Last night around 5,000 Eurovision fans gathered inside the Hammersmith Apollo for the filming of Eurovision’s Greatest Hits — the 60th anniversary celebration show for the Eurovision Song Contest. Hosted by the BBC’s Graham Norton and SVT’s Petra Mede, the show was meant to celebrate the values of Eurovision — unity, togetherness, and peace, all conveyed through a shared love of music. The show went according to that script — until Russia’s Dima Bilan was greeted with loud boos.
Moments before Dima, the winner of Eurovision 2008, took the stage, Graham and Petra gave him a warm introduction. But the moment they mentioned “Russia” the audience erupted into booing. The booing was so loud that Graham stopped the introduction to scold the audience. He reminded them that Eurovision’s Greatest Hits is a celebration and not a competition, and suggested that they take their booing elsewhere. Graham and Petra then introduced Dima again. A much smaller percentage of the audience booed this second time. We were sipping on a gin and tonic near the bar, so did not have time to grab our iPhones to record the first (rather ugly) round of boos, but we did record the second, much quieter incident. You can watch it below.
Dima Bilan booed at Eurovision’s Greatest Hits
During last year’s Eurovision, the audience booed the Tolmachevys on live television — both during the semi-finals and the final, and people around the world saw the drama unfold as it happened. But because Eurovision’s Greatest Hits is pre-recorded, producers will no doubt edit out the first round of booing, and then adjust the sound to ensure no one hears the second round of boo-hiss.
In both instances, fans are clearly booing Russia — and more specifically its politicians — and not the artists. But the effect is the same. It must be disheartening for the acts to face a hostile crowd.
We tweeted about the incident as it happened last night, and our readers had harsh words for those who booed. The general themes they conveyed are that a) No performer should be booed for his government’s politics and b) it’s actually intolerant to boo someone simply because you view their nation’s politicians as intolerant
@wiwibloggs the booing people put themselves at the same level of certain russian intolerant politicians
— ESCandalous (@es_candalo) March 31, 2015
@wiwibloggs at this gala. Plus it doesn’t reach anyone of the adressed people, it only hurts the artist (2/2)
— Moment (@DerMoment1608) March 31, 2015
Shane makes the good point that anyone, no matter who they are, would face similar reactions for representing Russia. He isn’t saying this is fair, just pointing out the difficulties Russian artists currently face:
@wiwibloggs mother Teresa’s ghost would come back from the dead but if she was representing Russia people would still boo her
— Shayne | #MZHeroes (@ShayneOfficial) March 31, 2015
Many Eurovision fans praised Dima for acting like a pro despite the drama. The Apollo Theatre is small and intimate, so he would have heard the first round of booing from behind the stage door. But he still came on and delivered stand-out performances of his Eurovision songs “Believe” and “Never Let You Go”. In my mind they both sounded better than at Eurovision.
What do you think of the booing? Were fans wrong to express themselves in this way? Is Eurovision an appropriate forum to send messages to foreign governments? Sound off below!
Photo: @bilanofficial on Instagram