Saturday 11 May 2013

Saturday afternoon rehearsals (part 3)

Solbjørg Lislefleis here, giving you my impressions on the five last entries of semi 2. And guess who's first...

Biased-o-rama review coming up, but this is great!

Saw the first run-through in the arena, where tiny little red lights were decorating the seating area as Margaret was wriggling her way onto the stage. A word of advice; don't touch these lights - it breaks all of them. Sam learned this the hard way.

Visually, it's just like it has been - outstanding. And unlike Hungary, which works on screen, but less so in the hall, this is stunning in the arena too, with great changes of the backdrop to match with the different parts of the song, flashing lights and a bass that digs into your spine.

Judging by the second run-through on screen Margaret herself is trying a bit less today - she doesn't look as engaging as she did in the first rehearsal, and there's also some notes that are a little off. But seeing as we know she's capable of it, and presumably she knows too, she might not be putting every effort in. Still covers me in gooseberrybumps all the way through, though - would make a great winner in a week's time, and should certainly manage to qualify easily.

Some Azerbaijanis near us in the press centre appear to be setting up a Norwegian flag - damn that oil voting exchange!

The smell of freshly made chicken is distracting me a little during the first run-through of Albania, as Jonas decided to bring a massive grilled carcass back from the supermarket after the break. It does smell very yumsy, and the potatissallad even more so. Wonder if there'll be any leftovers...

Albania doesn't smell at all, funnily. Though they do look like they might... I assume their looks won't harm them at all, though - it's not exactly Justin Bieber's fanbase they're going for. It does look very right for what it is, not much more to say really - and no noticeable changes from their first rehearsal.

Third and last set gives us the pyro, and it really improves this one. Starts off from the start, with steam columns and fire shooting up from the floor throughout. Fits perfectly with the stage and lighting, which is set in red and yellow. Bledar heads for the satellite stage for his pyrotastic guitar solo, which is a nice touch, but I'm less sure about the seemingly random explosions of falling pyro at the end.

All in all, I still don't think Albania is a qualifier, but it sure isn't because of the performance they put on.

We're treated with a bum note or two in the first verse or so, but they're nailing it (and nailing it loudly too) towards the end, when it matters. It looks neat too, and although it still feels a bit too calculated for my liking, the interaction and chemistry between them has improved a lot. There's one shot somewhere in the middle that I find a bit odd, though, where Noddy is standing behind Sopho on stage. Filmed from the front it just looks like he's standing next to her (but slightly out of focus), looking in a weird direction to the side of the camera - looks a bit lousy, until you understand the point of it.

The awaited falling pyro for the keychange is still in place, but still doesn't look as good as it wants to, and could. There's mainly three reasons for it, I find:

- The "line" it's coming from is split in two, which makes it less a big wall of, well, firefall, and more two big lumps.
- It's falling from too high up, meaning it drizzles out before it reaches the stage floor - or even reaches the camera shot when we get some close-ups of them.
- It's over long before the song ends, making the ending a bit of an anticlimax.

The columns of steam coming just before the big moment, one by one around the stage, looks very nice, though. This is no winner by any means, just by virtue of being a bit ordinary, but is obviously qualifying with ease, and should match Georgia's usual final results.

The Swiss were nice enough to spice up their immense dullness with a disrupted second run-through - we're not sure why, but something was presumably not just going just right. Maybe Gygax was nervous about the knee-slide or something. At least we're hoping he's still planning to get that back, this performance is in desperate need of some spice... I actually like the song, and have done for, what, half a year, but these three minutes feel sooo long with them just standing there in a line.

Also, lead girl has the most Swiss face I've ever seen.

We're going out with a bang today, aren't we... Or rather, with a howl and a screech. The Cezar acts like his usual, dramatic self, and there are few words to describe the whole thing, really.

"HE SHAVED HIS CHEST" is being shouted across the press centre. Indeed he did.

I find myself appreciating the verses a little, and particularly the build-up to the chorus, but honestly... This is great tv, but I doubt it's a great vote-grabber.


Saturday afternoon rehearsals (part 2)

The outfits are a bit surprisingly muted in terms of colour, and do come across as kinda... boring? Why all the black and white? The stage is also quite pale and colourless, up until the last part of the song when it goes kinda peachy.

But apart from the colouring of it, it seems quite effective and basically doing what it should. They're charismatic and energetic and have shaved their upper arms (maybe they can teach Dina a thing or two?).

There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that this should not do well in this semifinal. Those who are hoping that Greece will fail will surely be disappointed.

One thing I noticed now though, is that it often looks like Agatonas is the lead singer, rather than a feature. Because they film him A LOT, even when both him and the rest of the band are all singing together, then the filming still makes it look like it's Agatonas singing. Making Koza Mostra a bit of his backup band. Not sure that's what they wanted?

Moran HAS changed a lot about the dress. It's still the same basic design with the white stripes, the big cleavage and the bumpy hips. But they've added a lot of sparkle and rhinestones on it, including a rhinestone strategically placed right in between her boobs. It also has some fluff at the bottom and a white train that's layed out in a circular shape on the floor. And when they film her from behind you see a big white zipper at the back.

Vocally she doesn't seem to have any problems, and the backing singers sing really great as well. (A little disappointed that we won't be getting any Olé Olé moment from the Israeli backings this year).

The colours of the costumes and the stage are once again mostly black and white, but in my opinion it works for this. I'm often of the opinion that colours help people remember entries better, but there's enough visual input to make one's brain remember this song anyway. And a dark stage is quite logical to this kind of song.

They're really selling the song the best they can, I suppose. The song is always gonna be what it is, love it or hate it. But the singer comes across as quite charismatic and genuine, and the fact that the outfits aren't very flashy and "stage-y" but rather casual, works well with what they're trying to achieve. And there's some smoke and things, but nothing extreme.

He had a bit of a Corinna May-moment and held the last note for waaaay much longer than he should. That's about it.

Take two: I need to make an addition to the above statement about the outfits.

Light brown leather loafer shoes ought to be almost as illegal as CROCS!

That's all.

The video backdrop that we've already seen as the preview video and a similar positioning of the three people as in the NF. But it works really well on the big stage. Alex of course looking as cute as he always does. Everything comes together to create quite a "cosy" atmosphere. Hard to say if it will grab votes or not, but it does stand out... Especially considering it's all very green and bright colours, after a bunch of songs that were all more or less grey.


Saturday afternoon rehearsals (Finland - Iceland)

This thing should come with a warning in some countries for overload of pink. This is very, very, pink, and the pinkest kind of pink. Krista's lipstick, her shoes, the band on her knee, the glove, the nail varnish, the dresses on the dancers after they strip off their moustaches and many elements on the stage and background. All nauseously pink. And Krista's really pink lipstick got smeared over the Jane Bogaert-looking backing singer's face after she got kissed, so it's infectious too. Iiiih. At least the flower she plucks during the first ding dong isn't. It's orange.

Other than that, it's very poppish and energetic and comes across more or less as intended. And she does look like she's having fun on stage - quite important for this one (Belarus, take a note!)

And she ran out of petals in the third runthrough, because she only brought one flower. Oops.

Gianluca's left earlobe is too big for its headphone, and it seems to pull it down awkwardly. And the background with the yellow on blue still looks like a Blockbuster advert. He looks all smiley and cheerful and the whole thing comes across as quite sweet - not sure about the distracting lyrics in the background, but overall the staging fits the song nicely.

We're munching on Belarussian sweets during the second go, this combination will end up in a severe sugar rush.

There's so much going on there, that I only noticed that Elitsa is barefoot near the end of the song. Not sure if it's a good or a bad thing. The standout effect here is the yellow glowing drumsticks, but then she just throws them towards Stoyan, but they land somewhere in the middle and this looks awkward. And in the second run she dropped one of hers by mistake. Oh, and there's more pink lipstick (on Elitsa, not on the dead goose).

Third runthrough and no accidental stick dropping this time. Lighting needs some work, as they were in complete darkness when they did the catwalk towards the end. Well, the Atomium drums will surely guarantee some points from Belgium.

So, Eyþór seems to be the bitch who delayed everyone at the security queue this morning, because he's wearing a LOT of metal. About fifteen rings, a big metallic bracelet and a shiny chain on his vest, all sticking out as everything else (except his hair) is very black.

Other than that, it's staged beautifully with the backing singers appearing dramatically from the dark background, and this is the strongest package I've seen today (except maybe Azerbaijan).

Second runthrough and he's now back to the Rui Bandeira white jacket. Decide! Third go and he's wearing black again. I vote for this outfit. I didn't hear it though, because Krista is dingdonging around us.

A Bisexual Triangle Lovestory

Once there was a little boy called Farid. He had a voice of gold and bushy eyebrows. But what he loved more than Everything in the world was his boyfriend. They were happy together, but Farid loved him perhaps a little bit too much. He was constantly worrying about losing him to the temptations of the outside world. So day after day he began to hold him tighter and started to try to control his every movement, to make sure that he wouldn't lose him.

Time passed, and his boyfriend began to feel as if he was trapped in a cage. (Or a glassbox). But all he knew was Farid and their great love for each other. Until one day, when a mysterious sensual woman in red came along and knocked on their door. And unfortunately for Farid, his boyfriend immediately fell in love with her.

For a while both Farid and the Red Woman fought over the boy they both wanted. But for Farid boyfriend, the Red Woman represented freedom, so he chose the sensual female mystery over his old love. They kicked Farid out of the house and he had to wander the the world alone and heartbroken.

I *think* that is what the Azerbaijani performance is trying to say

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.

Interviews: Russia, Montenegro, Lithuania, Belarus, Cyprus

Dina: Eurovision is another story

Who See like the Moldovan dancers

Andrius: Sanremo is too much for me

Alyona: I'm friends with everyone

Despina: I get easily abstracted