Tuesday 3 May 2016

Day 2 - Bosnia-Herzegovina, Malta & Sweden


Before the rehearsal

I don't really expect Sweden to change at all from the staging in the Melodifestivalen final. Every year the Swedish team report that they've made changes and adjustments, and every year we don't really see them. I expect that it will just be some minor camera angle that's changed, or possibly he's wearing different trousers or so. But if we're lucky they'll be giving us a surprise. Maybe even visible backing vocalists?
However, the old staging was clearly effective, and there's no real need to fix something that isn't broken.


Yes, it's basically the same as in Melodifestivalen. He's got the screen with the lights behind him, creating various shapes and words. And he's walking around the stage in the same way, "missing" the same cameras as before. It works, of course.

I couldn't spot any of the backing singers in the first run-through, so they're presumably placed behind the stage or behind the screen. 

One main difference is that for the last chorus he walks out onto the catwalk and sings the rest of the song from the end of it.

There's not really much else to say about this. If you wanna see a video of the rehearsal you can basically watch the Melodifestivalen one. He is wearing different clothes now, but they're probably not what he'll wear in the final.


Before the rehearsal

The Maltese song, as many others this year, relies heavily on lots and lots of backing vocals. We already know that Molly P-H will be one of them, and that she (due to her own request) and the other backing singers will most likely be hidden behind the stage. Four backing singers isn't really enough to re-create the big gospel sound of the studio version, but it should be close enough. What might be a bigger challenge is to make sure Ira doesn't feel lost on stage and that it doesn't come across too much like a karaoke performance when she's all alone singing together with a choir that the viewers can't see. Some props or somethning else to fill up the stage and distract from the fact that only one out of five vocalists can be seen, might be a good idea.


First run-through. Ira has HUGE images of her own face on the backdrop screens in the beginning. And then as she starts singing we see her face... projected on the cloak of a dancer who stands in front of her. Then halfway through the verse we get to see the real her, dressed in a very baggy light brown dress that is either hiding lots of clothes underneath, or a pregnant belly. Makes her chest look very ill-shaped somehow. The cress also has some sort of LED or light effects going on.
And yes, towards the end the bulky dress comes off and  she's in a black mini dress instead.
Ita's choreography is mainly to walk around the stage a bit. She's sometimes standing inside an image of a blue swirly thing on the floor, which is probably meant to represent the water she's walking on. 

Vocally, Ira sings it fine. No problems at all on that part. The backing vocals are rather low in the mix, and I wish we'd hear them better.
The oh-oh-oh-oh-oh wail before the last chorus is clearly done by somebody who isn't Ira. Might be Molly.

But most importantly, the chipmunk vocal sample effect from the studio version is STILL THERE. Either they found some way to do it live (but it doesn't sound like it) or the backing track features a pre-recorded backing vocal. Someone will probably have some explaining to do here...

Second run-through now. The potato-peel-coloured projection dress really is one of the most hideous dresses I've seen. It's so bulky that it makes it look like she doesn't have boobs, but rather just a chicken breast on the front of her torso. Nina Kraljic suddenly got some serious competition for the Barbara Dex Award.

But vocally it's really good, and as long as they get the mixing levels right it should sound basically the way it's supposed to sound. The choreography itself is working quite decently too. The male dancer is spastically dancing around Ira in what looks a little bit like what Loreen's dancer did, but he doesn't distract too much from the song. I would say that the dress is the only problem now. Hopefully they'll realise that themselves once they go to the viewing room.


Before the rehearsal

The song is very much like the kind of thing that used to do really well 10 years ago. Montenegro has had mediocre success with similar songs recently, but the question is if Bosnia can manage to stage this in a more interesting and original way than the Montenegrins did with their recent balkan ballads.
If they want to recreate it to sound like in the studio version they'll also be depending on good backing vocals, as there's quite a lot of them in the recording. And visually there might be a challenge to make all four members of the group really seem like they're part of the performance and not four random people doing their own thing.


The Bosnians just took the stage. Some of them are dressed in golden tinfoil cloaks. Or maybe it's thermal blankets? I m not sure what the symbolism might be. But it seems the general theme is gold. Deen is wearing golden high-top sneakers, and most of the things that seem to be items that they're meant to wear in the actual performance are sort of gold. So is the cello.

The barbed wire fence is there, and kind of just like Chanee and Nevergreen were positioned on each side of their screen, so are Deen and Dalal. And they sing towards each other through the fence, sometimes reaching through with their arms trying to reach each other. Clearly lots of symbolism here.

Vocally I thought they were fine. Deen and Dalal's harmonies work well together, and the backing vocals, situated further back, are doing what they should.

Second run-through. Vocally steady again.  During the instrumental break after the first chorus, Ana stands up and drops her cloak. Once Jala enters the stage, wearing sunglasses, the camera mostly focuses on him interacting with Ana while Deen and Dalal stand stind at the back of the stage. And then in the final chorus all four of them are together at the front.

Overall I would say that they've staged it quite well. It's not trying to be a different song than it is, but yet not trying to just do a typical Lane Moje/Lejla-staging. It feels like they're doing something that is new, but without over-staging it or distracting from the song. The only thing that does't make any sense to me yet is the choice of costumes.

Ana Rucner's outfit. More or less.

Day 2 Afternoon - Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Iceland


Before the rehearsal
Greta is back as we all know and this time does not have her violin, or Jonsi (sad face). It is likely that the presentation will be an up scaled version of what they had in the Icelandic selection. We do hope however that the artist is better lit this time, it's always nice to see who is actually singing the song rather than what is happening to them - whether it be being pushed around by gigantic hands, random shadows running into you, or something that looks like an exorcised demon escaping from your chest cavity.

After a 15 minute delay, we see the first rendition. Unfortunately our fears seem to have been well founded. The backdrop is definitely more clean than it was back in Reykjavik but apart from that it is much of the same. Greta's dress is the same, the visuals are (mostly) the same, and there is a screen which she is performing in front of which, unlike in Russia's performance, stands out quite badly in some shots. Not good. Vocally however she delivered an acceptable level - and we need to remember that it is a rehearsal so you won't want to stretch yourself too much in the beginning.

Second run - It seems that the music is too loud in the first verses. Greta is completely the wrong place throughout most of the shots which need her to be dead right. Hopefully this is just because it's a new stage and she needs to get used to where she should be standing however how long did she have to rehearse back home and we are seeing more of the same here. Will a few more days be enough to get her back on track?

Third (and final) run - Visually it is coming along. She managed to get better placed and it seems that there was some talk happening between the last run through and this. The camera angles are helping it better than before. Wouldn't rule it out but don't expect it to set Europe alight come the 10th / 14th. But more importantly - FOOD BREAK!


Before the rehearsal
Let's just be honest here - we're not really expecting anything from this. After qualifying for two years in a row, after never having previously qualified, you'd think they would have thought to stick to what they know best. Especially when they were (internally) selected so long ago. Oh well, let us sit through it anyway.

Camera doesn't know where it is or what/who it is looking for. But surprisingly enough that was the thing that put me off from the start. Lead singer is quite good - relatively speaking. And let's face it, coming after what we had before it's quite refreshing! Then again, by not having any expectation of something there is nothing for it to live up to. A couple of audio hiccups again during the first run. There is a backing singer who is in fact front of stage and seems to have much camera time. Not really sure why but I guess there is a plan going on. Song is over and... well... good enough. I am assuming that they are not revealing their outfits for this rehearsal. 

Second run - Again, capable and delivers the song. There are lots of lights flashing about everywhere which you could have predicted. Will this entice televoters though is another question.

Third run - Nothing else to comment on but can see that visually it is getting more together. Possibly quite enjoyable even - but yes, as others have mentioned, needs to come with an epilepsy warning.


Before the rehearsal
As mentioned, Azerbaijan is always one to watch for visuals. Due to the internal selection however, we have only seen her on promo tour in Moscow, Tel Aviv and Malta. It will be good to see how it all comes together on a much larger and professional stage. Looking good from what we can see for the preparation.

Well, there's many visuals, but that might be to distract us. Samra starts by standing centre-stage, or rather, she should be, but she appears to be a bit too much to the left meaning the effect of the spotlights illuminating her is not working very well. She has four backing singer/dancers which try their best to help but vocally this is quite weak. The visuals also flitter off and calm down towards the end of the song. One lonely person clapped the end of this song. Could we possibly be about to witness Azerbaijan's first non-qualification?

**Taking a while to start again, could someone have disappeared since the first run? Bets on it being Samra?**

Second run - Samra is back. She managed the first verse. And now, "Can we start again please". Not part of the original lyrics. Samra is not looking best pleased at all.

Second run - Take two - Managed to continue for the full run. Well, the best thing about this is the Swedish backing singer/dancers. Samra holds her throat while delivering the chorus. It is not sounding as bad as it was during the first but something tells me, as the lyrics say "gonna take a miracle". Then again, wasn't this the Land of Miracles?

Third run - "We crash and we burn", you said it sister! The odds are currently placing this 16th overall. I doubt this will be the case after today leaks to them. Shame really, still, we can console ourselves with the fact that it is destined to be on euroclub playlists for years to come.

Before we start again!
So, the morning is over and we had a nice break but back to reality now. Up next is a concoction of the good, the bad and the messy. Azerbaijan is always one to watch for visuals, Montenegro is... well... Montenegro, and Iceland we need to see if there is still the miss-timed interaction between singer and visuals. Soon all will be revealed.

The not-press opinion - MNT, ISL, BIH, MLT


Two screens showing a still Ira, but her hair is waving. Then another screen of her singing (is she here?). She finally appears in a long dress that smells outfit change. A blue spiral on the floor during the chorus. Then yellow light projections on her dress, while she's moving literally around. Then the long dress is off (she is left with a black outfit, but I doubt that's the real one) and the floor is filled with yellow beams/flames. The blue spiral is back and it ends. Not much connection from her to the camera, it could be because it's the first rehearsal and they focused on positioning. Vocally perfect (will try to spot Molly in the next run).

The beginning is very much Eurovision-gimmicky and it takes some time for it to become normal and more contemporary. The dress projection colours make little sense and the dress colour itself (light brown) does not look particularly good on screen. A dancer is near her for half of the song. It looks like he is chasing her, while she is moving to all possible directions. Better close-up shots this time, still not many though.

Eye-contact with the camera better achieved this time round and the performance is pretty solid after the third run.

Summary: It looks very promising for Malta, as long as the weird, too eurovisiony beginning doesn't hurt the rest of the song. As expected, she is an excellent performer. Won some points today in the qualification race. Based on the staging, it also makes sense to have this perform last now, me thinks.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

First shot on Ana Rucner who is wearing an aluminium foil coat. Deen appears and sings through a -presumably not electric- wired fence to Dalal, out of tune at first, in tune after a while. They meet later and then the rapper appears and gets done with what's left of the audience patience. It's all a bit generic and the only thing that is memorable is the wires. They have tried *something* at least. I am really not a fan of this song so I can't judge it properly, but they have tried to do something with it here visually (after having tried to do everything with it musically).

Dalal also has a foil coat and gets rid of it before she sings. The staging manages to create some emotional intensity, but just as it reaches the top, the rapper breaks in and it's gone. The last part is boring (and Jala also is standing there looking weird).

Third run now and the song becomes more and more tiresome for me. However, I see that it will have an appeal. This time I've noticed that Ana and Jala have a little bit of connection during their part.

Summary: A really complex song needs a complex (but meaningful) performance. It generates some emotion and will find its audience (probably in the southeastern part of the continent). I've personally predicted them to qualify, despite it not doing anything for me. Their staging is at least memorable and the rap part is short and tied as well as possible to Ana, so I stick with this prediction. Huge difference to Iceland also, and I expect the Maltese staging will be far more western-oriented as well.


Shaky vocal start, but recovers by the chorus. I really like the visuals. Similar moves to the NF, but a slightly more blue-natural background. The wings and the birds are there; they didn't remind me of Russia at all, though. It gets a bit uninteresting after the second chorus. At the same time, that's when her voice fully recovers. The backings are neither helpful nor hurtful.

Identical on the second run. There's also a point just before the second chorus where it's only the projection wall showing and she moves into the shot (and the hands). She has delivered what was expected.

More of the same. She should connect with the camera more during the bridge, which is practically the only close-up and well-lit shots she gets.

Summary: She has moved everything from Reykjavik to Stockholm and has done the same things. In my opinion, it isn't that reminding of Russia's projections. It also fails to come across as genuine though, it's a bit of a cold performance (then again, maybe that's what people expect from Iceland?). Not much has changed regarding its chances, it remains being on of the contenders for the "low" top10 places in the semi.


Ok, this couldn't be any luckier coming after the weakest performance of the semi. It manages to be at least along the competition level and the vocals sound professional (the Samra effect). Of course, the song tires you out after the 1st chorus. The shots are quite fast and confusing, but maybe it works with the song's atmosphere? They are all very static but the camerawork corrects this. Rehearsal-wise, the first run seems to have been a success.

Second run now. He is walking towards the centre of the stage, wearing his hood (which I suppose will happen in the actual performance). The girl is at the front, "dancing", during his parts. The lights during the chorus are really fast, almost annoying. Vocally no problems, they are in tune. The problem is the tune itself. It will reach its potential on stage, but I assume this will not be enough.

Well, now they probably are satisfied with the sound and try to improve on the visuals. The shots are still fast now, but by the third time it's possible to understand where everyone stands and what's going on. The shots on the girl are one of the best parts, however apart from the first one she didn't connect much.

Summary: There was only room for improvement anyway and they have achieved that. Benefits from the Azeri disappointment before it. If Iceland also disappoints, then they might have a chance.

Arrived just in time to listen to my favourite song being murdered on stage. But oh well.

Day 2 Rehearsals - Czech Republic, Cyprus, Austria, Estonia


Before the rehearsal
Last year Estonia was one of the countries we were wetting ourselves over. This year a bit less.

Starting with a long shot, the camera moves closer to Jüri who is centre-stage. He is dressed in a blue suit over a white shirt, no tie and - at least for the rehearsal - glasses. There is a card theme. The backdrop is black and has red hues. In the central line you see a red diamond, heart and spade. In his act, Jüri will skillfully pull cards out of his sleeve. I did not notice if it was multiple or the same one - will pay more attention later. Unlike Eestilaul and the promotional tours, there is no hints of the preview video in the staging. This new setup works well for the song. Vocally did not give goosebumps but still received an applause from europress.

Second run - The card suits are white. I'm sure they were red before. The ace of hearts is brought out from the chest pocket of the suit which gets thrown to the audience. However, soon later a card also appears from the sleeve. We did not see if it was another ace of heats or not. Twice there were audio issues, albeit very short, during this rehearsal. Less of an applause than the first run but this could be due to the Czech meet and greet happening now.


Before the rehearsal
Oh Zoë, sweet sweet Zoë. This song appears to have mixed opinions from betting and fans. Fans seem to think it will win while the best you can currently find this is at 50:1. I personally don't expect this to set much alight but I have been proven wrong on many an occasion and this could just be another one to add to the list. It is one we've been waiting for though.

Starting on a plain blue-lit stage, Zoë clad in a peach frock with silver-embroided and studded top section. As choreography, there isn't much to talk about. She just stands on stage in one spot while the camera does all the work. Backdrop is exactly as per the preview video, flowers, butterflies and all. The floor does light up to continue the effect and in essence Zoë is on a pathway in this colourful land.

Second run - Much the same as the first - only this time the wind machine blows parts of her dress a bit too much which needs to be calmed down. A good rendition.

Third run - Nothing much new to comment about. Zoë interacts with the background, at some point 'creating' a rainbow. She's enjoying herself however which is nice to see.

Merci et bonne chance Autriche!


Before the rehearsal
Well, Cyprus this year brings us a song which is a crowd splitter. I personally am on team like but that could be because I appear to like everything nowadays. Apart from Leto Svet which someone who shall remain nameless keeps on singing the chorus of.

The guys, apart from lead singer Francois, are behind personal cages. Not all have four walls however which kind of defeats the point of having a cage in the first place. The song starts with a close up of Francois which some might enjoy more than others (again, I'm in the like category). Staging is what you could have expected - pink, flowery, loads of hearts everywhere. Not. Dark, moody and very 'rockish' (well, for a Eurovision entry).

WOLVES - there are WOLVES! And no, they are not Belarussian, and the group is not naked, but they do have wolves. It is filmed and I'm not 100% sure if all of them are real or some are digital but the end shot is of a close up of a wolf's head which then bleeds into a close up of Francois' to keep the connection between the lead singer and the wolf.

Second run - Definitely some digital wolves. The howling is getting slightly better. Thankfully we know they are just playing around with what works - there was a shot which really, really, and I cannot stress how much really did not work. A face-on outline of a wolf head with Francois filmed inside it. This then turns into a profile - but, at least in this shot, it just looked amateurish. I am quite sure the delegation will not be using it.

Final run - Dry ice arrives. First 'error' - Francois couldn't complete the second chorus, he seems to have been pointing to the floor (dry ice) but there didn't seem to have been that much to have made an effect on vocal chords. No pyro and hardly any wolf shots.

Before the rehearsal
The Czech Republic (or Czechia as it will be known) is one of the countries whose fortune has not been great at Eurovision. Last year we were all routing for them but alas it was once again not their year. This years' presentation however does seem to be sparking more positive attention and it will be time for the nation to taste the atmosphere of the Saturday night stage. 

The music starts and we see Gabriela walking to the front of the stage. She soon stops the run-through though to ask about markings on the ground (which we hear will not be there) in case she needs to try and remember where to position herself. She will.

Dressed in white, the stage has elements from her preview video - namely the colourful triangles. Vocally capable, Gabriela does the run through professionally and does seem to have done her homework. Run over, the gathered press (which admittedly aren't huge in numbers) cheer.

Second run - Gabriela has a HUGE crystal necklace on. There are definitely backing singers but we cannot see them. There is a reason why Gabriela needs to be in the right position on stage - again, a case of singer and stage interacting. The backdrop for the last chorus is of falling flowers - the same that she laid on in the preview video. Another applause once over.

Third and final run - Due to camera angles we cannot confirm the effect but it appears that the pink blob composed of multiple triangles which is seen slowly falling towards the ground at the back of Gabriela in the intro slowly moves accross the floor towards her. We believe the effect is that on the first chorus this blob should have just reached directly underneath her and then bursts outwards from the central point, filling the rest of the floor with trianglular lights. Coming after the huge extravagance of Russia, this is an excellent choice.

The night before
Well, if I could type super fast I would give a recap of what happened last night at the Euroclub. But I cannot type that fast and watch rehearsals so the long and short is : Much space, few people, small dance, Serhat.

Day 2 Preview - from Czech Republic to Sweden

The second day of rehearsals will naturally follow the countries set to perform in the second half of the second semi-final, which means we're in for a busy day with a number of performances to look forward to.

Indeed we start with three entries that we're very eager to see on stage. Czech Republic are on first at 10:00, and we're looking forward to finally getting a proper live performance of 'I Stand' from Gabriela Gunčíková. We've been given absolutely no impression of how they're staging this, but as long as she's not sitting for the whole song, we're happy.

Czech Republic will be followed by Cyprus, and it'll be interesting to see how their vocals come across tomorrow. We've seen a number of live performances in which the lead vocal of Francois Micheletto have seemed either strained or weak, and this is a powerful song that will need a vocal to match if it's to climb up the scoreboard on Saturday night. Immediately after Cyprus we will have Austria. Austria are certainly one of the most borderline qualifiers and, even though we've seen a live performance of it in the national final, somewhat of an unknown quantity. Zoe's been practising walking on a treadmill for the past couple of months, and it's going to be very interesting to see how this one comes across. Cute and charming? Or twee and precocious. We'll do our best to judge.

We're also really looking forward to seeing what Azerbaijan come up with tomorrow - they're certainly not known for their understated stagings. And later in the day at 3:00 we have Iceland. Now, when Russia came on the screens a few hours ago, the first thing that crossed the minds of everyone in the press centre was 'hang on, these projections look like Iceland's did in the national final'. Have Iceland come up with something else, or is Greta's gimmick going to wind up looking rather so-so after Russia? If so, it could really hurt the Icelandic chances.

Towards the end of the day we have Malta, who are almost certainly going to come up with a performance that is BIGGER THAN EUROPE. And Ira will be followed by Frans, the hosts having been allocated a rehearsal position at the beginning of the week, presumably to fill a gap with a delegation that are already present in the host city. We can only assume that we'll see a repeat of the Melodifestivalen performance from Sweden.

That's it! Join us (as the Danes would have said) from 10:00 in the press centre tomorrow, and as always, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below or on Twitter.