construct a chapel on stage in 40 seconds.
Song 25: Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity
Remember when Australia played Eurovision for the first time and everyone was baffled and slightly annoyed? How wrong we are. Fast-forward a few years are we are all clamouring for Australia's performance. Kate Miller-Heidke fan art exists. I know, because I have seen it and am tempted to print it on a teeshirt.
Back to the song, Miller-Heidke is a classically trained alt-pop star who is clearly very adept at standing on dauntingly tall poles while scaling octaves of a similar height.
Scott Bryan has been talking to me about Australia's entry for the past 24 hours and seems still not to have exhausted himself:
Australia, not only one of my favourite performances of the night, but one of my favourite Eurovision performances ever. Utterly spellbinding from start to finish.
HOW did they think this up? WHO controls the poles? HOW did they rehearse this? It's astounding.
Here's what Michael Hogan thinks:
Well, Australia wins the award for most spectacular staging with that circus-style, highly theatrical, ice queen operatic yodelling session. "If windscreen wipes could sing," as Graham Norton had it. Magical and mesmeric. But if that wins, which seems a distinct possibility, most of Europe will surely explode with indignation.
Song 24: Switzerland: Luca Hänni with She Got Me
So Charlotte Lytton has been really looking forward to Switzerland, not least because it's the third-to-last song of the night. "Switzerland has saved this competition," she reports from Tel Aviv.
Can Luca reclaim Celine Dion's Eurovision crown? The crowd seem to be loving him, and that percussion line certainly hides much of the dodgy singing. I'd say this is nearing "bop" territory.
Scott Bryan, meanwhile, is reporting a sudden urge to join a gym.
Song 23: Serbia: Nevena Božović with Kruna
Here comes Serbia, with a nice visual cue to Angelina Jolie's 2012 Oscars frock. A simpler time.
Nevena Božović has turned up with a ballad, which is disappointing and, frankly, has left us all a bit stumped for words. I enjoyed the air guitar, though.
Song 22: Italy: Mahmood with Soldi
So, Mahmood, the apparently husky Eurovision favourite. A little about the Italian song: it's been streamed more than 50 million times, the video's racked up a further 85 million views. Is this the one that could win Eurovision?
Certainly, in Edinburgh, Mahmood is going down well on several fronts, Charlotte Runcie reports: "Massive reception for Italy Everyone singing along and admiring his shirt."
Song 21: France: Bilal Hassani with Roi
A little Bilal context for you from Charlotte Lytton: "According to longtime Bilal-watchers, the commitment to wigs is a Eurovision-specific development".
He's certainly ticking a lot of boxes with Roi - Charlotte wrote more about that here.
Still, for all the thought gone into the concept, the song's a bit tedious, isn't it?
Song 20: Azerbaijan: Chingiz with Truth
There I was, wondering if those fancy robotic lasers were the same ones used by Alexander McQueen in his S/S 1999 collection when Scott pops up with a far more cynical interpretation: "This Azerbaijan performance is the quite simply the worst episode of Black Mirror".
Charlotte Lytton does have a point that "There are better songs where ‘shut up’ is a lyrical mainstay". Although this one is arguably better than Kelly Osbourne's attempt at a music career, admittedly.
Song 19: Belarus: ZENA with Like It
This is ZENA, a Belarussian teenager who is proving that wearing too much kohl is a rite of passage for all 16-year-olds.
I think it's fair to say that the Estonia-Belarus-Azerbaijan trifecta is offering a good opportunity to pause, grab a drink, think about, as Scott Bryan says, "where the hell Estonia's guitar disappeared for two and a half minutes".
Song 18: Estonia: Victor Crone with Storm
You might be feeling sorry for Victor Crone, what with being called "Victor Crone" and having to follow Hatari. But Charlotte Lytton says that they could have a secret weapon (and it's not looking like an extra from Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again): "Lots of people in Tel Aviv have been backing Estonia as the underdog".
Song 17: Iceland: Hatari with Hatrið mun sigra
The long-awaited Icelandic BDSM rockers have been the talk of this year's competition. But not, it would appear, the talk of Charlotte Lytton's day. She flew all the way to Tel Aviv only to be told they would speak to her via the phone: "BDSM garb apparently a no-go for these chaps prior to midday".
In Edinburgh, they're all for the leather and spectral synths, says Charlotte Runcie: "Massive reception for Iceland here in Edinburgh. Hatari claim to want to bring down capitalism. I can feel it crumbling around me."
Scott Bryan, meanwhile, sagely asserts: "Iceland are going to have quite the afterparty aren't they
Michael likes Michael
This is what Michael Hogan, our TV critic, had to say:
Call it Michael-based bias but I thought Mr Rice did pretty well. A lovely lad who reached X Factor boot camp five years ago and won the inaugural series of BBC singing contest All Together Now last year. Big voice and a confident performance but generic styling and the staging was dull compared to some of the upbeat, wackier entrants. Still, he's Hartlepool's finest since Jeff Stelling and a certain Napoleonic monkey. He certainly doesn't deserve to finish with nul points, so fingers crossed.
Noble key change work
Credit to young Michael, who I'm sure is inspiring rapture in Hartlepool Town Hall at the moment. He's got lovely manners, though, hasn't he?
Charlotte Runcie: "Sadly the UK is proof that a leather jacket is not, in itself, a solution to an image problem"
Charlotte Lytton: "RIP Hartlepool’s Waffle and Crepe Shack, Rice’s best work..."
Scott Bryan: "Well, this year we didn't get stage invaded!!!!!!!"
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, the city's monuments lit up green during the UK’s act, which, as Runcie says, "is a sign of a lukewarm-to-positive reaction on social media. A good sign?"
IT'S MICHAEL RICE
Come on Michael, you're our hope!
Song 15: Norway: KEiiNO with Spirit in the Sky
Not to be confused with the Gareth Gates cover of 2003, KEiiNO's song is, as Scott Bryan says: "one of the most wonderfully leftfield performances this evening. They could have just cut the other two singers and have kept the 'ho le le le lo la' guy for the whole thing though". (That would be the chap on the right, who is singing in the indigenous language of Sami.)
Charlotte Runcie agrees, from her hard-fought-for spot in Edinburgh: "The Norwegians who nicked my table in this pub are going OFF. Singing and dancing and everything. Personally though I think the non-bald guy is superfluous here. The woman and the Sami singer give it EVERYTHING it needs. What a tune.
Charlotte Lytton, meanwhile, has an excellent Hollywood reference: "This Norwegian duo are dead ringers for Das Sound Machine of Pitch Perfect 2 fame
Song 14: Israel: Kobi Marimi with Home
This is obviously quite a big deal for Kobi: he's representing his country as they host Eurovision, he's surrounded by supersized videos of himself and he appears to be collared by a metal bow-tie. No wonder he's emotional.
Yesterday on Twitter he vowed to "sing my Home and my heart out on the biggest stage in the world", and credit to him, he really is making this quite the mesmerising performance, accompanied by an 8,000-strong sing along. Someone get the lad a well-deserved tissue.
X Factor theme week
Welcoming back Michael Hogan, our TV critic, from the sofa:
At the halfway point, Sweden and The Netherlands look to be in pole position so far. Too many of the other entries are like cannon fodder contestants on an X Factor theme week.
Song 13: Greece: Katerine Duska with Better Love
Half-way through. Doesn't time fly?
Here's Katerine, originally born in Canada, now lives in Athens. Graham's certainly building this one up to the tune of "kooky". Duska has the kind of voice that when it comes out of a Gregg's employee from Macclesfield on the X Factor makes Cheryl Cole say, "I love your voice".
What's arguably more interesting is the staging, which I would surmise as "froofly" and "rococo".
Scott Bryan, long a fan of the Olympics, has a bone to pick:
At no point during this fencing competition are they telling us the score. It's hugely irritating.
Song 12: The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence with Arcade
So here we are, the first bookies' favourite of the night, the two-first-named Duncan Laurence, who appears to be in love with an elaborate light bulb.
Song 11: Cyprus: Tamta with Replay
Do you think Tamta squeaks when she's dancing in that get-up? I wonder who helped her get into the boots. Did they go on before or after the janglepants? Asking for a friend.
The outfit has baffled The Telegraph's Eurovision crew. Scott feels its representative of the copious amount of leather across the board this year. Charlotte Runcie, meanwhile, believes Tamta to be wearing "leather-effect spandex leggings, not actual thigh high leather boots. Some people would call that cheating." I think it's clearly PVC.
Anyway, good work, Cyprus: this is quite the "tune".
And, as Charlotte Runcie has pointed out, it is good of them "to provide a Madonna tribute act in case the real deal didn’t show up tonight".
Song 10: Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl with Sebi
It took approximately 15 seconds for the Slovenia slanging to start. Was this the "bilge" Graham Norton was referring to?
Charlotte Runcie is not impressed: "Is it too mean to call Slovenia the new Jaime and Cersei Lannister?"
Scott Bryan is, again, confused: "Do these.... does Slovenia know that there is an audience in front of them?"
I'm just low-key creeped out.
Song Nine: Sweden: John Lundvik with Too Late for Love
Crikey, this dancing! So spirited. He's moving like he's alone in the kitchen and heard a motivational bop, which Too Late for Love certainly is. John's crinkled brow is more than making up for the minimalist staging, you can tell that he possibly believes in lyrics such as "I can be the sun that lights your dark".
Here comes Lytton with the fun facts: "Fun fact: Mr Sweden performed at Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s wedding. Before he wrote the reject track he gVe to Michael Rice, presumably."
And Scott, rightly agreeing that this is a BOP: "This song by Sweden is what I will define as an utter bop. I mean, it does sound like music you would listen to while in Westfield and I will never listen to it again but I STAND BY MY WORDS".
Runcie is willing to prove it is never too late for love, thanks to John: "Speak for yourself Scott, if I ever get married again that Swedish song will be the first dance at my wedding. Tasty stuff."
Czech Hanson are back on the telly
This seems like an opportune moment to get a drink / pop to the loo / put some more cheese in the fondue (not least because the late, great Terry Wogan always recommended song nine as the opportune moment to start drinking).
Meanwhile, from Charlotte Runcie in Edinburgh:
Germany getting boos in this pub, while every mention of Iceland gets a massive cheer
Scott Bryan, meanwhile, reminding us of how lucky we are:
What I love about these appalling interview and green room segments is that most of Europe sees adverts instead. Every year it never gets any better.
Song eight: North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska with Proud
I know I'm meant to be getting surges of feminist pride but all I can think about is the mirror-effect of the staging. Is that clever camera work, or a fancy reflection, or six other giant Tamaras?
Otherwise, not convinced. I'd take Little Mix's Wings over this any day.
Clearly, you have to be there: Graham's describing it as "a real moment" in the arena.
Song seven: San Marino: Serhat with Say Na Na Na
Serhat is a dentist! I wonder if he's commented on Lake Malawi's teeth? Honestly, so wide and sparkly.
Anyway, back to Serhat's side-hustle (and what a side-hustle. Makes Michael "waffle-maker" Rice look casual). He makes me think of the strangers who offer uninvited advice. Or, as Charlotte Lytton more succinctly puts it:
Vision of Pitbull’s future thanks to San Marino
Scott Bryan, meanwhile, is just confused - and thinking of laundry:
This song by San Marino is so wrong so SO WRONG SO WRONG and I cannot have enough of it.
And if you hated it, at least all of the clothes that everyone is wearing can go into the same wash. No need for a colour catcher.
Song six: Denmark: Leonora with Love Is Forever
It feels like this was a reject from a whimsical Kate Nash-lite effort in the mid-Noughties, no? One does wonder how much rehearsal was needed for the staging. As Scott says, "the instructions for building this chair from Denmark must have been a nightmare."
Song five: Russia: Sergey Lazarev with Scream
Much fuss being made over Sergey, who was a big pop star in Russia in the early Noughties and is still beloved there. His damp-plastic act has been attracting attention online over the past week
Scott Bryan has some other intel:
With this Russian entry, there is a limit on the number of people you are supposed to have one stage at any one time. So Russia have copied and pasted the same man nine times.
More Euronerd insight from Charlotte Runcie, who is politely fighting other Europeans for a table in a pub in Edinburgh:
Eagle eyes will have spotted the Welsh flag waving in the background of Germany’s entry - quite surprising as the EBU tried to ban welsh flags at Eurovision in 2016 saying they were too political as Wales isn’t an independent country. But they’re back! Cymru am byth!
Song four: Germany: S!sters with Sister
Is this what Duffy did next? What I like about this almost-eponymous song is that the lyrics sound like they've been dragged out of the kind of deep-and-meaningful chats you overhear in nightclub ladies' loos in the early hours of the morning.
Song three: Czech Republic: Lake Malawi with Friend of a Friend
"How do you know them?" "Friend of a friend".
Alas, this Czech band with the quite incredible teeth are not making small talk at a party. What is this strange mockney accent? I feel like The 1975 may have had considerable influence. Wonder what Matty Healy thinks of it.
The Eurovision squad are very animated by Lake Malawi, however: "Czech Rep would like to announce they have successfully cloned Hanson", says Charlotte Runcie.
"I would’ve paid a lot of money to see these chaps c. 2006" says Charlotte Lytton, time-travelling from Tel Aviv.
"I deeply love this Czech Republic. It's basically if Coldplay became CBeebies presenters", says Scott Bryan.
Song two: Albania: Jonida Maliqi with Ktheju tokës
Well THIS is a look! Jonida may be fated with the dreaded number two slot - nobody who has performed second on Eurovision has ever won the contest. But she's setting the fashion bar high with that black-and-gold get up. Which is just as well, as the song is somewhat forgettable.
Song one: Malta: Michela with Chameleon
Charlotte Lytton is not impressed over in Tel Aviv: "Severely lacklustre moves from Malta".
In Michela's defence, the Maltese entry is just 18, and opening a contest to 200 million viewers is no mean feat. Still, this isn't much of a banger, is it? What's more shocking is that Graham Norton said that this was her best performance after some "iffy" rehearsals (as pictured above). Moving swiftly onto Albania.
Well Michael's impressed
Not Rice, he's got far bigger fish to fry. This just in from Michael Hogan, our TV critic:
Highly impressive staging so far. Israel have clearly flung a lot of money at this. Spectacular opening sequence, lots of familiar Eurovision faces and four hosts. Two male and two female, like Bucks Fizz. Although that's where the similarity ends, so don't expect any skirt-ripping. The nods to Eurovision past continue with a sweetly retro voting VT. Early signs are this could be a goodie. Although the male hosts are getting on my nerves already.
Here come the hosts
A TV presenter, a YouTuber, a Big Brother host and Bar Refaeli, an incredibly famous supermodel.
It took approximately two minutes before a lead balloon of a "third date" joke was released. Business as usual.
Minor safety concerns
From Scott Bryan:
My parents are air traffic controllers so I am in good authority to let you know that this is not how you control a plane.
There he is!
Michael Rice is on the stage. Observant viewers will note Graham Norton struggling to keep the scoff out of his voice as our 21-year-old hopeful strolled out waving a tiny Union Jack. Good luck, Michael.
And we are off!
Expect the unexpected and live flashing images, people. Eurovision 2019 has begun.
On the ground in Tel Aviv, Charlotte Lytton has been trying to get a cab in a gridlocked city, but some Londoners are very pleased to be there, such as Graham, who told her: “I’m with a good friend who’s been telling me how beautiful Israel is, and Eurovision was the push [to visit]. The city’s been amazing, we haven’t felt any Israel-Palestine tension - I’ve felt safer here than I have in London.” He's less-thrilled, however, with our song, which he describes as "is rubbish. It’s Sweden’s reject song anyway."
A small consolation prize for Ireland
Very sadly, Ireland's entry, Sarah McTernan, didn’t make it through the second semi-final on Thursday night with her sultry retro number 22 (the title worked wonders for Taylor Swift, mind). But what may comfort those Irish Eurovision viewers out there is the international adoration for Graham Norton. Over on the Eurovision sub-Reddit fans are sharing their affection for the Irish presenter, with suggestions such as "The BBC stream is generally the best stream to watch mainly because of Graham Norton's sassy commentary" and "When in doubt, look for a BBC stream, Graham Norton's commentary is hilarious."
Meanwhile, Charlotte Runcie has some gossip: "One of the favourites, Italy’s Mahmood has apparently lost his voice over the last few days". Mamma Mia!
TWENTY MINUTES TO GO
I've already eaten all of my snacks. Not a surprising state of affairs, but a woeful one: once the show starts, there won’t be a break for a good while, so get prepared.
It’s not too late, however, to have a flutter. Latest in from the Racing Post's Eurovision expert is that the Contest will be taking place in Italy next year...
Italy to win 14/1
Italy to give UK zero points 6/4
No odds given on Michael Rice, however it is expected that the UK will finish in the bottom five. Jolly good.
‘She’s literally building a chapel inside our arena in 40 seconds’
Here at The Telegraph, we treat the term “literally” with a considerable raising of brow. And yet, I still can’t help but get slightly excited by the near-hysterical reports coming in from Tel Aviv in the wake of Madonna’s rehearsal yesterday (Yes, Madonna. She’s performing. It’s a whole thing – she’s controversially being paid a reported £1 million to widely publicise her new album through the means of performance. Also, Just Like A Prayer).
Reporter Assi Azar told Graham Norton just how amazing he thought Madonna’s show was during the latter’s Radio 2 show yesterday. “It's an amazing show, what she's doing on the stage. She's literally taking over our entire stage, changing it completely,” Azar told Norton.
“I can say she's literally building a chapel inside our arena in 40 seconds. That's the time she has from the moment we get off the stage to the moment she goes on the stage. It's unbelievable”.
One imagines Madonna to be getting out there with some masonry tools, perhaps a stained-glass window kit.
The literalism remains to be seen. What can be guaranteed, though, is further confusion over Madge’s religious identity. As Tanya Gold wrote in these pages, Madonna’s Judaism is baffling, a “pick ‘n mix celebrity Playmobile Judaism”. And now she’s building... a chapel?!
The most insane acts of the evening
Maybe you are a die-hard fan who is spending this evening at a deeply serious dinner party and can only grab snatches of Eurovision during tactical loo breaks or under the guise of “clearing the dishes”. Perhaps you are a multitasker and are meant to be, say, revising for some scary and life-changing exams. Possibly you think yourself more of a Eurovision observer than fan.
No worries. Scott Bryan has selected the unmissable, utterly bonkers acts of the night:
San Marino (song 7) - sung in octave that sounds so wrong yet feels so right.
Norway (song 15) - Consisting traditional Sami folk singing, you are going to want to put your subtitles on for this one. Trust me on it.
Iceland (song 17) - It’s the BDSM entry! Anti-capitalist too! And with lyrics like “hangover uncontained,” see it as some sort of your prediction for how you will be feeling tomorrow.
Australia (song 25) - my favourite Eurovision entry in years, expect three women singing swirling in circles at the top of a rotating pole. Surprisingly emotional.
Well, at least it’s not nil points?
So, as for that intel from Facebook. We have some news: A Eurovision daily press poll from Eurovision-specific content website Escxtra.com has rather convincingly – and somewhat disarmingly – found that the UK contestant who Dares to Dream, Michael Rice, is also expected to come last.
How does it work? Well, the good Euronerds at Escxtra asked 35 members of the press to nominate the 10 best performances from the grand jury final last night. These were the results:
Look on the bright side, though: at least we were awarded one point.
Just be grateful you’re not Graham
TV Critic Michael Hogan has found a moment between laying out his buffet of international snacks to let us know what to expect from Norton tonight:
Somewhere in the Expo Tel Aviv arena right now, BBC commentator Graham Norton will be trimming his beard and polishing his barbed one-liners. He had big broadcasting shoes to fill when he took over from the late, great Terry Wogan a decade ago but Norton has made the Eurovision gig his own.
And I wonder if he was watching stand-in Jack Whitehall filling in as host of his chat show last night? Whitehall was rather good, won rave reviews and proved a big hit on social media. Don't be surprised if he lands his own rival chat show soon. Hopefully with his father Michael as his sidekick.
A shot for every key change
We don’t discriminate here. While hardcore Euronerds Charlotte Runcie and Scott Bryan will be chipping in with their verdicts on the performances later, we quite understand if you’ve had better things to do than, say, tune into BBC Four twice in a week to watch the semi-finals. That’s forgivable, not least because you can catch up on what happened by reading Charlotte’s reviews here:
Too busy placing a last-minute bet on the Netherlands? Here’s what you can expect in little over an hour’s time:
There’s going to be Icelandic bondage punk and a song about Norwegian fairies, as well as plenty of key changes, outrageous outfits and emotional looks to camera. Oh, and the UK will be singing a song too. Let the Eurovision Song Contest begin.
‘It sounded really rude’
So said Mike Nolan, one quarter of Bucks Fizz, about the infamous Making Your Mind Up lyric: “Don’t let your indecision take you from behind”. Sage advice, I’d say.
Helen Brown looked back at the surprisingly lurid backstory to our 1981 Eurovision champs and the surprisingly political success they entertained afterwards – for a while. It’s worth a read while the fondue set warms up.
Could we make the Top 10?
As most of us will know, our Eurovision glory days are long over – we haven’t received a decent chunk of the jury points since 1997. But some believe the UK, represented by former waffle-maker Michael Rice, might make scrape the Top 10 for the first time in - fittingly - a decade tonight.
What's the evidence? Chatter on Facebook. The social network has shared stats that show that Rice is the 10th most-discussed contestant on the platform, which is... cheering? We'll take what we can get. In the meantime, let's be comforted by how good Michael is in comparison to these previous UK entries:
So who's bringing crisps?
The contest may be a couple of hours away yet but around the country (and the continent!) people are gearing up to host Eurovision Song Contest parties. Think it sounds naff? You're increasingly alone: searches on eBay for "Eurovision party" have increased by 36 per cent in the last two years, whilst Eurovision decorations searches have soared by 25 per cent. I'd like to say that the Telegraph office is bedecked in bunting for the occasion, but I decided to leave mine at home this year.
Want to join in with the fun? We've got a handy guide here – it's not too late to pop to the supermarket.
Welcome to Tel Aviv!
With Israel getting into party gear, Charlotte Lytton is our woman on the ground:
It’s two hours until the curtain comes up on the 64th Eurovision Song Contest here in Tel Aviv, but thousands have already gathered at the beachfront’s Euro Village to get a head start on celebrations. This is the fourth time Israel has hosted the competition, and it’s upping the ante: Madonna’s much-anticipated performance will take place during the interval, while Wonder Woman Gal Gadot is expected to appear via video link, too.
For Sassi Idan, who lives just outside the city, “having all the community of Europe here is a proud moment,” he says. He and his wife have been listening to the 26 songs in the running for tonight’s prize en route: the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence has been tipped to win, but will there be a surprise on the night? Let the pan-European games begin…