For those who may not know, as an American Eurovision fan it is extremely rare to see Eurovision-related artists outside of the Eurovision village or Europe prior. But when Maneskin broke barriers in the United States with their songs “Zitti e buoni” and “Beggin'”, suddenly we started to get concerts left and right from Eurovision artists.
MARO toured the states back in September, Tina Karol is finishing her tour with the same company as KALUSH, Maneskin will be touring here shortly, and Rosa Linn joins Ed Sheeran for five of his North American shows. It is an amazing time to be an American Eurovision fan.
So when the opportunity came to see the winners of Eurovision 2022 in my backyard, you bet I jumped at the opportunity. Because despite being on the ESC United team for over 6 years now in a variety of roles, I have never been able to attend Eurovision in person. And while KALUSH ORCHESTRA’s North American Tour is not Eurovision, experiencing their music and Ukrainian culture live was the closest I’ve ever felt to the spirit of the contest.
The pre-show experience
I got to the Granada theater a bit after doors opened due to some traffic and slow-downs with dinner plans, but was greeted at the door by the ticket staff as soon as I approached the door. After my tickets were scanned they said to us “Slava Ukraini” – or the official patriotic salute of Ukraine. In the moment I panicked, not knowing the correct response was “Heroiam slava!” or “Glory to the Heroes” but I just smiled at them. They seemed surprised I was there as a non-native speaker, but as they realized they switched to “Enjoy the show”, which I immediately replied “Thank you”.
The Granada Theater is a small venue that was created in 1946 with an art deco feeling infused throughout the building. But before we could make it through the lobby we were greeted by a staff member for the band who called me to the merch table. Though I’m still not sure what exactly he said to me, he pointed at the table and specifically to the hats, took one off the table to place on my head and then gave me a thumbs up. It was clear he wanted me to purchase one and it worked – I bought two before the night was over.
We then walked into the main hall around 7:45 PM and waited for the show to begin while talking about the other upcoming artists and tours, and listening to the Ukrainian pop music playing in the hall.
“A wall of Ukrainian sound, culture, and iconography”
The concert started a bit late around 8:30 PM, but that is show business – nothing starts on time. The band took to the stage and a cacophony of cheers and stomping emanated from the crowd. After they took to the stage, the opening sounds of the band’s first single “Ne marynui” filled the hall. Cameras quickly came out, the dancing started, and the night took off. Their Eurovision winning song “Stefania” was surprisingly third on the set list, but for a very specific reason.
The first half of the concert featured all seven members performing such songs like “Shtomber Womber” and Sasha Tab’s 2017 Vidbir entry “O Mamo”. Then at the mid-way point both Vitalii Duzhyk, Tymofii Muzychuk, and Sasha Tab left the stage. From there Oleh, Ihor Didenchuck, and MC KylymMen and Dzhonni Dyvnyy performed a number of KALUSH’s singles from 2019-2021 like “Taksi” and . Funnily enough Tab did return to the stage midset, but to take photos and videos of the guys while they performed on stage.
In between each song frontman Oleh Psiuk and backing vocalist Sasha Tab interacted with the crowd in Ukrainian, cracked jokes with fellow bandmates, and shared information about each song. Their performances also had pre-made videos circulating on the side screens that displayed the cultural iconography of Ukraine and a mix of pop-culture references. Singlehandedly the best moment was the glimpse I caught of Oleh’s head pasted over Phillip’s body during a “Terrance and Philip” sketch from South Park.
The concert lasted a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes, but in the moment it felt like it had been happening for hours. At the close of the show, the band treated the audience to a reprise of “Stefania” with a new introduction, which drew a massive amount of cheers. Eurovision fans would also notice that the band used their LED staging concept from Turin as the display video for both performances, which gave a unique look at what the LED sun blocked from our view. And as they ended the hall erupted into a full 3 minutes of cheers. Just like that it was over.
The Final Verdict
Despite not understanding anything that Oleh and the band were saying throughout the night, the experience and $65 ticket was well worth it and supported the Gate to Ukraine and Heroes of Ukraine relief funds. From talking with people standing next to me about their flower crowns and their proud Ukrainian heritage, to meeting a fellow Eurovision fan in the lobby while waiting for the bathroom – the night was certainly one worth remembering. For those in the audience this was not just a concert. It was a celebratory night of heritage and culture during a time of war and great uncertainty. Throughout the night I felt a deep connection to the Ukrainian community in my city.
And there are still many stops left on KALUSH ORCHESTRA’s tour, with them moving on to New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago, and five stops in Canada next month. If you cannot make it to KALUSH’s tour, there’s still hope for you to experience some of the best artists Ukraine has to offer – as Alyona Alyona and Vidbir 2023 candidate Jerry Heil will be touring in November, Wellboy from Vidbir 2022 will move through North America in January 2023, The Hardkiss from Vidbir 2016 will tour throughout March and April for their first Solo tour, and Eurovision 2007 artist Verka Serduchka and band will be touring throughout the second half of April.
Tickets and dates for all shows can be found on Bomond.com.
Will #YOU be at one of KALUSH ORCHESTRA’s performances this Fall? Let us know in the comments, on our forum HERE or on social media!