It was day 10 in Big Brother’s backyard, but they only just decided to officially open the bleeder. I finally feel more validated than when my visa registration finally arrived. Yes, last night saw the opening party and all the nonsense and gaggle that goes with it. And while we weren’t bused out to magnificent palaces, or taken on a boat trip down the Bosporus, the evening’s confectioneries weren’t half bad – and I don’t just mean the smashing cakes.
For a start, they’d doubled the size of the Euroclub floor space, lining it with many yards of food and drink down both sides. And then there were the acts. Many many acts. It kicked off with a fanfare and a bizarre march by a platoon of quite-nearly camp soldier boys. Our two hapless hosts (he from the semi, she Alsou) stiltedly ad-libbed their way through proceedings off the back of a clip board, introduced a bundle of babbling dignitaries and then the real showbiz kicked off – and in a somewhat unsettling manner.
A bundle of kids acted out famous ESC winners of the past. It started off quite innocently with a mop-topped foursome mugging out Waterloo, but then things took a slightly odd turn with a Minipops Dana International. A couple of micro-winners later it got even worse when some slightly older gals came over all Ruslana, and everybody started to feel a bit grubby. Thankfully things were saved at the death by a startlingly accurate midget-Bilan, complete with violinist and bowl-haired rollerblader. Cute it’s true, but in a way that made most in the hall feel just a smudge awkward.
Then the real stars started up, and things got exciting and unlikely at every turn. Lumbering Kirkirov did a spot of Kylie in such a leaden manner that you wonder how he became one of the world’s biggest pop stars before the Grand Dame of Eurovisionia Lys Assia tottered on and did the debut winner. A slightly creaky Dschinghis Khan had two pops at doing the hit after the CD packed up, before a raft of Russian stars did their bit – including Alsou, a bored looking t.A.T.u and old Twitchy Bilan. Other artists who trod the boards included St.Carola, that nice old gal from Teach-In and probably a couple we’ve forgotten. Well that little mob certainly beats yer average OGAE convention collection.
And so to the ligging and glad handing. We had debut party floor appearances from Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and even our own Jade floated in for a bit – although she was so closely guarded by the Beeb’s minders that scarcely a soul could get near her.
Of the old timers who made an appearance, Queen Lys got corralled into the foyer for some time, getting hugged and kissed by fawning fan boys for so long that the poor old gal seemed drained by the end of it. Carola was unusually accommodating, Agurbush floated about – still handing out copies of her slightly unsuccessful Euro hit, and even last year’s Georgian, the tiny Ms Gurtskaya popped up in the throng.
Of this year’s crop, messiah-elect Alexander Rybak is starting to look a little fatigued with the whole affair – his previously sunny outlook now looking a little dog-eared. The boy Gypsy is still good value, mind, and we spent a happy half hour out on the concourse chatting to him about Newcastle, Pink Floyd and his unease at being in Russia. “When I see that red star on top of the Kremlin I want to shoot it off!” – and after what the locals have done to his country in living memory I can quite understand that. The flouro-booted Germans were friendly and accommodating all evening, having a chat with everyone, complete with the backdrop of the black, gold and red flag at all times, and bear-like Serb Marko was just splendid fun. The Toppers pottered about in yet another collection of foul suits, Sakis hung around the posh Russians for a bit and still looks like he’s made of was, and Brinck just looked a bit dull and grumpy, but hung around all night anyway.
The night was topped off by the music half of the German act Alex Christiansen spinning some discs, but sounding for every bit like a mobile disco with his occasional ‘C’mon’s! down the mike. And for such a well paid DJ, the bugger can’t beat-match for toffee.
When all but the most irrelevant stars had dispersed, we took our leave and headed off. But this was no ordinary night. Halfway home it transpired that Russia had just won the Ice Hockey world championships, and local kids dashed onto the streets, waving flags and tooting their car horns long into the night. Eventually we’ll have a night where nothing strange or mega happens, I’m sure of it, but on this evidence it might take a while…