All good things must come to an end, and so tonight saw the final heat of Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins before the grand final on the 12th of February. And what a finish! Although there weren't any really poppy entries on show tonight, the standard of all five entries made this without doubt the strongest heat so far, with the acts to grab final three spots being anybody's guess.
Tonight was naturally an emotional affair for many, as it would have seen Sigurjón Brink perform his entry, Aftur Heim. However, what could easily have become quite a maudlin show with much focus on the tragic premature death of the talented artist, was rather a thoughtful tribute to the multitalented artist. One thing is certain, and that is that Sjonni was a much loved and respected individual by many.
Song number 1: Buff - Sáluhjálp/Salvation (Pétur Örn Guðmundsson)
A gentle, swaying tune, this one starts off quite anonymously, launching quickly into a chrous that is somewhere between Wings' Mull of Kintyre and Westlife's Queen Of My Heart in places, guaranteed to have viewers waving their arms aloft in unison. Very uplifting chorus, which to be honest, was the only redeeming feature about this rather limp opener that lacked that something extra. Can easily see this appealing to the more mature audience, though. The song opened to rapturous applause by Icelandic standards. It started off in black and white, an effect that was quite effective, bursting intocolour once they launched into the first chorus. Smartly kitted out in waistcoats, shirts and ties, while Pétur was wearing a grey blazer and black shirt. Not a bad performance, although not exactly vocally challenging, Pétur seemed to struggle in certain parts. They should be happy with their efforts. Very little stage movement, but this was in keeping with the tempo of the song.
Song number 2: Jógvan - Ég Lofa/I Promise (Vignir Snær Vigfússon/Jógvan Hansen/Sigurður Örn Jónsson)
Jógvan starts his number with brooding lyrics and a sombre sound, when the song suddenly changes direction and takes on a completely different character sounding altogether much more positive. The tune flows along nicely enough with a catchy, quite rocky chorus. This entry has a lot going for it, with strings, a very well constructed bridge and plenty of feeling. Blues and blacks on the LED screens opened Jógvans number, which saw him on stage in a black leather shirt and dark trousers. The stage was empty, with his backing singers standing far to his left. He managed to make good contact with the camera, obvious that he's done this before. Vocally, a great performance, hitting all the notes where he should, but somehow the song came across quite predictable in a way. Well received by the audience.
Song number 3: Magni - Ég Trúi á Betra Líf/ I Believe In a Better Life (Hallgrím Óskarsson/Eiríkur Hauksson/Gerard James Borg)
Great expectations to this number from Magni. Those expecting a rock number may be bitterly disappointed, as it's rock that Magni is known best for. Instead, we're served this stunning rock ballad. Classy, with both piano and strings and a mournful tone, which suits Magni's voice perfectly. It's clearly audible that Magni's voice is used to belting out rockier tunes, but he carries this one brilliantly. The crowds loved this one from the first note. He stood bathed in a single spotlight, which was most effective. Dressed in a white shirt, thin black tie and jeans, his choice of outfit was perhaps too casual, but fitting with his rock image. Colours on the LED chaged between blues and turquoises. Magni gave an exceptional performance, letting plenty of emotion come across. A performance he can be proud of. Beautiful, this should definitely be in contention for a spot in the final.
Song number 4: Georg Alexander - Morgunsól/Morning sun (Jóhannes Kára Kristinsson)
Morgunsól is just what the title suggests - very chirpy, chugging along at a happy enough pace. Nice to hear brass instruments in a song for a change, giving this a jazzy feel. Even though some don't understand what he's singing about, it's easy to pick up the vibe that it's about being in love. A vital shot of cheerfulness that was sorely needed in the line up tonight. Georg Alexander was perched on a stool for his number, the stage bathed in summery oranges and reds. A chequered shirt and dark trousers, he was another artist who had chosen to dress down for tonight. His backing singers were dressed to look like the Blues Brothers, with nifty footwork behind him on stage. He needs to work on his facial expressions, because he really didn't look as if he was enjoying himself! His vocals were not the best of the evening, but by no means bad.
Song number 5: Sjonni's Friends - Aftur Heim/Home Again (Sigurjón Brink)
You can almost hear as soon as the song starts that it's the work of Sjonni Brink, with his characteristic use of guitars and the ukelele. Ironic then that something should sound so cheery, given the tragic circumstances of its performance. Quirky, and the part where it slows down towards the end only to gather momentum again is a stroke of genius. Echoes of rag time and Hello Dolly in there. A strong contender for one of the remaining places in the final. It was strange to see the interview with Sjonni before his song, knowing that he passed away almost two weeks ago. His friends had all performed with Sjonni before and unsurprisingly, this received the warmest welcome of the night. All five vocalists were dressed in white shirts, black ties and black waistcoats - unsure as to whether the outfits were meant to look like they were in mourning. There was a number of instruments on stage, including a grand piano for the first time tonight! Their voices gelled well together, and it was an entertaining performance with good camerawork, that no doubt had everybody's foot tapping. The applause lasted a long time after their performance was over.
Same proceedure as last week, with the hosts no nonsense approach to get things swiftly underway - Eurovision hosts, take note, watch and learn! Host Guðmundur Gunnarsson chose to dress down, wearing a dark sweater and tie. Ragnhildur was however stunning tonight in a sharp, black creation. The show opened with coverage from backstage with all the participants seemingly warming up with the unofficial Icelandic anthem, Nína, their Eurovision entry from 1991.
After the evenings five acts, we were treated to a recap of the acts already through to the final before lines were opened for voting. This weeks roaming repoter took us to Vestmannaeyjar to interview the locals about their memories and opinions on Eurovision. Entries mentioned as memorable were Lordi's Hard Rock Hallelujah, Bobbysocks La Det Swinge and Páll Óskar's Minn Hinsti Dans.
The interval act (or lack of) was yet again sorely evident, possibly the only amateurish aspect of what has otherwise been a very well executed and thouroughly enjoyable set of heats. But having said that, the guests that RÚV invited have galantly attempted to entertain the masses in their own particular way and to a certain point have succeeded in just that - light hearted chitchat while the votes have been counted up, as well as astounding other more diehard Eurovision fans in the know with their appalling lack of knowledge about Europe's most beloved contest.
The voting was delivered in a similarly understated manner as in the previous shows. Let us sincerely hope that broadcaster RÚV are saving themselves, before pulling out all of the stops to make a thrilling voting sequence for the actual final because this was a pretty limp affair. Not surprisingly, with such a head start as performing last as well as the massive sympathy vote, it came as no surprise that Sjonni's Friends were chosen to advance to the final. Psychic abilities were definitely not needed to figure out that much! Magni's many fans are no doubt celebrating tonight, following the announcement that he too had managed to snag one of the last places in this year's final. The biggest surprise tonight was that three songs were voted to the final - with Jógvan getting the final place!!