Eurovision semi-final: Australia break this year's rock 'curse'
Australia's Voyager have broken the rock group curse at this year's Eurovision Song Contest by qualifying for Saturday's grand final.
The five-piece, fronted by immigration lawyer Danny Estrin, sailed through the second semi-final alongside fellow rockers Joker Out, from Slovenia.
Their success comes two days after the first semi, where every guitar group was eliminated.
They included Ireland's Wild Youth, who extended the country's losing streak.
Ireland, who hold the record for the most Eurovision wins of all time, have now failed to qualify five times in a row.
Voyager's lead singer, Daniel Estrin is a partner at law firm Estrin Saul, who spends his days in court helping migrants sort out their visa issues, before taking to the stage at night.
"I think I might be the first lawyer to take part in Eurovision," he told Australian Broadcaster SBS. "Although I know San Marino sent a dentist a while ago."
This could be Australia's final chance to win - their contract with Eurovision runs out in 2023, and will need to be renegotiated before next year's contest.
Meanwhile, the song contest's organiser has confirmed it will not allow Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to deliver a video message at the Eurovision final on Saturday.
There is expected to be a special tribute to Ukraine on the night with 11 artists performing including last year's winner Kalush Orchestra.
But the European Broadcasting Union said "strict rules" prevented it from allowing the Ukrainian leader to speak.
"One of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event," the EBU said.
"This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest."
The second semi wasn't as thrilling as Tuesday's first instalment, with a surfeit of piano ballads sapping the show of energy. A highlight reel reminding fans of the night's songs was essentially a three-minute supercut of women belting out high notes.
But every so often, the contest showed signs of life. Be-hatted Belgian star Gustaph lit up the stage with his infectious house anthem Because Of You; and Poland's Blanka brought some sunshine to a rainy Liverpool Thursday thanks to her breezy pop hit Solo, which is already a huge streaming hit.
Both acts made it through to the grand final, where they'll face stiff competition from Sweden's Loreen and Finland's Käärijä, who are favourites to win.
Of the 16 acts who performed on Thursday, the following 10 qualified:
Albania: Albina & Familja Kelmendi - Duje
Armenia: Brunette - Future Lover
Australia: Voyager - Promise
Austria: Teya & Salena - Who The Hell Is Edgar?
Belgium: Gustaph - Because Of You
Cyprus: Andrew Lambrou - Break A Broken Heart
Estonia: Alika - Bridges
Lithuania: Monika Linkyte - Stay (Čiūto Tūto)
Poland: Blanka - Solo
Slovenia: Joker Out - Carpe Diem#
Hosts Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina were also back on stage after making their presenting debut on Tuesday night.
They oversaw a conga line led by cartoon character Peppa Pig, and an exuberant half-time show by drag queens Miss Demeanour, Mercedes Benz and Tamara Thomas.
The contest itself opened with Danish-Faroese pop singer Reiley, whose wayward vocals set the tone for a night full of fluffed notes.
His 11 million TikTok followers weren't enough to help his sugary-sweet pop anthem Breaking My Heart qualify for the final.
Armenia's Brunette was next up with Future Lover - a yearning ballad, about a lover she has yet to meet. Staged with dramatic lighting atop a perilously titled stage, her self-penned song also made the cut.
But it was bad news for Romania's Theodor Andrei, whose torrid tale of a toxic relationship (sample lyric: "Take off your clothes and step on me") proved too off-putting to pick up votes.
The other acts who went home were Iceland's Diljá, Georgia's Iru, San Marino's Piqued Jacks and Greece's Victor Vernicos who, at 16 years old, was this year's youngest contestant.
Albania's ode to family unity, Duje, got the seal of approval, as did Austria's Who The Hell Is Edgar - a slyly subversive anthem about the music industry's mistreatment of songwriters.
There was a British connection for Lithuanian qualifier Monika Linkyte, whose backing singer is an Adele impersonator who works in an Essex supermarket.
And viewers got their first glimpse of the UK's actual entrant, Mae Muller, towards the end of the show.
The singer spoke briefly to host Alesha Dixon, before introducing a rehearsal clip of her entry, I Wrote A Song.
"I think it's safe to say on behalf of the whole UK that we're so excited to be hosting on behalf of Ukraine," she said, as fans lifted the country's blue and yellow flags around the Liverpool Arena.
"We love you guys," she added.
The UK is one of five countries - alongside Spain, Italy, France and Germany - who qualify automatically for the final thanks to their financial contribution to the contest.
Ukraine, who won last year, also go straight to the final. Their act, Tvorchi, also introduced their song, Heart Of Steel, on Thursday night.
Liverpool is hosting the contest on behalf of the Eastern European country due to the ongoing Russian invasion.
Russia has been suspended from participating as a result, while this week's events have had a strong Ukrainian flavour.
Thursday's show featured a moving segment titled "'Music Unites Generations", where Mariya Yaremchuk, who represented Ukraine in Eurovision 2014, sang a medley of well-known Ukrainian songs.
She was joined on stage by rapper OTOY and 14-year-old Ukrainian Junior Eurovision representative Zlata Dziunka, illustrating how music can transcend generations and overcomes darkness.
Several former Ukrainian contestants will take part in Saturday's Grand Final, including former winners Kalush Orchestra (2022) and Jamala (2016).
Liverpool's rich music heritage will also be celebrated, with stars including Duncan Laurence, Cornelia Jakobs, Daði Freyr, Netta, and Sonia, performing songs from the host city.