Eurovision edges ever closer, but the promo circuit has not quite closed yet. Last night, though, I went to what will be my last event before Lisbon, Saara Aalto’s Eurovision Wonderland in London.
The gig, at a cracking venue underneath the Chelsea football ground, was to both promote her new album and her Eurovision participation. I suspect it also served as a rehearsal for her promo appearances in Lisbon too, giving her the opportunity to try out new material - some tracks from the album were sung for the very first time last night - along with the male dancers who’ll be accompanying her to the Contest.
I have to say I was highly impressed. I liked Saara on the UK X Factor, and think she’s a great vocalist and engaging performer. Last night she gave a long show, almost two hours, with invited guests.
Opening with one of her UMK songs, Queens, it was high energy from the start, and fans of fun, lightweight pop will enjoy the album, based on what we saw last night. Of course, Domino, her other UMK track, was played, as well as No Fear, the song that placed her second in the Finnish final in 2016.
As this was a Eurovision themed show Saara also gave us several covers of winning songs: Diva, Euphoria (they all have a crack at that one now); Every Way That I Can; and Rise Like a Phoenix.
There were many costume changes; at one point Saara was on stage wearing a Gina G t-shirt (that later popped up on BBC Breakfast telly this morning). She knows her audience.
She was accompanied by three guests; Matt Terry, who beat her into second place on the X Factor, along with Ari and Ryan, this year’s contestants from Iceland and Ireland. Each did a duet with her. Matt a version of The Common Linnets Calm After the Storm; Ryan a version of the 1994 winning song Rock & Roll Kids; and Ari an operatic version of Con te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye). There was a slightly uncomfortable moment when, Saara having gushed over her love for Ari introducing him, he came on stage to the words “It’s a shame you’re a lesbian.” #Awkward
The guest slots were all well and good but the oddest thing about the Eurovision guests was that neither sang their Eurovision song! This felt like a strange thing at a Eurovision-related promo event. Were they not permitted to by Saara or her management? They are in the same semi-final, but it seems overly cautious to not give platform to her ‘competition’ having travelled that far to be with her. It was the only bitter taste in an otherwise very sweet evening. I can’t wait to see them all again in Lisbon.
Photo credits: Juha Repo