Eurovision, lockdown style. No celebrating crowds, no dancers or pyrotechnics, no voting...
The EBU could have chosen to keep as close to the format as possible, showing the videos of the contestants and having a public televote on them. They decided not to do that, presumably to allow artists to appear next year. Instead, we saw short clips of the songs, plus a little speech from each artist (all upbeat and well-meaning), and revisited some classic Eurovision songs in simple versions.
'Heroes', which back in 2015 felt dependent on those clever stick-men in the background, worked beautifully with Mans just strumming his guitar. 'Ein Bisschen Frieden' didn’t really work, because they left out the countermelody at the end (it was a socially distanced duet, so they could easily have put it in). Netta didn’t reprise 'Toy' but played a rather odd song called 'Cuckoo' – she seems a troubled soul beneath the bluster.
The show was called 'Europe Shine a Light', and ended with Kimberley Rew / Katrina’s classic sung by this year’s artists. It brought a lump to my throat – what a bloody brilliant song (even if nobody knows what ‘Let your love light carry’ really means…) The EBU was terribly nice to Britain, naming the show after this song and having an interview with Graham Norton (who was great). A reminder of how much we contribute to Europe, and will continue to do so, whatever mess our current politicians make of the relationship.
Given the fact that people are dying of Covid or working themselves into the ground struggling to look after victims, it seems a little frivolous to feel too much sadness about missing a TV show. Our emotions are, surely, best spent elsewhere. But emotions are emotions, and I did feel a real sense of loss. For any Eurovision fan, the contest is an annual reassertion of identity and belonging. This belonging is in both time, via the contest’s history, and place: millions of other people around the continent (and the world) are part of this, too. It’s a family ritual, as well – the nibbles (‘nee-bles’ since 2017), the debates about the songs, the decision about who we’re going to pick up the phone and vote for…
Let's hope and pray we are free of this cursed virus and able to do Eurovision 2021 in traditional style.