Norway’s Alessandra has kicked off the first live show of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool with her anthem of female self-empowerment, Queen Of Kings.
The 20-year-old vocalist was first on stage at the M&S Bank Arena during the first of the contest’s two semi-finals taking place this week.
Her powerful rendition, combining a Baroque chorus with a pounding dance beat, was backed by dazzling blue light and energetic dancers.
She was cheered on inside the venue by fans from across the UK, Europe and further afield – while thousands more watched screens at the Eurovision Village at the city’s historic Pier Head.
Many waved the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag alongside that of their home nation.
A short film welcomed viewers to the event and featured local famous faces including Wirral-born TV baker Paul Hollywood, actor Ricky Tomlinson and the late Paul O’Grady.
There was also a surprise pre-recorded appearance from the King and Queen, who unveiled the staging last month.
Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham are hosting the semi-final alongside Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina of the band The Hardkiss.
Waddingham joked they were “honorary Liver Birds for the evening”, while Sanina welcomed viewers with a message in her native Ukrainian.
She later thanked “beautiful Liverpool” for welcoming Ukraine and its people “with open arms”.
Spice Girl Melanie C also made a surprise appearance as the announcer, introducing the show and the hosts.
Irish act Wild Youth will be hoping to break their country’s streak of poor performance at the contest when they perform sixth in the running order, after Portugal and before Croatia.
Ireland has participated in Eurovision more than 50 times and has a record seven wins, but has failed to qualify for the final since Ryan O’Shaughnessy entered with his song Together in 2018.
Fifteen acts will perform in semi-final one with only the top 10 progressing to the final.
The night will also see Rita Ora, known for the number one hits I Will Never Let You Down, How We Do and Hot Right Now, perform a medley of her songs and her new single Praising You.
Ukrainian vocalist Alyosha, who came 10th in Eurovision 2010 with the song Sweet People, will perform alongside former X Factor contestant Rebecca Ferguson, who is from Liverpool.