Thursday, 8 May 2014

Semi 2 Jury Rehearsal - impressions, predictions, and what to expect tonight

I attended last night's Jury Rehearsal with a few friends and despite some complaints and issues I read from others regarding the logistics and difficulties getting in, it was all very orderly and efficient. Yes, there's the annoying issue of slogging through potholed pavements and hopping over muddy puddles to get to the hall, but it is a shipyard after all, so my advise would be to just not wear stilettos (a common mistake of mine).

One of the most strange phenomenons I've probably ever encountered in Eurovision happened when standing in line to enter the hall. The security check is what you'd expect and moves along rapidly but once you pass through, it's free reign into the hall. Get this - no one checked, scanned or asked for our tickets(!), and at no point were we asked to present it. We were so surprised that we stood there to see if we're the lucky ones, but this was the process for everyone, you just file through and once you're in, you're in. Yes, there are people there who scan tickets but they're stationed after the security check and it's up to you to decide if you want to go through them or just continue on to the food and drinks stands, and from there into the hall. Even when you're inside you're free to decide if you want to stand in the fan zone or head on up to the stalls. We were gobsmacked.
Perhaps it's a charming laid back Danish custom of assuming that if you're going to bother to head all the way out to a shipyard on a chilly May night then you might as well just find a seat and settle in. It could be all different for tonight and the remaining rehearsals, but if you're already in town and without a ticket there's really nothing to lose by heading over and giving it a try.

To the show, which was to a packed hall with only a few bald spots in the fan standing zones (which again, people were free to go down to at any time). The opening is fun, with a brief recap of shots from Semi 1 and a troupe of dancers in futuristic costumes performing an enjoyable routine. Then the hosts come out with the usual banter, and on to the songs.  Side note - the acoustics in the hall are surprisingly good! They did a wonderful job of giving the audience an optimal audio experience.

Great opener! They perform this flawlessly to a beautiful flower field backdrop and old black and white photos of whomever being peppered into the cubes. It sets a great upbeat cheerful tone and gets the audience right into it, with roaring approval. Prediction: qualifier.

Disclosure: this is my personal fave and I'm somewhat obsessed to the point of almost-stalker with Mei, but I tried to remain as objective as I can when putting together my notes this morning. After a somewhat wobbly rehearsal earlier yesterday which caused some concern among Israelis in the press center, Mei brought her game face to this one and was vocally superb. Together with the 2 gorgeous dancers they create a wonderful girl power experience for the audience, which in return give her an incredible lift with constant cheering and clapping to the beat (vid on my FB page). It of course doesn't harm that she's also facing a sea of Israeli flags in the fan zone and it all comes together brilliantly.  Prediction: qualifier.

Perfect placing for this ballad after the previous ruckus, and during the postcard the monitors notify the crowd to turn on their camera lights which lends to a stunning surrounding atmosphere for Carl to ease into. Vocally this is flawless but to me it seemed a bit stiff and I'm not sure if Carl made intimate contact with the juries or indeed in the hall, which was a bit more subdued than I expected given where we are. Despite that - prediction: qualifier.

This is where things went downhill and fast, at least for the audience (and probably on stage too) after such a superior trio of songs. There's the parachute on stage which no one understands what its purpose is, and that's the most interesting thing going on. Complete indifference in the arena to the point that we could see people shifting about and seemingly not paying attention. Even the fan zone has tuned out at this stage, and I doubt the juries will do this any better justice. Prediction: non-qualifier.

This has soft porn written all over it and at this point they should lower the lights and guide people to peeping booths. I don't know about the demographic tonight but there were a lot of families and young children in the hall and I'm not sure what they thought of this. The sexual innuendos aren't subtle or obscured, and from the getgo we're treated to bursts of deep cleavage shots on the cubes as Cleo starts her song. And in case anyone is unclear what's going on, a young lass brings her laundry bucket to the furthest point of the catwalk, and slouches and splashes water around ala oops, I got some on my blouse and into my cleavage, I'm a naughty girl..teehee. As I said, subtle. Still, it's infectious, colourful and a whole lot of fun. Prediction: qualifier.

By far the crowd's fave and even while setting shop during the postcard the audience got into a roaring frenzy. The camera work on this is very clever with Conchita surrounded by darkness as the camera slowly starts zooming in during the first verse and you don't catch glimpse of her face until well into the verse. I've personally warmed up to this because it's such a classy song and Conchita's voice is anything but typical drag - she's genuinely an excellent vocalist, but there's always the fear that the appearance can distract from such a gifted talent. I think the close ups are too frequent and not always flattering to the point that the producers are almost begging you to focus on the beard. We were seated behind a family with two young girls and at the beginning of the song they seemed somewhat engaged (if only due to the crowd's roar), but then when Conchita came into full view they jolted up, pointed to the stage, exchanged some excited words with Mum and whipped out the cameras. At that point I don't think they or their parents paid any attention to the song, and I'm not convinced people at home will either, so I'll go a bit out on a limb. Prediction: non-qualifier. So so so very hope I'm wrong.

Coming on up after Conchita is a tall order for anyone, let alone a song that at least to me requires some repeat listening to get into. The black and blue leather costumes, the tutu with the holes and interesting dance moves have been discussed before, and while Vilija is beautiful and sounded great, the audience wasn't paying much attention. Still, it's Lithuania and they've managed before with much worse but I'm not sure there's enough here to achieve that. Prediction: non-qualifier.

Everything here works. They're vocally spot on, the tempo gets the hall going and there's nothing about this that I could point to that could keep them away from Saturday. Prediction: qualifier.

This was a very good performance for them, and the Celtic themed backdrop + floor projection design is probably the most eye pleasing of the night. Kasey's had some vocal issues in previous rehearsals but at least from the hall this sounded fine, although I noticed a lacking of eye contact and not enough smiling when I glimpsed over to the monitors. As it's been said before, the dancers seem out of place and at times it almost looks as if they're wandering on and off stage ala Jimmy Jump in Oslo. Prediction: non-qualifier.

In one word: slick! Teo is a stage animal and moves and sings with such ease and charisma that the audience roared with approval throughout. Clad in black suits with casual open neck shirts, Teo and his dancers shift effortlessly on the stage with his lads providing superb backing vocals as well. If I had to pick a Netherlands of this semi in terms of betting status and post-semi buzz it would be this. Prediction: qualifier.

F.Y.R. Macedonia
Tijana seems like a good singer, as witnessed in the Israeli party on Monday and indeed last night, but this song just seems to go nowhere. The black and white staging for this is visually beautiful and she's wearing a black pant suit with white piping to match, but I'm doubtful this has the goods to make it further. Prediction: non-qualifier.

I never really paid previous attention to this song, but seeing them on stage you can do nothing but, and then some. Sebalter and his crew are absolutely magnificent, making eye contact, smiling to each other and the cameras, and you can tell they're having a blast. This is so energetic and fun, and the audience got into it and clapped and cheered all the way through. Sebalter gradually makes his way to the catwalk and the fan zone greets him with gusto. Prediction; qualifier.

This gets a great serve-up by the hosts who introduce Greece as the land of democracy, something else, and tzatziki (cue laughter) which in return causes the audience to greet the artists with a huge cheer as they get ready. Luckily for them, this suffers nothing from the shaky vocals because it's all about the rap, the beat and the spectacular visual accompaniment. Toss in a trampoline with a jumping man in a tight white onesie, the two lads joining him at some point, the manic pulsing backdrop- and this sets the hall on fire. Prediction: qualifier.

I can't say I saw it coming but this was quite lovely on stage, and like others before it could benefit mightily from following in the footsteps of such a loud predecessor.Tinkara is in a dark blue gown with an atmospheric backdrop that beautifully blends with it, and both her and her flute sound pitch perfect. To me this could pull a San Marino and slip into Saturday without being noticed.  Prediction: qualifier.

True to the standard we've been accustomed to by Romania in Eurovisions past, Paula and Ovi throw the kitchen sink into this one. The song itself is pretty meh to me, nothing there to like or wish to inflict on others, but the show they put on is so spectacularly over the top that I ended up loving it. What don't we have here? A human hologram that lends itself to the illusion of Paula being in two places at once, a hula hoop circular keyboard that Ovi wriggles his way in and out of (looking absolutely ridiculous in the process, but that's besides the point), pyros from here to kingdom come, and a dizzying backdrop of doves, skies and hues. Not too shabby, and the audience eats it up, as admittedly did I. Wonderful way to close the semi. Prediction: qualifier.

I won't spill the beans too much on the intermission but there's a fabulous dance show put on by a bunch of kids who were chosen after submitting their own clips to the show, and ending with a little old lady in a sparkling silver blouse who comes on stage and brings the roof down with her dance moves.
We then get another equally pleasing segment which is basically an orgy of love for Australia. It starts with a funny video clip followed by a marvelously and spectacularly weird stage frenzy which features a giant kangaroo, a huge mouse platypus, a gigantic bug, a shirtless surfer on his board, rugby players huddling in short shorts, a tennis player, and a backdrop of dingos, parakeets, the Outback, local currency and a giant Russel Crowe (at least I think that's him?). Whatever you do, DON'T MISS THIS! This of course all leads up to the introduction of Jessica Mauboy who is chart topping star back Down Under and who belts out a great song which would be a serious contender in any Eurovision, but is greeted with relative indifference by the local crowd.

It's going to be a glorious show all around, one of the most enjoyable semis I can recall :-)

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