• Croatia's Albina performs during the first semi-final (Kenzo Tribouillard / Getty Images)Source: Kenzo Tribouillard / Getty Images
SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve been covering your eyes and blocking your ears, don’t read on until you’ve watched all the action!
By
Chris Zeiher

19 May 2021 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 19 May 2021 - 11:59 AM

The thrill of the competition was finally back when the Eurovision Song Contest kicked off in an explosion of neon, pyrotechnic glory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands early this morning Australian time!

Oh, and how we missed it. 

Here are seven moments to savour from Semi Final 1 (catch it all in the primetime broadcast, Friday 21 May, 8.30pm (AEST) on SBS).

How to watch Eurovision 2021
Here's how to watch and vote for your favourites in the Eurovision Song Contest.

 

Montaigne’s Technicolour dreamcoat

Australia made history at this year’s contest by being the first-ever participant to perform remotely via a live-to-tape recording. Sadly, due to the ongoing complications caused by Australia’s closed international borders, Montaigne and her contingent were unable to travel to Rotterdam. Every artist in this year’s competition was required to complete a live-to-tape recording to be used in the event the performer could not travel to The Netherlands or was quarantined during one or more of the live shows. In an explosion of light, sound and colour Montaigne’s Technicolour optimised the live-to-tape restrictions with sharp close-ups and saturated special effects. Sadly, Australia’s perfect run of qualifications for the Grand Final has now been broken with Technicolour unable to secure its spot in the final race to the glittery trophy. 

 

The devil made me do it

There was a decidedly devilish feel to the first semi-final with two of the stand-outs, Norway and Cyprus, embracing the dark side. Norway’s TIX, sporting a glittery diamante jumpsuit, huge angel wings and physically chained to his demons, brilliantly channelled his inner 90s boy-band during Fallen Angel, while Cyprus literally lit up the stage with El Diablo proving the tiny Mediterranean island nation is a winner-in-waiting.

 

Dance your pain away

Forget dancing alone!  Lithuania’s The Roop kicked off proceedings by manically gyrating to their dark dance-floor thumper Discoteque, setting an up-beat tone for this year’s contest.  From the neon Xanadu-esque staging of Croatia’s Tick Tock to the sultry antics of Azerbaijan’s Mata Hari, the 6 person on-stage rule was used to maximum effect during the first semi-final. And it proved a winning formula with Malta shimmying, Israel bopping and Cyprus contorting their way into the Grand Final. 

 

Hitting the high notes

Mariah who? Israel’s Eden Alene created Eurovision history by hitting the highest note ever sung during the contest. After a cheeky costume reveal in the final third of Set Me Free, Eden surprises by nailing a B6, securing her place in the Eurovision history book.

 

Prop me!

Costume reveals, giant props, pyrotechnics, stupidly good looking backing dancers, awkward hosts… this semi-final had it all. Russia’s Manizha produced a Babushka doll costume reveal for the ages, Cyprus cleverly utilised the largest mirror ever used on the Eurovision stage, doubling their backing dancers, and Macedonia’s Vasil flashed a mirror-ball vest to stunning effect (even if this trick was “borrowed” from Swedish songstress Dotter’s Melodifestivalen entry in 2019). 

 

Lesley in paperland

It appears that an ambitious staging effort may have been the undoing of Ireland’s Lesley Roy. The intricate analogue approach to the performance of Maps, echoing A’Ha’s iconic Take on Me video clip, certainly looked great on camera. However, the complicated staging appeared to distract Roy and her pitchy delivery saw this once Eurovision powerhouse again crash out at the semi-final stage.

 

The Aldi Joel Creasey

Dopplegänger alert!  When Germany’s Jendrik appeared on stage to preview his ditty I Don’t Feel Hate Australian co-hosts Joel Creasey and Myf Warhurst were gobsmacked. It appears that Jendrik is the sweet ying to Creasey’s sassy yang. Could this be the new Jedward? Sign them up as an interval act at Australia Decides 2022!

 

The 65th Eurovision Song Contest from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is broadcast live and in primetime exclusively on SBS and SBS On Demand from 19 to 23 May. Stay tuned to the SBS Eurovision website for updates: sbs.com.au/Eurovision

Join the conversation #SBSEurovision #ESC2021

 

Follow the author on Twitter, and Instagram.

 

More music joy
How YOU can vote in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest
Here's how to vote for your favourite performers.
SBS On Demand is the home of the 2021 Billboard Music Awards
The 2021 Billboard Music Awards will be LIVE on SBS On Demand from 10am AEST Monday 24 May, featuring performances from BTS, The Weeknd, Duran Duran and P!NK.
From French fancies, to '80s anthems: Who are the favourites of Eurovision 2021?
Who's being tipped as a top contender?
From brutal dating to deadly Italians: Eurovision hosts Myf and Joel share their favourite shows
Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey share their favourite shows at SBS On Demand.