The London Eurovision Party has established itself as a highlight of the pre-contest season, but it was this reviewer’s first time in attendance, as the festivities were hosted for a second year in Café de Paris just off Leicester Square. It really is a great setting for the event; the chandeliers, curtains and grand staircases allowed us Eurofans to pretend to be sophisticated for the night, whilst the intimate stage and sizeable dancefloor allowed both the party songs and mellow moments to shine.

An impressive gathering of 16 contestants from this year came to play for the British fans, including some of the big favourites for this year. That’s not counting the “special guests” although it would have been easy enough to forget to mention them as most didn’t really add much to the show. The obvious exception to this is of course reigning champion Conchita Wurst, for whom the night felt like something of a triumphant homecoming, as it was at last year’s London party that many fans started to sense that she could go the distance, and as she reprised her winning song, the Eurovision family greeted her warmly.

conchita london 2015

Other than that, X Factor / Swiss / Moldovan reject Kitty brought some amusing WTF-factor, and Christer Bjorkman’s schlager karaoke session with the audience was good fun, but really none of the extra guests really brought much to the table – we certainly didn’t need a four song set from Kurt Calleja for example.

No, the real stars of the night – just as it should be – were the class of 2015, and with almost half of this year’s artists in attendance, there was something for everybody. Boggie from Hungary was first, and whilst her low-key acoustic performance may have ground the evening to a halt later on, it was a very pleasant way to ease the audience into proceedings. Although the audience was receptive to all the artists, the first act to really get an enthusiastic response was Marta and Václav from the Czech Republic, who really gave it some welly when performing a note-perfect rendition of their entry, ‘Hope Never Dies’ and really won the audience round with their infectious personalities.

marta and vaclav

Props must be given to the organisers, who managed to keep the whole thing running to schedule, which is difficult to do at an event like this featuring so many artists. It allowed the revellers who had work the next day to catch the last trains, and allowed those who didn’t even more time to dance the rest of the night away. That being said, it didn’t result in a conveyor belt style of performances as can be the case in the Amsterdam event at times, and the artists were free to perform a second or third song if they so desired. Whilst this can sometimes become a bit of a self-indulgent exercise, most of the artists judged their choices well, either performing well-known hits (Melanie René – Chandelier; Marta Jandová – Rolling In The Deep), or Eurovision classics (Maria Elena – My Number One; Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – Fairytale). Even those who performed songs of their own kept them mostly uptempo, and particular credit for knowing one’s audience has to be given to Amber from Malta who opened her set with a very shrewdly chosen medley of gay favourites.

So a good night was had by all, but did we learn anything from it? It’s less than a month until the contest proper gets under way, so looking at it as what it is – a contest – who shone the brightest? Well Latvia and the Czech Republic are clear examples of songs that work better live than recorded, so don’t discount either of them from qualifying based on the compilation. Norway’s duo are coming across as much more likeable and polished now, so don’t discount them based on their national final performance. And yes, Electro Velvet are absolutely fine vocally, but I think their supporters know deep down that the vocals are not the problem; the two of them have no chemistry or charisma at all and stood out as the rank amateurs of the night, so don’t discount them from coming last.

electro velvet

However, at the other end of the scale, two men definitely won the night, and things are looking very good for one of them to win the contest. Australia’s Guy Sebastian and Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw brought the house down with their performances, with Guy performing hits from his current album Måns treating the crowd to his previous Melodifestivalen songs, and of course both singing their Eurovision entries. One could argue that neither ‘Tonight Again’ nor ‘Heroes’ are Eurovision winning material in themselves, but both are lifted into a league of their own by two very accomplished singers, and both are sure to have blockbuster performances on the night. It’s the perfect year for both of these crowd-pleasing pop songs to shine, and the general opinion of those who were there seems to be that it’s going to be a very exciting fight between these two Idol alumni, who are currently sitting head and shoulders above the competition.

Overall, the London party was a triumph, with most of the artists delivering the goods, Nicki French and Paddy O’Connell holding the show together superbly, and the organisers ensuring that punters and performers alike had a fantastic time. Long may it continue, and if you can’t make it to the contest proper, this event cannot be recommended enough as a mini-Eurovision experience for hardcore and casual fans alike.

For loads more photographs from the night, check out our Facebook, twitter or Instagram, and keep checking back here in the coming days for interviews and exclusive unplugged performances from the day of the party.

 

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