Hello all! Ham, brie and sun-dried tomato sandwich duly demolished (the menu called them "half-dried tomatoes", but that can't possibly be right), so it must be time for me to take over from the Fishy one and deliver you some rolling commentary on the remaining songs in semi-final 1 as the performers take the stage for their first rehearsals. And we begin with...
The drummers/dancers are shirtless. (This might be a relevant point for some, so I thought I'd prioritise it.) Anyway, our esteemed MBer Ron rightly points out that a good rehearsal blogger needs to put their inherent prejudices to one side when judging these things, so in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll point out that I find the structure of the Irish entry fundamentally confusing and I don't like Ryan Dolan's face.
So what about what Ireland are delivering in this first session? Well, the feed to the press area is currently intermittent - we still haven't actually seen the start of the song yet - but the rest is kind of as expected. Ryan's dressed in shiny leather, the bodhrans and kettle-ish drums are all present and correct, Ryan does his pointing to the left and right thing as previously (though he's standing on the floor rather than a podium - disappointing news for fans of podiums everywhere). He's in decent enough voice here, a few missed notes, but obviously that's only indicative at this stage anyway. The only real issue I have is with the female backing vocals - they're not particularly on-key, their tone is unappealingly squeaky and they're rather too prominent in the mix at the minute.
Ahh, we've seen the start now. Half-nekkid bodhran boys doing their stuff at the end of the catwalk before the camera whisks past them and zooms in on our leather-clad oompa loompa hero. Makes sense. OK then - I'm officially declaring this a successful enough first rehearsal for those who thought the song, singer and staging were successful enough in the first place.
This always promised to be one of the harder rehearsals to blog because - guess what? - she stands there and sings the song for three minutes. And yet! There are some additional production touches to talk about: several nice split-screen effects, gentle and elegant camera crane sweeps and (and!) a wind machine that kicks in forcefully at the key change. Hurrah!
The key change is problematic in other ways, though: so far, she's struggled with the last minute of the song every time, with her voice consistently cracking on several notes - something you notice all the more because, without backing singers, she's so exposed against the backing track. Of course, this comes with the usual first rehearsal/"Eurovision week cold" provisos, but still - something to watch out for next time round.
I could believe this might be her final outfit, too: the word is "elegant" again, a slightly see-through, slightly lacey evening number in chocolate brown.
Overall impressions, then? Honestly, it could qualify - being easily the simplest and most straightforward thing in this entire semi-final, it has the potential to cut through all the kitchen sink stuff the other countries are trying and really strike a chord. Alternatively, it could come across as a small song from a small country and sink without a trace.
If you don't mind, I won't blog this one...
Only kidding. But seriously, there is so little to say about this. There's more leather jacket action here (although Lithuania will precede Ireland in the draw, of course). There's also remarkably little eyebrow-wiggling so far (although there's still time for that). Otherwise, Andrius just stands at his mic stand and delivers the song straight-facedly to camera while four backing singers loiter in the background. The lighting is purple and... yep, that's about it, at least for now. I'll report back if any of the later run-throughs happen to feature pyros or women on trapezes or the like.
...haha! And there we go - Andrius is wearing a big fat pair of dark glasses on his third run-through. Maybe they're anticipating a Portugal 1997 result...
As some are keen to point out, we ESC bloggers are mere faux press. As such, there inevitably comes a moment when our writing skills are inadequate to convey what's happening in front of our eyes. This, dear readers, is one such moment. As soon as the cameras first caught sight of the Serbian girls' outfits, a collective gaspter (that's a mixture of "gasp" and "laughter") rang around the room, and with good cause. They're wearing... christ, what are they wearing? Pastel and candy-coloured outfits straight out of the children's toybox, one of them in yellow-and-white striped leggings, another sporting armour-like plastic shoulder pads... it's like something out of a doll's house, but the scary kind you get in horror films where the dolls have the power to kill you just by flickering their dead, empty eyes in your direction.
Oh, let's not beat around the bush: they look like idiots.
Vocally they're fine, routine-wise it's more or less the same thing as in the national final (the other two try to persuade Nevena that love is good/crap by dragging/pushing her around a bit), but really... there is no other focus right now than on those outfits. Did someone tell them the "angel and devil" image was likely to offend the more prudish sections of the televoting public or something? And if so, who decided the solution was an explosion in an Edinburgh rock factory? Gaah.
Their heels are quite funky though.