Eurovision 2010: Ireland chooses Niamh Kavanagh
There was something old school about live RTE’s Eurosong programme on Friday 5 March 2010.
I saw it by accident, slumped on a sofa in my hotel room the night before a blogging conference in Kilkenny.
Even I couldn’t believe my luck nor my shameful lack of awareness that only the week before the UK mounts its selection programme I had assumed the Irish hadn’t selected theirs already. I figure my forgetfulness is forgivable. I am quite busy after all. I do work quite hard.
Ireland’s selection programme occupied a special edition of RTE’s popular Friday night slot, The Late Late Show. In comparison to the established UK format, this was a significantly smaller affair. Joining host Ryan Tubridy were Irish winners from Eurovision yesteryear Dana and Johnny Logan. They sang, chatted with Tubridy, each other and Irish Eurovision commentator Marty Whelan sharing anecdotes and offering opinions. Former UK runner-up musical theatre luvvie Michael Ball joined the fray for a shameless spot of promotion too.
Songwriters got their moment before each song, proudly chatting to Tubridy about the work they’d crafted. For those who’d participated in the competition before the inevitable question was asked, “are you a glutton for punishment, or what?” When German songwriter Ralph Siegel (a man who always seems to crop up at Eurovision for one country or another) had his turn, there was a very real danger he would never stopping talking.
If the show’s producers had hoped that their star panelists would deliver some biting comment after each performance they were to be disappointed. Logan was honest, Whelan ridiculously over-enthusiastic about everything. Dana just felt uncomfortable about judging people, it seemed. It didn’t take long before Tubridy was pre-empting her. The vision of panellists contributing their opinion was in tatters. It must have been hell in the gallery.
It didn’t really matter. In amongst five songs, the front runner was ‘It’s For You’ sung by former Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh. The rest of the acts paled into insignificance. Kavanagh’s voice was gorgeous when she won in 1993 with ‘In Your Eyes’ and it’s still gorgeous now. The only thing she might want to look at between now and Ireland’s semi-final appearance is the outfit. The one for Friday night’s show did upstage her rather.
Still, the song should do Ireland proud. Admittedly, I can’t remember the song particularly now the show is over but it has integrity. It’s a decent song. It sounds like a standard. And that’s a nice thing to think (especially because it’s genuinely felt). Such songs enrich the soul of a Eurovision fan. And unlike previous years, if it won I wouldn’t be displeased in any way shape or form.
All this is great for Ireland’s chances at Eurovision. As a previous winner Kavanagh will make the long-in-the-tooth fans’ hearts flutter uncontrollably. Someone from the past setting foot on the stage to wow the audience once more.
But more than that, Ireland’s song is a manifestation of an emerging desire to return the contest to it’s roots.
It was no surprise that Johnny Logan did at times need reigning in when Tubridy threw the conversation open to him. But in the moments when Logan didn’t digress, wandering down the self-indulgent path, he made his view of the contest clear. “It’s not about me and it’s not about RTE. It’s about the people of Ireland choosing a song for the country.”
Difficult as his personal opinions would have been for TV producers of a live show in the UK, Logan’s seemingly emotional frailty over the Eurovision was both refreshingly and revealing. It’s not all tits and teeth and shiny floors in Ireland, it seems.
Against this backdrop, the lack of a gaudy set didn’t leave the programme wanting, even if the lack of chemistry left amongst everyone in the panellists corner resulted in some uncomfortable moments of live TV.
It might have lacked the now ubiquitous booms, tired looking club lighting and running shots from audience to stage, but the mix of static shots and slow pans was successful in focussing attention on the very thing Johnny Logan was encouraging his Irish audience to yearn for: the song.
Sometimes, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.