Monday 6 May 2013

First day, first impressions!

The first day of the Eurovision fortnight was always going to be an intriguing one for us fortunate members of the "fan press". What would the set-up in the press area be like, how would the first rehearsals go, what about the other innovations that SVT has brought in with a view to streamlining the whole process? We're already starting on Monday rather than Sunday, and the first four days are relatively short, which is to be welcomed given the tendency to burn out by the middle weekend (especially among those of us who like a drink or three).

One interesting new twist is the "meet and greet" that has replaced the first press conferences - probably for the best, since there's really no need for two sets of press conferences when most of them usually brim with bland and fairly obvious questions anyway. Things were a bit chaotic at first, when Natália Kelly's session coincided with the lunch break, leading to something of a scrum at the standing tables:

...but the rest of the day was a lot calmer, and I suspect even the artists appreciate being able to talk face-to-face in a more informal environment. Good work.

So what about the rehearsals themselves? My opinions probably don't differ too strongly from those of my colleagues below. I did think Estonia came over strongly - in the context of the largely underwhelming start to the semi, at least - while Russia managed to start well and improve with each performance, although the whole thing has a deliberate but unmistakable old-fashioned vibe which might not quite work in 2013. So does the Netherlands, but I think that falls under "modern retro", and Anouk manages to be engaging enough without feeling the need to shag the camera.

But the big question is: what next for Ukraine? How can they stop Zlata from tottering around on her podium? How can they stop Zlata's hair from sticking to her face? Do they have more planned for the giant guy, or has he really been shipped all the way to Sweden just to appear for the first ten seconds then unceremoniously dump Zlata on a big fibreglass rock? Only time will tell!

But for now it's time to kick back on the patio, enjoy a beer (one with a real percentage, now that we've been able to get to Systembolaget) and prepare ourselves for the EuroClub/EuroCafé night ahead. Cheers!

Monday afternoon rehearsals


Favourite or not, I'm not expecting this to be an interesting one, as they have announced several times that this would be very similar to what we've already seen in DMGP.

And indeed, it looks much of the same, flute person with the weird shaves in his hair, yellowish stage, Emmelie in a similar dress, the main difference is that her hair isn't all deliberately messed up (which makes her look like a completely different person - incredible stuff).

They're mopping the floor after each run (does she have greasy feet...?).

The screens are now replaying a scene where the flute man gave Emmelie a filthy look. I guess the delegation isn't happy with this. Or that the director is loving it.

Second run and I think the delegation can be pleased with it, it sounds good and looks like just a few camera angle tweaks are needed. My only advice to them is that Fluteman eases down the serial killer expression on his face. Is this part of the act?

Third and last run added gold confetti and Running Scared-style pyro (teardrops of fire?). At parts Emmelie is still not finding the camera (or is knowingly looking away), the sound is still great and the backing singers blend with her voice perfectly. They were obviously very carefully selected for this.


Dina had a rough sleep, judging by her hair. Her voice is mostly fine though. She's surrounded by giant streetlamps (or balloons? or orbs? or gooseberries?), the backings are behind it until the first chorus, then they're slowly creeping in behind her. The visual effect on the keychange is quite impressive - a high wide shot at the front of the arena overlooking the colourful lamps, and would be even more with audience, but up to that points it's quite underwhelming. Especially coming after Denmark.

Feels a bit better the second time. Two of the backing singers were holding a smaller version of the gooseberries, until one of them dropped his. Oops.

No one dropped a gooseberry in the third run (accidentally, anyway, they're still throwing them towards the audience at some point). Another entry where the backing singer mix is well thought of, I would probably have guessed that this is Swedishly produced even if I hadn't known it already.

They're showing her actual dress to the cameras - grey with a bit of glitter at the shoulders. It's very narrow at the centre, hopefully it will unfold by Tuesday or only Marta Roure would be able to wear this.


A small country's annual supply of bronze and feathers has been spent on the outfits - and that's just the little they showed to the cameras before the rehearsal started...

Even Zlata can't hold a straight face when the giant carries her in and sets her down on her plinth. After that the giant goes away and it all becomes kind of normal - she just stands on her plastic rock and doesn't move from her place. Her body moves in lots of several directions though, following the cameras at all time (and working it quite well, I must say). There's no doubt she can sing, either. Backing singers stay in their places too, in a large circle behind her.

The background is some kind of dark forest, I'm guessing a few more props will be added to the lonely plinth.

Second run went less smoothely. The giant set her down in the edge of the plinth rather than the centre, and she lost her balance and nearly fell off it (just as she was saying "gravity" - you can't make this up!)

Third runthrough, and the consensus around here is that this is both what-is-this-I-don't-even ridiculous and omg-I'm-loving-this amazing at the same time. BTW, she doesn't say "I'm alike a butterfly" anymore, but just "like".

Last go, and we're hearing Ukraine 2013, but seeing France 2003. Her hair has completely defied gravity and gone all over her face instead. The press can't hold their laughters at this... Otherwise, it's just fine, and I guess many will find her hot.


Whereas Zlata found the camera at any possible moment, Anouk seems to systematically avoid it, and sing to the front few rows in the arena instead. Not sure it's a good idea, I'm not really connecting with the entry as it is.

As promised, there's no choreography, just her standing and then backing singers that become noticeable at the bridge. The background has, wait for this... birds. They're flying though, not falling. Anouk sounds just fine.

Second runthrough, we heard her getting an instruction from her director to actually look into the camera, but she's not really managing it quite yet...

Third go (after a long break), and she's actually looking at the camera some of the time and showing her personality this entry so depends on. She's selling it now, and I couldn't get my eyes off the screen (and not just because it's my turn to blog and I'm supposed to look and all that).

End of the rehearsal day and we're going to find something to eat because the sandwiches at Euroclub are REALLY SMALL

Monday morning - first rehearsals

Good morning everybody! We're sat in a theatre in Euroclub (which apparently is only temporary for today), and we're ready for Austria's first rehearsal. Here we go!

On her second run-through (we didn't see the first, due to some confusing internet connection shenanigans), Natalia is performing confidently. She'll still in casual clothes, so we won't get a real impression of how it's going to look until Friday, but she's singing well and finding cameras already. We're digging the Sandra Simó rectangular hair too.

The stage looks phenomenal, by the way - all shades of purple at the back. She's lit from above in an effect that bathes her legs in light before the camera finds her face in a strong opening shot, before wandering the stage during the second verse. The backing vocalists start among some tall Ikea lamps, which fly off halfway through the song as the singers surround Natalia. Towards the end she comes out towards the front-left of the stage, with some nifty camera shots.

It looks great, it sounds great, so a pretty good first rehearsal all-in-all, but her qualifying chances are always going to depend on what happens later. Based on this, she should stand a pretty good chance though.

The two people who clapped in the press centre agree.

Birgit is on stage in a long, white floaty dress, which constantly needs hitching up between rehearsals - keep an eye on that one on the night!

The performance starts out with an ill-advised black-and-white effect before moving into colour for the first chorus. Birgit starts on a podium in front of a wave-effect background, which frankly is just distracting, particularly in the black-and-white.

The song finally gains some energy going into the second chorus, but by then I fear it's too late. And the long note into the last chorus comes complete with a very unfortunate shot, where Birgit in a white dress in front of a white light looks rather pregnant. (edit: we're now being told on Twitter that Birgit *is* pregnant! Maybe we'll get Tom to ask her later.)

Estonia's one of my favourites, but based on this rehearsal, I'm not particularly hopeful. Martin over at disagrees though.

Sild tells us there's a hottie in Slovenia. We're back in place to check this out!

And yep, he's there! So are Jenny Skavlan Hannah and the full stage outfits, though hopefully not the full stage make-up. For once, Slovenia haven't totally over-cooked this, with simple black leather outfits that look very effective, and no whips and chains to be seen (yet). The overall effect is slightly empty, but the dancing is decent and there's plenty of energy.

As for the singing, this is only a first rehearsal, but it's mainly fine. This is a difficult song, and every run-through has different dropped high notes, but I don't think it makes a huge difference really. In summary - competent, not amazing. And most of the problem is still with the song.

The difficulty with a song like this in a live arena environment is balancing the different vocals to create the harmony effects from the studio version. It mainly works decently here, partly because the six are all very skilled singers - the actual vocals were never something we were going to have to worry about.

The six mainly stand in the middle of the stage, wearing what looks like full 18th century navy dress uniform, though their delegation passes spoil the effect a little. As might be expected, the stage is quite dark and blue, as much of today has been. I thought they'd go with more of a 'sea' theme here, but there's little of that, and certainly nothing of the video - no disappearing birds, for example.

What there also isn't here is any interaction with the cameras - the group very much interact with one another through the singing on stage. It's all very authentic, but will it work for the audience? I fear it may come across as a bit 'yes, very good, but why should I care?'

To sum up my overall impressions from this morning, I think Austria came across as the strongest, with Slovenia as the weakest. Estonia has potential if they can tart up the first minute of the song, and Croatia is lovely, but the performance is perhaps rather unengaging.

Four more to come this afternoon, when Yami takes over the blogging. See you then.

Hi Slovenian dancer!

That is all.

Excuse me, thank you, ouch, sorry

A common dialogue in the tiny theatre where all press is squeezed to view the rehearsals. It's also really warm in here. Ghëh :-/

Other than that, the stage and sound are really quite impressive. They made me enjoy Estonia, which says a lot (or maybe I secretly like it?).

The most exciting thing to happen so far is that escgalaxy has already made the first comparison of the day.