Friday 10 May 2013

Friday evening rehearsals

Still a bit goosbumpy after seeing Moldova in the hall, but anyway...

Those of you who will be seated close to the catwalk are in for a treat, as the dancers will be bodhráning right above you throughout the intro and first verse, much of this isn't caught on camera unfortunately.

Not much has changed from their first rehearsals - a lot of choreography involving the dancers on the drums (looks great), the actual drummer playing about with the red-illuminated hive of bombos (fits the act), and very shiny people - the dancers' oily torsos and Ryan's jacket (not sure about this...). The biggest problem here remains the backing singers being too loud in the mix. But we gave up on them fixing this because they seem to think it's a good idea.

A bit of pyro towards the end now (a smidge of fireworks blowing up from behind and then in front of them), not really helping it, but it's nice to see a bit of yellow among all this black and red I suppose.

Again, not much to say about this one. The intro with the spotlight behind Despoyna looks nice, and the Sara Varga split screen thing works well. And I like her shiny earrings. And with full makeup now, some viewers might wonder what the Slovenian singer is doing on stage again.

A very dark setting, combined with Roberto's black suit and the dancers' black dresses, there's a lot of floating heads going on. He sings well and the sound mix is great. The press area chuckled when the dancers were wriggling about with their hands fixed on their crotches (or was it an "I'm pregnant" dance?), but otherwise the choreography comes across fine. And there was the mandatory DUBSTEP moment during the DUBSTEP:

This song feels very much at home in this MF semi arena, but Roberto's terrified child look (whether he's actually terrified or just naturally looking like this) remains its biggest problem, and this one's still very hard to call.

We didn't see the first runthrough, just the photo of the swirly coloured butterfly on screens. Not much different from what Moje3 looked like on Tuesday when I think of it...

We see them now, and yes, they look the same. It sounds great, but the cameras are still quite a mess, as well as the lighting, with some of them that are supposed to be in focus left in the dark. This needs a lot of work, and time is running out... We'll probably still see this on Saturday, but I wouldn't be saying this if this wasn't Serbia and sung last in a small semi. Hmm.

Friday afternoon rehearsals (part 2)

Much the same as it was on Tuesday, just tidier.

The guys emerge from smoke, backlit in green in a nifty slow motion shot to start the song. Nina doesn't join them on stage until the first chorus, popping up from below the stage, using a lift that nobody else has used, which is a little surprising as it's very effective.

They're very much going for the 'sexy cyborg' look for Nina, and the guys remain in their spacesuits, complete with helmets lit from inside. The whole look is very dark - it's only for her second chorus that Nina comes forward into the light - which is an interesting choice.

Either way, it's very distinctive, and I really hope this does get through to the final, if only because it'll be great TV for the Saturday night audience. And based on this, it stands a pretty decent chance.

Uff... what to say about Lithuania? He stands in the middle of the stage, he sings it fine, he wiggles his eyebrows far too much... It's purple...

I don't like the song, so I'm biased here, but this is just completely underwhelming. To be honest, they'd do well not to come last.

Oh dear... Alyona Lanskaya obviously overslept this morning, because she's run to the arena in such a hurry that she's forgotten to put her trousers on. How embarrassing...

A much better rehearsal for Belarus today - much tidier after the messes we saw on Tuesday. There's a few camera shots that aren't there yet, including the first zoom in to Alyona's face as she emerges from the giant disco-ball at the beginning, but other than that, it's all very tight.

Her dancers have once again got their arms out, and are showing a bit of chest this time too! And speaking of arms, there's a great Yaz Bitti Moment in the second verse. We love a Yaz Bitti Moment.

As for the song's chances? Obviously qualifying, but it's not the contender it seemed a couple of months ago. There's something very joyless about the whole thing, as the Alyona-bot goes through all the motions, smiles into the camera, but somehow never fully connects.

On Tuesday, we were basically thinking that they had this perfect already. Today, it's the same - it all looks great, very slick, really coming across on screen. So it was interesting to overhear the delegation on the arena floor seemingly unhappy, and a clear "we'll fix it" from the producers.

Anyway, as far as we could see, everything seems to be pretty much in place. Aliona perhaps isn't nailing it as much vocally as she did in the first rehearsal - in particular, she didn't go for the big high note going into the last chorus on any run-through today - but she doesn't need to.

Some of the camerawork is a little different - the initial shot at the piano is now behind the pianist (who wasn't Pasha today!) rather than in front, and I'm pleased to report, again, that the backing dancers have got their arms out. They're dressed in something tight and form-fitting - we've seen one of them in something even more small and form-fitting, but we're keeping quiet about that one.

More trivia from the arena:
- Aliona's dress is actually white in its natural state
- it takes all three backing dancers to carry the rest of the dress as she walks on and off stage

Surely a comfortable qualifier for Moldova, even if the delegation don't seem so sure just yet.

Getting into business

In our quest to test out the various facilities, we have now officially had a go at the press centre printers. We felt it was fittingly retro. But then, what to print?

A photo of a cat looking at iPhone covers with pictures of itself on them, of course.

A sign with DUBSTEP also seemed vital, for those earth-shattering, crucial moments, so it simply had to be done. Photographic evidence to come! We're just waiting for some dubstep. I don't think Moldova has added any since their first rehearsals...

Friday afternoon rehearsals (part 1)

So the task on reporting the next batch of songs is mine! Yay. Here we go:

I'll say one thing first; the dress is NOT very flattering for her legs. Or maybe it's her legs that just aren't very flattering in the first place. But she does come across slightly like an etherial wood nymph (waist up) with treetrunk legs.

Anyway, the colours are the same as before. She sings well but doesnt give it all her energy, which makes sense.

It's all hard to judge because we have seen this exact same performance a million times by now. But it was effective the first time, back in the danish final, so there is no reason why it wouldn't be now

Nobody else has internet now but me! The internet seems to have gone down in the press center, but I'm just using my 3G anyway. One of the advantages of having Eurovision in your home country. :-)

Anyway, Russia just started. But we now have almost no sound. Hmm
I'm gonna sound really superficial now, commenting on people's bodyparts, and I apologize for that. But she really has quite hairy arms. Sleeveless dress and a massive screen in the press centre is not a great combination then...

The lights does seem all off at the moment. It looks quite unfinished, and the backing singers throwing white XXL gooseberries into the audience is a quite lame anticlimax.

Dina and the backing singers sing it perfectly though.

Second run through, the lights make a bit more sense now. It's all very pink.

We now got to see them in their outfit. Zlata in a multicoloured metal christmas ornament mermaid tail, and the giant dressed up as Roger Pontare.

Somehow it really doesnt look horrible though, but kinda works. The colours in the dress and the stage backdrop blend well together. It might not be everyones taste, but it is sure going to get noticed.

Vocally there are no problems and Zlata seems to.know what she is doing. One of the backing singers seems to be hungover and is missing, with a standin taking his/her place.

Secong runthrough. Zlata is still looking like she knows exactly what she is doing, and as she really has fun being on stage. I do suspect this could do quite well, if it gets a very late draw in the final. It's slightly like Ukraine 2011... memorable!

They keep "forgetting" to turn on the screens for the first 30 seconds. But one of the times we did get a brief peek of the intro. Sam says it seemed like they were doing some sort of camera effect when the giant walks. The picture flickers with each step he takes, as if the ground is shaking.

I still wonder what this will be like when there is audience in the hall. Standing on the satellite stage, she will naturally be surrounded by heads, flags, boas and happy people. And its just not that kind of song...

Anouk looks a bit tired today (rough night?) and seems to basically just do what is required but not more. Which makes sense considering she has already rehearsed this and there just isn't anything to rehearse for her, having the possibly simplest staging of all.

She sometimes does manage to look at the cameras... but it's as if she's looking AT the camera, not INTO it. She could definitely connect better with the viewers.

Interviews: Austria, Slovenia, Finland

Natália: Latin is not my thing

Hannah sings I Feed You My Love

Krista: Alcohol is Free in weddings

Unleash the zebra

Last night we attended the live talkshow at the Eurocafé, this time with Zlata as a guest. She turned out to be s lovely girl who tried her best to speak English even when she had no clue what she was saying. Among other things she told us that "I open to everyone" and that when her previous relationship ended she "just needed a takeaway". (Who doesn't)
She also let us know that the giant lives in America. Apparently, in Rochester. And together they are a bit "like Fiona and Shrek".
Nevertheless, nice and fun gal. And she also gave us some token singing.

Friday "morning" rehearsals - semi 1

We welcome you from the freshly opened press centre! It's rather massive, and looks swishy, but we have been experiencing some issues with getting on the wifi so far. A few of us can't get on it at all, for some reason, and as my computer is apparently too new to have an orifi for cable internet, a little bee has lent me his computer. So if there's weird spelling errors due to misplaced keys, you know why!

We've had three run-throughs of Slovenia, and even though the monitor sound in this part of the press centre is quite low, I'm hearing some rather shouty, dodgy notes here... No drastic changes to it visually, apart from the addition of sunglasses to the dancers. Y u cover up pwetty? :-(

All in all, this looks good, I think, but keep an eye (or ear?) out for the straight into LOOOAAARGGHH&%VE note...

Birgit is determined to have us believe this entry is even more oldfasioned than it already is, by keeping the black and white effect for the first verse. I don't think it works at all.

When the colours do come on, it's mostly in warm tones of yellow, that adds nicely to the performance - the warm, welcoming glow fits the song very well. You'd think it was doomed, being a generic ballad drawn as #2, but I think there's a fair chance they might actually qualify with this.

And we have fog! No frog, sadly.

Yami sitting next to me thinks the Austrian choreography is a bit static. It resembles a still butterfly. Or it might just have been the generic We are one-image on screen, and they forgot to turn on the picture. It's hard to tell.

This is actually my first impression of this, as I just missed on Monday. My first thought is that she has shiny trousers. And that the backing singers are standing in a circle like Tie-Break or an inverted Tommy Seebach Band. Not very good omens there...

Condom lamps are down on the stage in the first part of the song, in light blue. Gives the stage (which is predominantly purple) a cold, stylish feel, and the contrast of that to the much warmer glow when the condoms disappear works nicely, I find. There's not much wrong with this, and should've been in with a shout of qualifying, especially had it been from a country with more friends, but it's just a bit... there.

This one got off to a bit of a slow start... The Emporia stage is set with lots of children and people in general, and there are some shots of Jon Ola Sand and Christer Björkman looking hungry and confused, but unable to get a table due to the sheer busyness.

It takes a while to get going, but when it does, oh my, it has DUCKS, in a soy-based sauce. Omnomnom.

The stage is looking lovely for this, with a starry sky in the back, and bright red encircling the stage. The song is also sounding lovely, and they sing it well, but... Hmmm. I've been convinced this is an easy qualifier for months, but not so sure anymore. There's nothing wrong with it per se, maybe apart from some of the interaction (both with the cameras and each other) being a bit uncomfortable, but it somehow seems a bit out of place, and not in the good way... A shame, really.

The EBU press conference

Good morning, from a vast if slightly chaotic press centre at the Malmömässan. We're here, we have our free green bottle to use with the tap water, we have an Anouk CD, and we're ready to blog.

We attended this morning's EBU press conference. It was streamed online, so I won't give you a full blow-by-blow account, but I would like to talk about some of the more interesting points.

We learned that the shorter rehearsal period has been judged to be a success, and was brought in as a way of keeping costs down for smaller delegations - it's one day less to pay for hotels for 30 people, after all. The costs were perhaps also one reason for choosing Malmö over Stockholm; we've certainly experienced that it's a much less expensive city. The closed rehearsals for the first days also came at the request of delegations, and apparently it was 'some of the more professional singers' who preferred not to have their full rehearsal videos going online instantly. It's seen as a way of encouraging bigger acts to the contest.

Unsurprisingly, the new Eurovision app came up, and the question of how votes are counted. On an iOS device, it will create and send an SMS, meaning you'll be charged in the normal way, and according to Sietse Bakker, your vote will be registered in the country you're in. I'm not sure this is actually correct - I've generally found a vote sent to a short-code number doesn't work when roaming. On an Android device you'll have to set up voting via Paypal - your phone number and credit card must be registered in the same country, and your vote will be counted in the country. (As an aside, I tried this for the UK and it didn't work - it seems the system is only set up for around 30 of the participating countries.)

And as a super-extra-thrilling bonus, you'll get a video from the act you voted for, thanking you for your support!

An important issue addressed was that of how the Big 5 will choose their starting position in the final, or rather whether they'll be in the first half. It seems that it's been decided that three of the 'Big 5 + Sweden' group will be in the first half, and three in the second half. With Sweden already drawn at #16, this leaves five balls - three in the first half, and two in the second half. Each country will draw a ball at their press conferences next Wednesday.

This means that the Big 5 countries, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the UK, all have a 3/5 chance of singing in the first half of the show. Perhaps not the most random approach, but either way they'll be spread out. It'll be interesting to see if this approach is taken with each semi-final - of the ten qualifiers, will five go in the first half and five in the second? We didn't think to ask, so perhaps we'll have to wait until Tuesday night to find out.

And if we understand correctly, when the producers are designing the running order and the reference group are okaying it, Jon Ola Sand is the only one who knows the outcome of the semis.

There was also a lady in a jacket Christine Marchal-Ortiz would have been proud of. She mainly talked about Malmö and tap water though.

The press centre is open!

Morning all! We've left the cinema seats behind - ESC Nation is now coming at you from the newly opened press centre next to the Arena

The usual security queues led to the usual complaints from the usual suspects, but we're in now and the place (a) is pretty sizeable - this isn't quite the full extent of the press working area:

(b) has funky illuminated trees:

and (c) has a nice comfy fan lounge area flanked by baffling wooden structures:

All of which adds up to a pretty nice area to work and rest for the next week! The EBU's press conference will be starting shortly at 11am - among other things, we can expect information on the new voting app, and possibly the provisional dates for the 2014 contest. There should be a live feed here, and we'll summarise all the key details for you afterwards!