Monday 5 May 2014

1st Dress Rehearsal - SF1 : After the songs...

Voting done  and we have a quick tour of Copenhagen.

Trying not to spoil it for people but it is quite unique. We are shown the good things of Copenhagen with what looks like the secret service on hand to ensure that only the good things are seen. We also have a gigantic Little Mermaid helicoptered in and placed on top of the real one so that the tourists can enjoy her in her beauty... A fun concept but they haven't been true to the Copenhagen most of us have encountered - bad bus service, confusing roads, people puking in the street at 5pm, people shouting in the street at 5am like last night, bad bathrooms and plenty more ... but this does not get mentioned to the tv viewers. We did find out today though that it was worse in 2001 so we should consider ourselves lucky we didn't have to do it twice.

The next record is "Most Silver" which could only be won by one person! To be revealed tomorrow night.

After the record, we have a run-through of the Big 5 plus Denmark.

Finished the preview of the six songs, Lise goes to talk to Jon Ola Sand. He needs more time since there are many votes to count, so Lise gratiously gives him more time. To fill in time she asks him what he thinks of the show. Being the Executive Producer, we could imagine what his reply would be.

Another record, "Longest Note" - and a surprise winner here!

Jon Ola then gives his thumbs up to continue with the show and we can now confirm the results are in. We now have qualifiers (in order of announcement by Nikolaj and Pilou):


And finally...


Poor Sanna is crying herself to bed tonight it seems! If this was a true result anyway.

Finally we get a recap of the qualified entries in order of appearance not announcement. Once the recap finishes, the qualified artists are already on stage and waving their flags. Nothing left to say by the trio of hots apart from "Good Night Europe".

And it is a Good Night from us too, off to get ready for Italian and Israeli party both conveniently held in Euroclub! God help us tomorrow.

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1 (P4)

We went from the most unimaginative picture to the once that could be considered the most (up to now). Suzy starts painting the Portuguese flag on a white wall of an art studio. She then puts her back to the wall and measures where the colours meet and starts painting herself (also dressed in white at this point). From head (including hair) to thigh she is paining herself within the flag, Coat of Arms and all. She then finds her spot on the wall and again a timed-photo is taken with her blending herself nearly completely in the flag, leaving only her outline to know she is actually there.

Performance wise, well, her costume is quite revealing. Not much being covered even though there is flesh-coloured material holding her in. Rapturous applause from the present audience. Another song which I might have to change my prediction on - could Portugal go thorough?!

The Dutch postcard can be found on YouTube. However, it is Ilse and Waylon on a canal boat which is transporting tulips. They start bringing the tulips to the bridge and place them in sections of red, white and blue. They alight the boat and go to a bridge. Once the boat is passing underneath them, they take a picture of the tulips forming the Dutch flag.

Another qualifier for the Netherlands. Works well on camera and is a non-pretentious well sung song.

Sergej has a big puzzle which he is putting together on the lid of a grand piano with his two kids. A piece seems to be missing but it turns out that one of the kids was hiding it - to which they laugh about (I don't remember laughter when losing bits of puzzles as a kid but to each their own...). The lid is opened slightly to get a better angle and the picture taken of the puzzle - which is naturally the Montenegrin flag.

The Balkan ballad doesn't fail - even with the ice-skater which again seems a bit too much. It has been noted however that the usual Balkan friends are missing this year and therefore could it be that even though this classic would normally never fail, this year could be the exception to the rule? I hope not since this is probably Montenegro's best chance at qualifying in the history of their taking part as an independent nation.

András is playing with a Rubik Cube while walking in Budapest. He manages to get all colours done and then puts his bag down. He places the cube on the wall of the bridge and proceeds to take out other completed Rubik Cubes from his bag. He starts placing them carefully next to each other with the green side fronting us. On top of these comes white and capped with red. Snapshot of the flag.

Hungary kept the costume simple - a black t-shirt which nicely shows András' arms. The dancers are doing a good job of interpreting the song something which I may not have noticed so much in earlier runs. Sung well and a good ending to the show. Qualified.

Lise then tries to explain the Eurovision fans as two subgroups - the very dedicated fans and the extremely dedicated fans. Whichever one you feel you belong to, you should download the Eurovision app. Another bit of product-plugging in our international show.

Nikolaj and Pilou then explain to us the voting procedure and ask us to vote lest our favourite doesn't make it - again, news to many people I am sure. This leads us to the recap of the songs after which we have a dance interpretation of The Ugly Duckling.

Nikolaj and Pilou are back after the dance to remind us of the voting. In the second run we also see the acts leaving the stage which hopefully warms the audience a bit more to the artists to help tempt them to vote for them if they still haven't. Some of the performers need to try and remember this point since there has been a mix of extremely happy and thankful exits which make you think "oh, sweet, they enjoyed it", while others just had a face of thunder on them which would not make me want to vote for them any more than I haven't felt like doing up to now.

Copenhagen day 1 (for me)

Well, after a bitch of a bustrip where I almost feared for my life from time to time I have finally landed in the presscentre after going through a securitycheck outta this world. Not even Arlanda gave me such a thourough search.

The bus out to B&W hallerne was sort of a joke where they changed the schedule while we were waiting for the bus. BUT we got here. And probably by chance.

Arrived in the middle of the rehearsal so I'll just give a general view. So far it's been a little of a snoozefest and out of key really bad at some points. But now shush, Portugal is on.

Monday afternoon

After spending almost an hour waiting for shuttle buses that never appeared, and then nearly an hour on the bus that eventually did appear, we finally made it out to the arena. In spite of being very late, the dress rehearsal was just at Albania when I got the chance to sit down and watch the screens. I guess the re were delays with the rehearsal too :-)

So, last night was the big opening party for all the delegates. The city hall was a nice venue and provided us with free food and free drinks, which always helps. Otherwise there isnt much to say about it. There was a folk music band in a corner, which resulted in a spontaneous dance performance by Aram mp3, Mariko, the Latvian girl and some of the Icelanders. In general I think most artists really appreciated the chance to hang out and mingle with each other, without being interrupted by fans wanting to take their picture or tell them how much they loved their song but that they think the runner up from the NF was much better.

The night continued at Euroclub, with Ruth and Twin Twin and a bunch of othes performing. I personally left early-ish, and was even in bed by 1.30. Saving myself a bit for later in the week :-)

Tonight there is the Irish Party at 19.30 at the Shamrock Inn. No invitation is needed (accreditation might be needed though...) so if you're around, make sure to come by :-) 

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1 (P3)

We're not really sure how the postcard was made. Dilara was on the roof of a building and started unwrapping see-through plastic film in the blue, red and green colours of Azerbaijan, but then somehow takes a timer-controlled picture of herself and it turns into the flag of Azerbaijan ... hmm... seems like Eurovision points are not the only things which magically happen in the land of fire.

This song is winning the semi. There, I have said it - which now means it will fair terribly on the night. But going back

Mariya is using packs of yellow post-it notes and places them carefully on a train station platform starting from the edge. She writes a message on one of them (I believe it's her name) and waits for a train to come. Yes, trains in Ukraine are light blue. The picture is the blue of the train and the post it notes.

Mariya is dressed in blue, while her running interest is in a black shirt and tie combo. Good performance and a strong qualifier.

Axel is waiting in a laundrette and finishes knitting his black, yellow and red flag. He puts it in the wash and starts. You then see him removing it from the tumble-dryer and a much smaller knitted flag comes out. Pic taken.

Axel sings his heart out but there is not much to this song. 'Mother' is still scary and even though he is the fat kid that people at home usually feel sorry for, as we saw in Antwerp already, will this necessarily get through? Most peopel believe it will but I still don't see this being a sure bet.

Cristina is making clay, but not in a seductive Ghost kind of way, no, more a "plop" version. She makes three columns and colours them. One of them, guess which, has an eagle engraved into it and painted in the colours it should. We then take a picture of the flag.

Cristina still doesn't move but at least her dancers do enough for everyone. And what is missing from a performance with enough wtf moments? The singer ripping her hair out naturally! Why would anyone think this would be a strange idea? I think I had this as a qualifier earlier - doubt it now.

San Marino
Very unimaginative postcard for San Marino. It seems Valentina likes spending time in hangers since she went to an airplane hangar somewhere in San Marino (one assumes) in order to paint a canvas of the Sammarinese flag. Why she didn't do it in her living room one does not know - or dare to ask.

Still sounding very musical rather than Eurovision. This song does not invoke any major feeling and is more of a filler than an entry. Non-qualifier if there ever was one.

Lise is back on the screen doing her bit for tv-shopping addicts across Europe - informing them how they can get the super CD and DVD of this years' entries.

The next record is "Biggest Shoulder Pads". Again, no spoilers.

Nikolaj and Pilou are back to announce the continuation of the show. 

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1 (P2)

Sanna has a lot of breath! She manages to fill a number of yellow lilos and puts them into her community centre swimming pool and takes a picture of the blue and yellow cross flag.

Nothing extra written for Sweden could really do it justice. An impeccable performance and even the couple of notes which might not have been perfect just added to her seeming fragile and being part of the song. Qualifying for sure.

The guys from Pollapönk go into the frozen tundra of Iceland and wait until nightfall. They have set up various light emitters which they then switch on at various frequencies in order for different light colours to be seen. These get projected onto the ice for their flag.

They went for the suits it appears (maybe the sweat pants were too council estate for Eurovision). The song is performed well but would people vote for it across Europe? Iceland know they can qualify so it is not a case of no one votes for them - but that was when their song was generally loved by all. Could No Prejudice fall in this category?

Nicolaj then comes on screen for the first break. We then get records. Highest Hair being the first. We will not reveal any winner to keep the surprise if you want it. After the record is revealed, Lise and Pilou take their moment to talk to the audience at home and in the arena.

The possibly most interesting and confusing postcard! Hersi gets a tattoo of the Albanian eagle on her upper back between her shoulder blades. We are very confused since it seems it was real (and quite big!). She then gets her tattooist to take a picture of it through a red filter which creates the backdrop of the flag! Oh my god, why did no one ask her about this in any press conference?! 

In regards to the song I think this is a bit of the unlucky song of the night. If this was taking part with another group of songs I believe it would not be a question of qualifier or not, but with the Semi 1 draw it seems to not be strong enough to finish within the top 10 in order to get through to Saturday. A shame but I am sure Hersi will have more songs to come for us.

The sisters are in some kind of room full of hanging light tubes of various colours, and are walking around with their Smartphone. They appear to be searching for each other and once each found the other, there is a pic on the Smartphone of three of the light-sticks, naturally white, blue and red creating the Russian tricolour.

I still find the song difficult to enjoy but cannot say I dislike it any more. This rehearsal however was the best we've seen yet, and could get even better by tomorrow. It will definitely qualify, despite all the gimmicks it had thrown at it and all.

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1 (P1)

The show opens with a recapping the last show, showing parts of the show including the lesbian kiss of Krista, Bonny Tyler and more. Words appear saying that last year was a great show "but one girl was spectacular" which leads into a fast sweep through of countries voting for Denmark with Only Teardrops in the background. We also hear "The winner is Denmark" as announced by Petra Mede last year. We then move into a sequence of Emmelie walking down country roads, into a chapel where a wedding is being held, more roads, a metro train, transforming into Lego Emmelie and more. She then stops at the harbour and emits a sound blast which creates a beam shooting out of Copenhagen into space. This leads us to take a journey across Europe and the globe where videos of various people start appearing with the flag of their nation in the bottom left corner and who all start singing the chorus of the Danish winning song. At the end all the images are being sucked in towards Copenhagen where they then form the word JoinUs which is also the only sung phrase by the chorus of voices. This leads to Emmelie appearing on stage singing Only Teardrops and is later accompanied by a chorus. This brings us to an announcer welcoming us to Copenhagen. That is as far as we are at the moment...

Second run of the initial sequence and the videos are also making an appearance as floating holograms in the arena, and then they form part of the backdrop. Chorus and videos are the harmonic backing for Emmelie singing her winning entry from 2013.

The three presenters, Nicolaj, Lise and Pilou, are announced on stage by the most Danish sounding voice possible! The obligatory "Good Evening Europe!" is screamed at us and then we start with the cringe-worthy introduction script starts. We are told that we are not mentioning the magnificent win Denmark had in Sweden last year, nor the fact they (Sweden) finished 14th, nor that the last time Demark won it was also in Sweden, nor Euro 92 ... and so on. No not mentioning it at all. But we do get asked to give a big applause to the world's greatest neighbour - once again, Sweden.
We then get told how to vote (which just like the pre-take off announcements on airlines has become as useful as toilet paper to a bear in woods) and after the reminder you cannot vote for your own country in French, we can start.

Their intro video starts in an artisanal workshop where Aram is making a broach out of various elements. He then puts it on his suit which he then wears on stage.

On stage it has not changed much since the previous viewings. Simple staging and lighting effect, pyro and lots of flashing which would need to come with a warning for people who suffer from epileptic fits (but why would they be watching Eurovision, have they not learned anything by now?). The song works well but a winner it is not. Should be secure for the semi-final though.

And surprise, we are baking a cake! And we have cherries for the maroon and marzipan for the white of the Latvian flag.

Well, if you were watching this for the first time I expect it would be a sensation of WFT? Not much effort was put into the attire either, it seems they just grabbed the first clean thing in their closet - but it keeps true to them does it not? Even if you are not sure what to think of this song it still makes most of us tap our little (or not so little) footsies and we all know the "cip cip, cip cip cip..." part of the song which we don't mind joining in. Before long you also start snapping fingers and find yourself wanting to join along. Hard to call on this one, will need to take some time.

Tanja knows how to operate heavy machinery don't you know! The Estonian flag is created by putting three shipping containers on top of each other which Tanja is being guided how to do by her dancer Argo Liik; starting with the white, then black and then blue.

No issues with the mic pack today and the due execute a well performed routine. The chemistry between the two is working well on camera. There seems to be a slight slip up in the choreography after the bridge where Tanja nearly hit the floor but it all controlled.

The calm before the storm

This is it… Well, almost.

With less than 36 hours to go before the actual semi final, today is actually already one of the most important days of this week for the participants taking part in that first show.

A lot of firsts happen today, but they are pretty much a template for what will happen tomorrow. In the afternoon of course, there's the first dress rehearsal. For the producers and technical crew, this is the first time they'll see the product in its entirety. All the months of planning, designing, creating, editing, tinkering and worrying culminate in this first of three run-throughs. The crew, directors and presenters will need to practise on getting the transitions perfect. That is the key to success for a fluent show. From the operators in the video control gallery to the stage-hands wheeling on an off the stage props. Of course the entire crew will have had years of experience, but still. For them it is like presenting a new born baby to the wider world and hoping everyone else will be as enamoured by it as they are.

For the three hosts it's a good indicator to see if they need to do some more cramming. We're just hoping they keep their spontaneity and natural flair. We're still a bit hung-over from the rhyming in 2001 and the consensus is that this presenting style should never be repeated again. Ever.

If the artists haven't done their homework by now, it will never happen. From the reports during rehearsal week, we can say that pretty much everyone has brought at least something to the table. To the best of their abilities, we can hope. Some could've maybe cranked it up a notch, others may have "over-egged the pudding". No use worrying over it now: This is what they brought and this is what they will have to work with. The first run-through is the final check for the delegations to check if their talent is finding the cameras and if the final adjustments and remarks made during the second technical rehearsal have had the desired effect. If you thought of changing the lighting plan now, think again: The dress rehearsals are mainly there for the technical crew and producers. Pretty much the only change the delegation team can make at this point, are with the on-stage talents themselves. But it's probably better not to stress over it, because the artists need to focus on tonight's dress rehearsal.

Because it is in tonight's second run-through that half of the battle can already be won. The juries of the sixteen countries taking part in this semi-final, plus France, Spain and Denmark will have a say about who they think worthy of going through to the final on saturday. These will of course count towards the 50/50 jury/televote score determining the qualifiers. It used to be that delegations sometimes forgot the importance of this dress rehearsal, but by now one would expect each of them to be on the ball.

Tonight is all about either damage limitation - if you feel you don't have a jury-friendly offering - or… well, damage limitation - if you feel you don't have a televoting-friendly offering. Either way, it's still important that the artists feel they've given their all in preparing and rehearsing and that it shows tonight. It would be nice if that performance in this second dress rehearsal gives them that assurance and confidence to tackle Tuesday's live-show head on. They will know if they have done enough at around 23h00 CET tomorrow.

Until all of that, from and in between dress rehearsal 1 to the aftermath of semi final 1… it's all going to be a long wait. This could be the key factor for an artist taking part. How are they dealing with having to sit around and wait? There's only so much facebook-checking one can do, and even that may not be advisable. Nerves can fray and there have been examples before, where an artist was completely drained before even belting out the firs note. Other unfortunates were so pumped up and ready to give the performance of their lifetime that they overdid it and screamed their way to failure. Stage experience will give the more seasoned performer an invaluable advantage here. Although nowadays, with pop-idol-hardened artists like Denmark's Basim taking part, we see a generation of young performers that already have had their fair share of that. And they seem less fazed by it.

It is strange to think that the television show tomorrow is only a two hour television sprint, whereas behind the scenes, taking part in it is clearly more of a two day marathon. And that's just the semi finals. Either way today signals the start of what could be a life-changing week. It's important to remember to enjoy the ride. Even if it's waiting around for it to get going.