A night like no other, this year’s Eurovision was an extravaganza of musical legends and royalty, show-stopping acts and political statements – despite President Zelenskyy’s ban from sharing a message during the show.
Hosts Graham Norton, Hannah Waddingham, Ukrainian TV star Julia Sanina, and Alesha Dixon guided Eurovision fans through 26 performances, and the lengthy voting process that followed.
If you didn’t catch the four-hour show, or simply want to remind yourselves of the best bits – you’re in the right place. Here are the biggest moments of the night.
Rumours had swirled of a surprise appearance, but while many had thought that maybe Sir Paul McCartney may get involved (spoiler – he didn’t), it was real royalty rather than pop royalty who made an appearance.
The Princess of Wales gave a pre-recorded piano performance in the show’s opener, dressed in a one-shoulder blue gown against a backdrop of sparking chandeliers.
And if that wasn’t enough, Queen star Roger Taylor accompanied a very sparkly Sam Ryder on the drums as he performed his latest single Mountain and Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus advised potential Eurovision winners of the “life-changing” effects of winning the show.
Who The Hell Is Edgar?
One of the most talked about acts of the night, Austria’s Teya & Salena kicked-off the competition with a spirited performance of Who The Hell Is Edgar?
Wearing black and white jumpsuits, and with a host of black and red clad backing dancers on the video screens behind them, they reminisced about being possessed by the ghost of literary great, Edgar Allan Poe.
An ode of sorts to the late 19th Century American writer, their song also gave a shout-out to Shakespeare and a loaded dig at how little artists get paid by streaming sites. An eclectic mix, but they somehow pulled it off.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was barred from making an address at the grand final, but that didn’t stop some of the acts taking steps to “politicise” the content.
The Eurovision grand final as it happened
Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in pictures
The song of Ukrainian act Tvorchi, Heart Of Steel, was inspired by the siege of Mariupol, and specifically the defence of the Azovstal iron and steel works. It later came to light that the duo’s university home town Ternopil had come under fire from Russian missiles at around the time they took to the stage.
Croatia’s Let 3 performed Mama SC! in front of two giant nuclear warheads stuffed with giant lit sparklers with their lyrics including the line “Mama bought a tractor” which is understood to be in reference to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko who bought Vladimir Putin a tractor for his 70th birthday, and another line mocking dictators for being “psychopaths”.
And Czechia’s Vesna sang part of their song, My Sister’s Crown, in Ukrainian, with part of their lyrics translating as: “You are so strong, brave and the only one, the crown is yours, my beautiful sister”.
A large portion of the celebrity spokespeople giving their country’s jury votes also expressed their solidarity with Ukraine.
The novelty acts
With one of the wackiest of the acts of the night – Kaarija’s hyper-pop-rap tune Cha Cha Cha – coming close to winning the show, the bar was set high for the more bizarre acts of the night.
Germany’s pop-metal act Lord Of The Lost bellowed Blood And Glitter with gusto that 2006 winners Hard Rock Hallelujah would have been proud of. They came ninth overall.
Croatia’s Let 3 (five mature blokes dressed in blood-stained coats and military garb) stripped off to their pants and vests mid-way through their song Mama SC!
Belgian’s Gustaph hit some impressive high notes in his performance of 90s-inspired hit Because Of You in a bizarre outfit of candy floss pink trousers and an oversized cream cowboy hat. Australia clearly loved it, giving him the top score of 12 points.
Meanwhile other rather unusual stage devices and props included a metres-long skirt drop (France), a rave in a box, a very large shadow and neon pink maypole (Finland of course), and several female acts writhing around on the floor (Israel and Poland). Welcome to Eurovision.
History is made
They were favourites to win and Sweden followed through on the promise.
The country’s act, Loreen, has now made history as the first woman to win more than once after first taking the crown back in 2012.
(Irish singer Johnny Logan won the competition twice, in 1980 and 1987, in case you were wondering).
The 39-year-old’s win for dance-pop anthem Tattoo also means Sweden has drawn level with Ireland for the country with the most Eurovision wins – seven apiece.
Why is Australia here?
Despite being located on the opposite side of the earth, Australians are honorary Europeans for the sake of Eurovision.
Being members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – a union of publicly funded broadcasters around the world which any country can join – gave them the right to enter.
Long-haired voyager lead singer Danny Estrin – an immigration lawyer by day and a singer by night – rocked out on the bonnet of a vintage Toyota MR2 as he performed Promise, and was well received by fans and voters alike.
This could even have been Australia’s final chance to grab the trophy – their contract with Eurovision runs out this year, so it will need to be renegotiated before next year’s contest in Sweden.
Hannah Waddingham: Eurovision Queen
And special mention has to go to Hannah Waddingham – a new host to the Eurovision stage, but a firm fan favourite after just a few weeks.
She impressed with her language skills from the off (she’s fluent in French and Italian), her indefatigability (always ready to bring that extra squeeze of fun to proceedings), her impressive singing voice (she’s also a West End and Broadway star by the way) and not one but two stunning outfits during the show.
Of course, Ted Lasso fans couldn’t have been more chuffed to see in a very different role to that of headstrong football team owner Rebecca Welton in the surprise Apple TV + hit that’s garnered a league of devotees around the world.
Let’s hope her long-time friend Graham Norton is happy to concede his position as the UK’s best loved commentator now Eurovision’s found a new queen.
And with that we sign off from Eurovision 2023 – see you in Sweden next year!