The Eurovision Song Contest is back like never before after being cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But was a pre-recorded performance enough to get Australia through to the final?
This article contains spoilers. Scroll down to find out if Montaigne made it through to the final.
A Eurovision Song Contest like no other has kicked off in Rotterdam after last year’s glitz and theatrics were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first of two semi-finals for the competition’s 65th edition began on Wednesday morning (AEST) in the Netherlands in front of a limited live audience and amid various COVID-safe precautions.
Australia’s 2021 Eurovision representative, Sydney singer-songwriter Montaigne, has not travelled to the event. Instead, a pre-recorded video performance of her song Technicolour beamed into the venue and on screens across the world.
Montaigne competed against several other countries in the first semi-final.
But Australia missed out on a spot in the final.
Instead, Norway, Israel, Russia, Azerbaijian, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, Sweden, Belgium and the Ukraine all qualified.
Anthony Dernicourt had the Australian flag draped over his shoulders as he walked into the arena.
He’s from Belgium, but wanted to support his second-favourite nation at this year’s contest.
“Lots of my friends from Australia come to Eurovision, and since they can’t be here, I want to carry the colours and the flag of Australia for them,” he told SBS News.
There were a few actual Australians among the 3,500 strong audience.
Expats Jordana-Lee Pearce and Elanor McCombe live in Amsterdam and knew they’d need to make some serious noise when Montaigne’s song was played.
“Aussies are loud, we’re up for the challenge, we can do it for sure,” said Jordana-Lee.
“She’s so awesome, we think she’s going to go very well, we’re backing her, she’s got great energy.”
Montaigne told SBS News ahead of the competition she was unsure of how the song would be received via video compared to live on stage.
“[Other performers will] do it in a massive arena which accommodates pyrotechnics and confetti and all those grand things,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a song contest. I’m hoping the strength of the song and the delivery of the song will sort of carry itself.”
Six countries automatically qualify for the final: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, plus each year's host country.
Infections in the Netherlands have dropped by more than a quarter this month, after climbing to their highest levels of the year in April. And while this year’s competition has been cleared to go ahead, there have already been a couple of COVID-19 scares.
Members of the Icelandic and Polish delegations recorded positive test results over the weekend and have since been put in isolation.
Eurovision's executive supervisor Martin Osterdahl said earlier this week that cases of COVID-19 had been expected.
Mr Osterdah said various health measures have been put in place, such as all staff working at the contest having to get COVID-19 tests every 48 hours.
“We had to be realistic, we knew we weren’t going to be able to make the pandemic go away, unfortunately,” he said. “It’s just the way it is.”
Organisers say no artist is allowed inside the Eurovision venue without a negative COVID-19 test.
If an artist tests positive ahead of their performance, a video clip of their entry will be played instead.
The winner of the 2021 competition will be crowned this Sunday 25 May.
The 65th Eurovision Song Contest is being broadcast live and exclusively on SBS and SBS On Demand from 19 to 23 May.
You can watch a replay of semi-final one (featuring Montaigne) at 8:30pm on Friday 21 May.
Semi-final two will be broadcast live at 5am on Friday 21 May and repeated at 8:30pm on Saturday 22 May.
The grand final will be broadcast live at 5am on Sunday 23 May and repeated at 7:30pm.
Visit the SBS Eurovision website for updates and join the conversation online by using the #SBSEurovision and #ESC2021 hashtags.