Saturday, 11 May 2013

Saturday lunchtime rehearsals (Latvia-Azerbaijan)

Fresh from hitting the dancefloor last night to the unlikely sounds of "Hullu yö" (thanks, DJ Douze Points!), it's time to check out the second sets of rehearsals for the countries that will be opening the second semi-final. Starting with...

It's a glittery start to the day as PeR take the stage. The two boys in their shiny suits are joined by a further two instrumentalists, one of whom appears to be playing an iPad on a stick - although on closer inspection it's more the kind of device that Ghostsmut uses in his DJ sets of unlistenable noise.

I could be nasty and continue this review by saying "And speaking of unlistenable noise...", but that would be unfair. "Here We Go" is actually quite an effective opener - it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's harmless enough. The guys do their stuff on the main stage for the first two minutes before creeping and strutting out along the catwalk to the satellite stage for the final choruses - including a risky manoeuvre where singer Ralf lets himself fall backwards into the audience. He's assuming they'll carry him for several seconds of crowdsurfing, and in this rehearsal the stage-hands and volunteers duly oblige - including legendary floor manager Henric von Zweibergk - but will the fanboys be so welcoming on Thursday night? This could get entertaining!

As if to counteract the brashness of "The Social Network Song", Valentina and Ralph are really going for dark this year. The first two minutes of the song  are moody and introspective, with Valentina caressing an illuminated ball while singing largely to herself rather than the audience or the cameras. The costumes we saw the other day seem to be the final ones: Valentina starts in a dark maroon sheet before casting it aside to reveal a brighter red sheet for the last minute.

It makes sense, I suppose, as "Crisalide (Vola)" is all about emerging from darkness into the light, (a)like a butterfly. The trouble is that when the metamorphosis happens here and the beat kicks in, the stage and the staging don't really get any brighter, instead staying firmly in Hera Björk/"provincial disco faghag" territory. It's slow and ponderous where it should be energetic and joyful, and I suspect that could be problematic when it comes to grabbing televoter attention. Of course, it may not be televoters they're after...

She's singing nicely enough, anyway, and the concept is obviously being realised the way Siegel and the team want it to be.

During the opening days in Malmö, we've come to the conclusion that this principle applies:

Just imagine your favourite song. Then imagine it with added Esma. See? Even better. LELELELELELELELELELE!

Macedonia's second set of rehearsals, then. The press centre gods are doing their best to ensure that we don't get a reasonable impression of what's going on, with the big screens currently out of action and the various speakers broadcasting with several seconds of delay. Nevertheless, what we can say is that Vlatko is back to singing in Macedonian again, which is an interesting choice - we wonder if they already paid their fine for changing to English and, if so, will they have to pay another one now?

Meanwhile, Esma is decked out in a huge bright red outfit, headdress and all - it looks terrific and certainly works better against the purples and golds of the background than what she wore the other day. Unfortunately, the backing singers' costumes are less impressive, resembling little more than violet-grey sacks tied together at the waist by a silvery belt. The filming still feels a bit static (although one can hardly expect Esma to do the lambada), but vocally it's coming together as nicely as this trickily-structured song ever will, so I imagine Macedonia will be happy enough with how things are going. LELELELELELELE!

Ever since "Hold Me" was selected as the Azeri entry for this year's contest, I've said it was strong enough to win - the question was simply whether Azerbaijan wanted to win again so soon after Ell/Nikki's triumph.

If reports of online advertising for Farid's song (it's 2010 coming back!) and the usual delegation trip to Malta weren't enough, Wednesday's first rehearsal made it perfectly clear that the broadcaster and the government would have absolutely no problem welcoming the Eurovision circus back to Baku next year. They've thrown a lot at this, but for all the staging is bombastic and very stylised, it does have a concept behind it and it's not like the stage explodes in pyrotechnics or anything - it's more like something you'd see at the Eurovision Dance Contest (R.I.P.), fundamentally baffling but somehow quite elegant all the same.

Little has changed since the first run (despite the floor manager joking about filling the glass box with water) - Farid crouches, jumps and poses in his silvery grey shirt, the guy in the box mirrors his movements (except when he isn't) and attempts not to choke on flying rose petals, and the girl in the unfeasibly long dress looks suitably cold and untouchable - is she the one who's supposed to be holding and unfolding Farid? She doesn't seem the type for such trifling pursuits as origami.

Solid rehearsal, of course. But you knew that already.

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