Joel Madden kicks off the performance of Sing by The Voice coaches.
It's the first of the live shows but blow me if it doesn't look exactly the same as last week, when presumably they were all dead. Only this one starts with the four coaches/judges/former pop stars putting their voices where their mouths are and actually singing for a change.
You can tell they're nervous because they've each brought a prop to comfort them: Delta has her piano, Keith has his guitar, Joel has his toothpick and Seal has his snaky hips, which start wiggling of their own accord several minutes before he arrives at the venue.
Snapping out of it, Seal tells Michael he's a doppelganger. That's German for "man who is going home just as soon as the votes are counted"
But boy can these guys sing. There's only four of them but the way they belt it out you'd swear there was a whole row of red-clad backing singers right up there on stage with them. Oh, wait a minute. There is.
Karise Eden performs a knockout version of Nothing's Real But Love.
When "four of the biggest names in music" have finally finished singing it for the world, The Host With No Name tells us we're making our way to the grand finale of the greatest show on Earth and it's all happening in this supersized arena and isn't that just fantastic. Phew. It's such a relief to get all the hyperbole out of the way at the start like this so we can just ease into the humble, simple, no-frills eisteddfod that this show really is.
Whoops. Seal obviously didn't get that memo. He's here, he tells us, with "three of the greatest coaches on the planet ... We've had the opportunity of working with 24 of the greatest talents that I've ever seen, and we have the greatest show in the history of Australian television". Big call, dude. Did you even see Number 96? Chances? No, I didn't think so.
His girl Fatai is up first with Empire State of Mind (Part II). Personally, I think she should have done Part I and gone all Jay-Z, shoving the mic halfway down her throat and yapping, but no, she had to take the easy option and sing like Alicia Keys.
Chris Sebastian took on David Guetta's Without You.
The coaches/judges/washed-up pop stars all love her, but then it's not up to them tonight, it's the watching public who are voting. At just 55 cents a pop (or $1.69 if you buy the song on iTunes, but that gets you two votes, so the song is practically free when you think about it).
Next up is Matt Hetherington with his take on White Noise. The Living End track should be right up Joel's alley, and he tries to look like he's enjoying it, he really does, but his body language betrays him. He's curled up in the foetal position, like if he tries really hard he might just be able to push himself out through the back of his chair and straight into a parallel dimension where he didn't take the advice of his manager when he said this would be a good career move.
Song over, Delta tells Matt he killed it, but I think the phrase she actually wanted was "you murdered it". Then she hugs him tight and says something deep and meaningful into his shoulder that I'm pretty sure was "mmmpfghumzmtrbflug". You can't buy mentoring like that, you really can't.
Karise Eden is up next. She's the second tonight from Team Seal – though I have to admit I'd always thought Team Seal was the name of that silicon strip you put around the door of the footy club changing rooms – and she does a knockout version of Nothing's Real But Love, which, in a spooky bit of not-quite cross-promotion, was the debut single of Rebecca Ferguson, the runner-up on the 2010 season of The X Factor UK (and scandalously and briefly the lover of Zayn Malik, eight years her junior and a member of third-place getters One Direction. Speaking of whom, whatever became of them?)
Joel, we're reminded, has previously told her she's from outer space. Tonight he tells her she has more soul than a sneaker shop. "I've been saving that one for you," he says. Zing.
Seal looks deep into her eyes and tells her she's hard core: it's a special, deeply intimate moment between just the two of them ... and the three million or so Australians watching. Seal leans over Joel's chair for a really cool, unscripted moment that makes us realise how grateful we should be that most of the show isn't so cool and unscripted.
Cute blonde One Direction wannabe Ben Bennett (Team Delta) comes out in pink jumper and pink shirt and pink bow tie and pink chinos and sings One Direction's One Thing. Simon Cowell sends a text message: sorry, pal, we've already got a blonde one. The kids in the audience scream and Delta gushes but in truth the song and his singing were travelling in completely different directions. As he leaves the stage Delta loses her footing and stumbles into Joel's arms. It's the highlight of the act.
Meanwhile, somewhere backstage the TV personality formerly known as Fuzzy is in some kind of decompression chamber interviewing the singers after their big numbers. Ben tells her it was awesome. Yeah, totes.
Former-Fuzzy then crops up in an ad break, something to do with mobile phones (you can use them to vote, kids, early and often), and when we come back construction worker Michael Duchesne sings (we use the term loosely) the Beatles' Got To Get You Into My Life. Yes, it's a toughie.
Beforehand there was much talk from Seal about Michael finding the right key and forgetting about building sites because he's moving on to a new career, and in the white shirt, black tie, black jacket and little black cap get-up he's wearing he sure looks like he's found both. Limo driver to the stars. With his very own key to the Bentley.
Seal pretends to like the performance, and calls Michael a "red light performer"; apparently he's having an acid flashback that's caused him to confuse Michael with someone he once spied in a window in Amsterdam on his best mate Dolphin's bucks weekend. Snapping out of it, he tells Michael he's a doppelganger. That's German for "man who is going home just as soon as the votes are counted".
Danni da Ros is up next to sing Heart's '80s power ballad Alone, a song that demands, and receives, black chiffon and a wind machine so strong that it nearly blows The Host With No Name's jacket off. Keith says he thought Danni was going to take off; Delta says it serves her right for confessing she used to sing into the hair dryer in the bathroom. In the hug she tells her "you killed it", and this time that probably was the phrase she was looking for.
Sam Ludemann does a decent version of Simple Plan's Summer Paradise, and when he's done Joel tells him he's going to get laid, for sure. But before Joel can have Sam scrubbed and sent up to his dressing room Seal leaps in and tells him he can see he's hungry. Dinner first, then? That Seal is so smooth.
In the coaching snapshot, we see Delta telling Russian-born Viktoria Bolonina to go "off melody". Funny, some of the others tonight have managed that without any special help. She's singing Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang and she's deliciously sultry, with a violinist adding a bit of a Ural inflection (which can be painful if not treated) in the background. Joel, Keith and Delta give her a standing ovation; Seal opts for the less flashy sitting ovation. Delta tells her she looked like an old movie star. Maggie Smith perhaps?
The Host With No Name tells us Chris Sebastian came on the show to make a name for himself; apparently he thought he was auditioning for Letters and Numbers. He tries to cover for his silly mistake by doing Without You, but sadly it's David Guetta's dancehall ditty, not the similarly named track by letter-number band U2.
Cut to an ad break in which The Host With No Name features in a spot about nobody listening to him, which makes you wonder if maybe he shouldn't be the one trying to make a name for himself on the show. I mean, we even know Fuzzy's name, even if she has changed it to Faustina. Which sounds like a small four-cylinder car from Ford, whose ad she was just in. Seems you can buy the naming rights to anything these days.
Delta's sometime backing singer Glenn Cunningham gets his chance to shine and uses it to hit a couple of stinky notes in a version of Rick Price's Heaven Knows that nonetheless draws wall-to-wall standing ovations from the dewy-eyed judges. "I guarantee that thing's going to be downloaded a boatload tomorrow on iTunes," says Keith, who has kindly just let us all know the hip Nashville slang term for a number two.
Emma-Louise Birdsall steps up next to sing I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) by Aretha Franklin, the queen of take-no-boat. Seal tells her she handled her business, which is in fact an English euphemism for playing with your boat, but Joel thinks she was hot. Soooo hot. "Damn it Australia, with your women ... I'm directly in her sight and it felt like she was singing to me and it was sensory overload and aaaargh."
Guess we know where he's spending his 55 cents tonight.
Finally, it's time for Rachael Leahcar, who has "waited what seems like forever" to be recognized for her voice. Everyone wants a shot, Rachael, but forever? You're 18.
By now all of Australia knows she's "differently sighted". But don't mention it. (I may have once, but I think I got away with it.) She tells Delta "I'm trying not to bring the sight factor into this", and the producers clearly feel the same way, which is why the next thing they show her saying is "after the huge response to my BLIND audition". That's her weird em-phar-sis, by the way, not mine.
Delta says there's pressure on her, "but pressure makes diamonds". Rachael comes out singing Hands, by Jewel; you can't script chance links like that. Can you?
She nails it. She's an angel, says Joel. Delta walks her off stage and we realise she's in fact a very tiny diamond-encrusted angel who can't see very well.
With that much going for her, the others should be very worried indeed.