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Joe Louis Robinson takes us on a Eurovision journey

One the surface a cabaret show based around Eurovision songs seems like an obvious idea, after all the world is filled with Eurovision tragics, and there’s 68 years of material to mine for content.

In fact over the decades 52 different countries have taken part, and a massive 1,717 songs have been created especially for Eurovision.

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Here lies the challenge, how many songs can you fit into an hour long show, and how do you make sure you strike the balance between songs we expect and some unexpected inclusions? This was the challenge faced by local performer Joe Louis Robinson when he took to the stage Downstairs at the Maj on Tuesday night.

I confess, I love Eurovision, I’ve been twice in person and watched it on television every year for more than a decade. I’ve reported on it for radio and written a lot of news articles too. But there’s every possibility that Robinson could do a whole show and not include any or many of my all time favourites.

Robinson took to the stage singing ABBA’s breakthrough hit Waterloo, providing an instant sing-a-long for the packed venue and he immediately launched into comedic and camp banter about the show ahead of us.

Backed by a bass player and a drummer, Robinson took to the piano and got to work. It was great to see the artist, who is often the accompanist for visiting cabaret superstars, having his own well deserved moment in the spotlight.

A laid back version of Gina G’s 1996 British entry Ooh-Ahh Just a Little Bit was an unexpected inclusion that got our journey through the Eurovision archives underway.

Robinson shared some clips from his YouTube research, admitting he’d not bothered to look at any of the “boring” older black and white stuff, which ruled out my hopes for a Sandie Shaw moment.

A rendition of Loreen’s Euphoria, a song that showed that Eurovision wasn’t just about gimmicks and wild costumes, was beautifully delivered. Before we headed off on an exploration of the country that tends to fare quite badly at Eurovision – Great Britain.

Robinson is the first to admit that his homeland has had some pretty dubious entries in the past, but they’ve also had some shining moments. Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran’s 1977 entry provided the appropriate description for where the UK often ends up – Rock Bottom.

We visited Brotherhood of Man’s Kisses for Me, avoiding its saccharine ending, dived into long forgotten Scooch travelogue Flying the Flag for You and Robinson rightly pointed out that this year’s emissary Olly Alexander’s song Dizzy was in reality just a reworking of a well-know disco classic.

A highlight was a sultry and bluesy rendition of the Buck’s Fizz hit Making Your Mind Up. Paging Cheryl and Jay – you want to get hold of this arrangement.

Robinson shared before he made Australia his home he spent several years living Spain, allowing a trip to 1973’s Eres tú which has become a much loved song in the Spanish diaspora.

We also ventured through Australia’s attempts to win the competition taking in contributions from Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian, Dami Im and Perth’s own Voyager.

After a quick costume change, we dived into the big ballads of Celine Dion (yes, she won Eurovision for Switzerland in 1988), Conchita Wurst and a little more Loreen.

The festivities came to a climax with a fast paced melody through some of the big Eurovision hits finally ending on a song that lives on in Eurovision fans hearts, despite it never actually winning the competition.

Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka created one of the competitions most memorable numbers in 2007 with Dancing Lasha Tumbai. A fitting song for a finale.

Joe Louis Robinson has created a show that has the potential for a long shelf life, there’s so many songs that can be swapped in whenever it needs a refresh. Extra points would have been given if he’d managed to stage a costume reveal ala Buck’s Fizz, or donned Serduchka’s stylish head ware.

The Perth International Cabaret Festival continues this week with shows from NYC’s Mark Nadler, Brendan Hansen, Mama Alto, Carla Lippis, Tom Burlinson, and many more.

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