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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Alex Green

Eurovision semi-final: Ireland’s Wild Youth crash out of contest as Nordic nations celebrate

Ireland’s Wild Youth have failed to qualify for the Eurovision grand final, bringing an early end to their 2023 bid.

The Dublin band were among the five acts eliminated during the 15-strong first live semi-final of the week at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

The 10 countries who made it through to the grand final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czechia, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway.

Ireland has participated in Eurovision more than 50 times and has a record seven wins, but has failed to qualify for the final since Ryan O’Shaughnessy entered with his song Together in 2018.

Frontman Conor O’Donohoe wore a green shamrock necklace and a sparkling gold jumpsuit as the band took to the stage.

But pyrotechnics and shimmering gold lighting were not enough to win over the voting public.

The night saw standout performances from Sweden’s Loreen, this year’s favourite to win with her song Tattoo.

The 39-year-old is returning to compete for her country more than a decade after triumphing at the 2012 contest in Baku, Azerbaijan, with her dance-pop anthem Euphoria.

Wearing a nude bodysuit with cut-out panels and extravagant nail extensions, her song peaked with a powerful vocal performance and blinding rays of light spilling over the audience.

Finnish act Kaarija gave a high-energy performance of his track Cha Cha Cha, a surreal combination of techno and anthemic pop, prompting a raucous response from the audience as he smashed his way out of a giant wooden box on stage and rode his backing dancers across the stage.

Twenty-year-old Alessandra from Norway also received a rapturous response with her anthem of female self-empowerment, Queen Of Kings, which features the highest vocal note of this year’s contest.

The evening kicked off with a short video featuring local famous faces including Wirral-born TV baker Paul Hollywood, actor Ricky Tomlinson and the late Paul O’Grady.

Ukraine’s Alyosha took to the stage in Liverpool (AP)

There was also a surprise pre-recorded appearance from the King and Queen, who unveiled the staging last month.

Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham hosted alongside Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina of the band The Hardkiss, and all three wore extravagant outfits featuring an array of leather, giant bows and rainbow colours.

Waddingham joked they were “honorary Liver Birds for the evening” while Sanina welcomed viewers with a message in her native Ukrainian.

She later thanked “beautiful Liverpool” for welcoming Ukraine and its people “with open arms”.

Spice Girl Melanie C also made a surprise appearance as the announcer, introducing the show and the hosts.

Dixon harked back to her time in girl group Mis-Teeq with a rap that paid tribute to the people of Ukraine and the trademark pink bucket hat of Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk.

She then led the crowd in a chant of “Liverpool, Liverpool”.

There was also an appearance from The Fizz, whose members were part of 1981 winning act Bucks Fizz, and were seen queuing outside a red phone box in the venue.

The acts were cheered on inside the venue by fans from across the UK, Europe and further afield – while thousands more watched screens at the Eurovision Village at the city’s historic Pier Head.

The night also saw Rita Ora, known for the number one hits I Will Never Let You Down, How We Do and Hot Right Now, perform a medley of her songs and her new single Praising You.

Rita Ora performs as a show act during the first semi-final (AP)

For the first time in the competition’s nearly seven-decade history, people from countries outside the contest were able to vote for their favourite act.

Their votes were converted into points that had the same weight as one participating country.

In another change for 2023, only viewers’ votes decided which countries qualified onwards from the semi-final stage.

This meant acts will not have to face the judges until they reach the grand final stage.

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