Eurovision: It’s not over till the bearded lady sings

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As Austria’s Conchita Wurst belted out her Eurovision power ballad Rise Like A Phoenix, the Twittersphere lit up with calls for the song to feature in the next Bond movie.

And why not? It has all the required elements. Rousing lyrics, a soaring melody, dramatic instrumentation.

Bearded ladyBut let’s not stop there. Why not make Conchita the next Bond girl? She has a stunning figure, the kind of hair most women would kill for, thick fluttery eyelashes, a sashay that would do Jessica Rabbit proud and, with just a hint of masculinity, would be an intriguing match for Daniel Craig.

Until last weekend, the only place a bearded lady could showcase her talents was at a circus sideshow. Some might say Eurovision isn’t that much of a step up but Conchita owned that stage yesterday.

As the votes came in, she looked like she might stop breathing altogether but she collected herself sufficiently to dedicate her win to “everyone who believes in the future of peace and freedom.” And you thought it was just a singing contest.

Conchita, real name Tom, can’t see what all the fuss is about. “It never ceases to amaze me just how much fuss is made over a little facial hair,” she says. She didn’t see my gobsmacked eight-year-old.

The other main talking point of the night was how much everyone hates Russia right now, with the Tolmachevy Sisters booed any time a country gave them a decent chunk of points. They still finished 10 places ahead of Eurovision’s perennial whipping boy, the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, it did raise the possibility that Conchita’s win, though thoroughly deserved, may simply have been a calculated decision to pick the act that would most piss off Vladimir Putin. Particularly when there were petitions in Armenia, Belarus and Russia for her to be banned from the competition.

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In the most closely watched contest of the evening, Ukraine finished one place ahead of Russia, with plenty in both acts that could be interpreted as a geopolitical aside. Ukraine’s number, Tick Tock, featured a man on a giant hamster wheel, rapidly running nowhere.

For their part, the Russian duo was bonded by their hair, wielding big perspex rods while balanced on a see-saw singing “maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine”. So, maybe a shot over Ukraine’s bow and maybe part of the general weirdness of Eurovision.

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Of which there was plenty. One of the oldest tricks of Eurovision is to resort to outlandish spectacle to deflect attention from a crap song. Poland’s number featured a busty washerwoman, her cups runningeth over while she did her hand washing and churned butter with a big thick stick. Which is, of course, how we all look doing our household chores. At any rate, I have no recollection of what Poland sang. So mission accomplished.

In the same vein, Italy’s lass gave us a free gynaecological examination. Can’t unsee that.

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Elsewhere, there was the usual spectacle that passes for Eurovision. France’s number was part song, part workout routine, with the guitarist simultaneously channelling Angus Young and Weird Al Yankovic (no mean feat) and the ensemble styled by a two-year-old. Their main competition in the costume department was Iceland, dubbed the Eurovision Wiggles.

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Greece, forgetting it couldn’t afford to host next year’s event, put in a competitive performance, complete with catchy tune and trampolines. Montenegro’s use of velvet and roller skates brought back disturbing memories of Cliff Richard.

Switzerland’s lead singer whistled, sang, danced, banged a drum, played a violin and smiled maniacally in a frantic ‘talent’ reel. “I feel your judgment,” he sang and, you know, I think he did.

In the final shock of the evening, the Netherlands snuck into second place with a restrained country and westen number and not a wind machine in sight.

Anyway, Austria has won for the first time since 1966. Which just happens to be the last time England won the football World Cup. Please don’t tell me it’s a sign of things to come.

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