Portugal – a little Festival da Canção, anyone?

Monty at FdC

Do I fancy a weekend in Lisbon at the Festival da Canção, you say? Well, yes, I rather do! And that’s just what I’ve been doing. That Phil has been waxing lyrical about the beautiful Portuguese song, but come with me for a look at how it was chosen.

Lovely Lisbon has to be one of my favourite destinations in the world. A Eurovision there would be a dream. The Festival da Canção is the next best thing, and this year’s promised something special, also celebrating 60 years of broadcaster RTP. Despite a pair of slightly lacklustre semi finals, Sunday’s final shaped up quite nicely. As did its home, with a switch from the studio to the beautiful dodecahedral Coliseu dos Recreios.

Tucked unceremoniously up a side street near the Praça de Restauradores, the Coliseu sported a red carpet – and many photo opportunities for the dressy and largely invited crowd. Not being especially au fait with the Portuguese glitterati, Jody & I headed straight for our own photo ops: we’re not ones to miss a bit of Eurovision branding. We’re also not ones to miss a VIP gate-crashing moment, and within minutes we managed to find ourselves in the VIP area sipping an Espumante, and nodding gracefully with one legend we did know – the great Simone de Oliveira, Eurovision 1965 and 69.

Quickly, we were into the hall to take our seats for the start of a very, very long night. RTP did a great job opening the show, and cracked through the competing entries at a rate of knots. The evening’s stand outs for me came in a run of three from songs 4 to 6, all unmistakably Portuguese. I’ll cover those in reverse performance order.

Celina de Piedade’s Primavera burst onto the stage with all the fresh energy of springtime, a flush of reds, with Celina herself trussed up in a wide frock giving it some welly on her squeezebox. A joy from start to finish.

I have to lay a disclaimer with Fernando Daniel, whose songwriter very kindly guested our tickets, but I’m showing no bias in that his song was genuinely in my top 3 of the night. Having made a splash winning the Portuguese ‘Voice’, Fernando charmed with his Poema a Dois.

But like many, my momentum had built behind Salvador Sobral. He had quite the simplest and most beautiful song Portugal may ever have selected for Eurovision. Salvador’s anti-performer vibe sees him bring an authenticity and integrity to his delivery, and it was a genuine thrill to be in the audience and see this win.

For all the upsides of the night, including a couple of lovely FdC medleys, there’s no escaping that as a Eurovision selection show this was hours too long. Although the competing entries had sped by, with over three hours from the start of the show to the start of the regional voting, no amount of retrospective TV clips and trips down Memory Rua could quite sustain ones interest for the duration of the night. When a comedy turn pitched up somewhere between the votes of the Algarve and the Azores we almost lost the will to live. And when Salvador finally took an unassailable lead, we weren’t sorry to be saying goodbye to the show.

I’m charmed by Salvador, as I was once again by Lisboa, and I genuinely think he has the best chance Portugal has ever had of that elusive ESC victory. Right now I’d still call it for Italy, but if The Common Linnets can pull off second place with something I considered rather plain, then the simplicity of Salvador’s song could easily match it. Força Portugal! I’m daring to dream with you.

Monty x

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