Reports from Birmingham 1998

For the latest (May 9) click here

The NIA on Saturday

May 2nd:Here's a picture taken today (Saturday 2nd) of the National Indoor Arena. The pub on the right is well-located, and it was nice to take a drink on their terrace in the warm sunshine.
Security is already tight, and those going into the building have to pass through metal detectors. The press centre is nice & very large, but was still setting up.
Tonight's "Birmingham Evening Post" has a 2 page feature 'Don't be a fashion victim Imaani', citing ABBA as fashion victims. The Post also has an excellent special edition on the Song Contest.
The city itself has Eurovision banners on lamp posts. Its all very exciting!
So here's to Danijela who will open the rehearsals on Monday at 9:45. I hope to have more news here on Tuesday.

Report 4th May
Tiny Danijela opened the day for us in fine voice at 9.45. In a blue dress static on stage with a distant group of backing singers.
But you'll be asking about the stage. Well no photography allowed, and it's tough to describe, and we've been asked to keep it quiet, so just wait and be impressed.

We saw a bit of a postcard too - a man goes into a 'bathing car' on a beach in presumably Edwardian days.

Danijela at the Major's party

We also checked out the seats. Even the farthest back (KK) seem to have a pretty good view - not as distant as in Oslo, anyway.

Most acts have opted for backing tracks, which makes them all sound like the previews. There are exceptions - Croatia seems to using some orchestra, and Tüzmen (Turkey's singer) told me they were using the orchestra.

Back to the commentary - Danijela was perfect first time - not so for Greece, but the song is much improved. They told us that Thalassa doesn't yet have a recording contract. Mikel Herzog for Spain may have to cut the last part of his song - its too long by 15 seconds. Gunvor's song is unchanged, but her hair is more like the Swiss final. She says the song's story happened to her.

Ines Santos at the Major's

Poland's Sixteen in the Press Centre

Israel's Dana International cancelled her press conference, but was perfect in her performance, wearing a figure-hugging black cat suit. No dancers, just a group of three singers who join her, and one who doesn't.

She was upstaged by Germany's Guildo Horn who is the real star of today. He starts as before with his cloak, but seemed to take the crew by surprise when he leapt off the stage to climb on front row seats, then jumping up to clamber onto the podium.

They didn't seem to have him well lit, and he kept pushing his face into the cameras. He did this three times, each more breathless. Maybe he'll end up in plaster. However it was really entertaining somehow. He will do well.

Chiara was in a blue skirt/black jacket, and about the choice of English said "English helps us most". Lots of candelabra fill the stage.

Poland's Sixteen said their song wasn't chosen to win, but to be a good song.

Slovenia's Vili Resnik sounded pretty good, but the sound balance made the backing-track orchestra sound weak.

What more? - well Ireland closed with Dawn (right with Noel Kelehan) singing a re-arranged version which softer and less 'bandy'. More strings and a male vocalist repeats "You promised me" after Dawn. Personally I think its weaker, but others disagree.

Dawn Martin & Noel Kelehan at the Major's shindig

Marika  at the Major's party

In the evening we went to the Major's reception and many singers were there. Inês Santos (Portugal) was charming, Marika for Finland, very funny, and rather shorter than I imagined, but striking. She said there were no dancers now (first rehearsal is Tuesday), just her, and that the song has few Finnish words because her Finnish is so bad!

Jill Johnson (Sweden) still has her hair the way it was in the Swedish final. Danijela was photogenic, as ever. Imaani was there briefly.


< Marika Krook, singing for Finland

Guildo Horn invited us to his special show tomorrow afternoon, and chatted with Tüzmen. (see right) Udo Jürgens is one of Guildo's favourite singers. The composer, Stefan Raab denied it was the worst song ever in the contest, it was just fun, "and it's really popular", he said.

That's enough for now. Portugal starts Tuesday off, and Slovenia has a party Tuesday night. Imaani has a press conference at 1200.

Unfortunately there's no Internet at the Press Centre as yet, so tomorrow may be the last report before the night.

All pictures & text copyright Geoff Harrison 1998©

Guildo and Tuzmen  at the Major's party

Tuesday 5th May

Portugal's Alma Lusa (right) opened the day's rehearsals and were perfect. Backing track is used plus some orchestra. Malina Olinescu came in with 'Eu Cred', and by the last run was excellent.

I missed Imaani's rehearsal, but am told it was excellent, and the orchestra made it sound even better. In her press conference she was very confident, and handled all the questions very professionally. She hasn't seen the other acts, as she is rather superstitous.

Alma Lusa


That wasn't the case for Ines Santos from Portugal. She is the lead singer in Alma Lusa, and I found her at the back of the Norwegian press conference. She has listened to a lot of the songs, and says they sound different to the previews. She also told me about Lucia Moniz now being a soap opera star, but also how they'd sung together. In the Portuguese press conference she'd sung half of 'Nothing compares to you' which had won her the SoundMix show in 1995. Very well sung.
< Imaani
In the afternoon I missed some of the rehearsals to join hordes of German fans who had just flown in only to see Guildo Horn's only date in the United Kingdom. Der Meister, gave us 90 minutes of the Horn treatment, and was very entertaining. His version of 'Wunder gibt es immer wieder' is better than the 1970 original, and he was so very funny, getting the audience to do silly things. The problem with Germany's song is that Guildo is a great performer, and its a song contest - and we should vote on the song. However, I think he is proper performer, and brings life to schlager music, and much of the best of Eurovision is really schlager.

There was the usual unseemly struggle for CDs after Turkey's press conference. Tarkan Tüzmen is very well spoken, and confident, although he takes the responsibility of coming better than 3rd (last year) seriously. Very static on stage, though, but sounds good.

FYRMacedonia's Vlado Janevski closed the day. He has lived in England, and was once a Yugotours representative, so his English is excellent, and he commanded the conference. He lives in Russia because he is really a pop singer, but folk music is most popular in Macedonia, so he can't make a living there. Russia is a big market.

Romania; Writer, manager, and Malina >


After that, it was over to Finland's party at the Sea life centre, where Marika treated us to some wonderful songs from Northern Scandinavia, accompanied by a a man on didgerido. I think she is wonderful, and so charming and animated.

Then onto the Slovenian party. Vlado was there too, and recommended their wine. Vili Resnik, and team (including Misa Molk, their head of light entertainment) sang Eurovision hits to a piano, including plenty of those from Yugoslavia. My favourite by Tajci was amongst them.

Guildo's show >


Wednesday brings us the Israeli conference, and more parties, but I must close.

There is only one PC with Internet at the press centre, and I decamp to Birmingham Wednesday, so I can't be sure of more reports like this one.

I hope to update on Saturday morning, in any event.

Saturday May 9th

Well, here is my update after two full rehearsals.

I'll have to leave the party stuff for another time, and concentrate on the show tonight.

Controversy as Greece sang on the Friday night mostly in English - very nice. Dana International sang well, but the Jean-Paul Gaultier dress does make here look a bit like a drag act - there's yellow and turqouise feathers, rather around the top and sleeves.

Dana International being whisked from a crazy photocall >

Dana International

Ulrika & Vanessa Mae

Guildo got a great cheer for his act of clowning, but I know someone in the Press Centre who turned down a front row ticket to avoid his kisses. We should look out for Katie Boyle as early guest, but she wasn't on yesterday. Malta sounds strong, but looks bad in a plain long grey dress over grey trousers. Portugal sounds good, Romania uses the orchestra to good effect. She's in yellow with a gold collar with a heart on it. Sings very strong. Netherlands looks really good - moves well, and gets the audience going - could well win. Ireland has Paul Harrington on backing vocals, and sounds like a winner (#%7$!!), and Norway comes over well. Lars has cut his hair, and looks great. On Friday's afternoon's rehearsal Dana, Ulirika, and Guildo joined us in the audience to watch, but Dana left during Estonia, missing the polished performance from FYR Macedonia. Country names are on screen all the time, I should point out, but not too obtrusive.

< Ulrika & Vanessa Mae

Interval act - Holst Jupiter with Brass bands, bagpipes, Indians, Africans, Male voice choir, Vanessa-Mae and Lesley Garrett. I'd make the tea instead after your vote.

In the voting, watch out for Lucia Moniz, Marie Myriam, Nena, Corry Brokken, and Ken Bruce for the UK (normally on radio). I hope Ulrika does it better than last night's giggly 'Whats the weather like' nonsense. She was rude with Nena for Germany telling her to go, and take her baloons with her. Nice scoreboard, hated the postcards. Flags are made out of things, and I'm sure the Spaiards will be pleased there's is made from a hot dog.

Still, great entertainment. Tune in!

Jill Johnson at the Press Centre, Thursday >

Jill Johnson


Viva La Diva

As you all know by now, Dana International won on the last vote from FYR Macedonia, and then came out on stage to sing in the Gaultier dress. There followed a rather chaotic photocall and breif conference, and then it was off to party, or rather not, as I failed to get a ticket!

< Dana International at Sunday's press conference

However, I got in a little later to the rather noisy affair where singers from Portugal, FYR Macedonia, Greece, and Cyprus were still around. Immani and Guildo had appearred breifly, but Dana had not.

On the Sunday there was a breif photocall and press conference from Dana International, before she went by coach down to Heathrow, and onto Israel for the heroic welcome we have all seen.

There was an announcement that the Spanish votes were miscast, and Guildo had got 3000 telephone votes rather than 300, so had 12 points instead of none. This didn't change the winner, but some placings changed. Read the full scoring at this link.

The crews started tearing down the set by midnight, and later I'll show a picture of that, along with more pictures from the week. I'm really staggered by the access counter to my site which registered 9000 accesses in just 7 days. I hope you all enjoyed the show, and that this site helped make it more fun.

This report will be expanded in the next week or so, so keep coming back.


All pictures & text copyright Geoff Harrison 1998©