Thursday 5 May 2016

Day 4 Afternoon - Norway, Georgia, Albania, Belgium


Laura and four backing singer/dancers come on stage waving hankies - eacg is single colour however there are black, yellow, and red. The stage is made to look very disco-ey. Laura is having the time of her life. Before the last chorus, she walks the bridge to the satellite stage where she is later joined by her crew. Very warm applause by those gathered. Qualifyng - YES.

Second run - The presentation really want you to join in. Unconsciously everyone is tapping along. Laura has improved a lot with her choreography and is now just part of the group. I admit I was one of those who scoffed this entry when it won eurosong 2016 but I must eat my words now - a great ending to the second semi final.


And Albania have decided to go for the instrumental version it seems! Even though Eneda is there, there is no audio coming from her mic. We stop.

And starting again. Eneda does not move much on stage, seems to standing in one place. There are visible backing vocals which is not so common this year. The stage starts off in blue tones which later turn golden. Very simplistic staging which might come as refreshing after the Georgians before. Unfortunately for Albania however, Elhaida she is not. In fact, for the gathered europress she seems to just be fading in the background, like the music you hear while having dinner and chatting with friends. You wouldn't notice it was there unless someone pointed it out.

Third run - it started but stopped quite quickly due to a clearly flustered Eneda. Issues with the in-ear it seems. We must start again. And again, it came, it was sung, it was forgotten.


There is lots going on in the staging for Georgia. Not sure it fully works but I will admit, for something which I did not like at all, it grabs my attention. Not sure what I am watching exactly but I am drawn to it. There is a lot of mirror-image usage and lots of fast changing camera shots, which could all be there just to distract you from the song. Vocally it did sound quite similar to the studio version, which could just mean that they did not do much work on the studio.

Second run - It apparently was on :) Did not notice any difference.


Before the Rehearsal
The question we seem to be having is - will she actually show up? Agnete has been having a few mental health issues and it is therefore also probably in a fragile state. We have been told that there will not be any interviews and it could be possible that the meet and greet will also not happen.

Wearing the same costume as in MGP, Agnete starts singing. The dancer is no longer in some random box but is instead on a slightly elevated platform on stage. Staging as you can imagine is in blue tones and lots of ice visuals. Agnete herself is standing on what appears to be a large ice crystal. Vocally she appears to be ok, she is not belting out anything major but there are no traces that she is feeling uncomfortable on stage either.

Second run - The dry ice is heere now - a bit too much of it. One of the shots which should have been a close up of Agnete did not work since she was enveloped in the smoke. The CO2 columns are also making an appearance for the chorus. Again, a good performance but not lighting anything in the room. A solitary clap by one enthousiastic member of the gathered europress is all it achieved.

The not-press opinion - BUL, DEN, UKR, NOR, GEO, ALB, BEL

Quick overview
Two great rehearsals from Ukraine (already shows in the betting odds) and Belgium (biggest improvement). Bulgaria and Norway delivered with neither positive or negative surprises. I'm reading negative comments on Poli's outfit but in the actual performance it's quite okay. Georgia made a good impression and their camera effects allow them to keep their hope intact. Albania was mediocre and static and Denmark was overly boring and with vocal issues.


Aha. Much dance. She appears with 4 dancers, 2 males 2 females and they walk towards us as the stage is filled with yellow circles and many colours, but not blue! The circles are more like small suns (red in the centre). There is a lot of things happening; the dancers stand on two pairs of stairs as Laura really rocks it! She is dancing either alone or together with the dancers in a pyramid shape. Vocally she manages to keep it going, with some few weak notes, because of being out of breath. The stage is yellow-orange the whole 3 minutes. She is great during the bridge ("Come on, Stockholm!"). The dancers recede to the left side of the screen and join her for a quick little dance move as it ends. Good reaction from the centre. She was really good. It was hard writing about this, there's really a lot going on, but it's not too much somehow.

Had to watch this closer to the screen carefully and update you after I organise my thoughts. The best parts are when she's singing and the backing singers&dancers are around her. It comes across very natural and fresh. This time she added another line to the bridge as she was walking down the catwalk to get her final position ("I want to see all of those hands!"). The camerawork is also well thought out, with all the important moves being captured and shown nicely. Vocally... she strains quite a lot of notes, she was worse than the first time. Maybe this won't play much role during the performance. I couldn't tell if they have another backing singer hidden somewhere.

Same again. Very up-lifting. The choreography is very complicated and she is doing around three quarters of what the dancers do. The little ending dance is really cool and should look great with the audience.

Summary: Great performance, making the small vocal problems secondary. Also, she doesn't really miss any notes or have any bad moments, the only issue is that she sounds very strained sometimes (and also looks that way in a few cases). It's a pity this comes after the similarly coloured Albania, because otherwise it would be even more obvious how much it stands out from the other very similar backgrounds. In conclusion, they 've really lifted this two classes above what it was and they are totally qualifying. One of the brightest rehearsals of the week, for sure.


Her mic is muted and the music stops after 10 seconds. She is wearing a white jacket, with a floral blouse underneath and black pants. Could that be the real outfit? She holds the mic in her right hand, standing in the centre of the stage interacting (well) with the camera. She's totally static. The floor has some yellow dots (stars?). The vocals seem to be an issue during the high notes in the first chorus. A quick shot of the backings (the stage position of which I can't really spot). Better but not flawless vocals in the second chorus, while the backings are doing some "ooh-ohh"s (or are they "moo-moo"s?). And then it ends. Meh.

I've come to like the outfit. Some (maybe too many) hand moves in the first verse. This time I spotted the backings on her right side. Again problems with the high notes in the chorus. She's all alone in those. Literally, she is standing in the same position at the centre of the stage for 3 minutes. The stage is also quite static, with just some minor parts regularly changing from the usual yellow/gold colour to purple/blue. Not much else to write about this.

Watched it closer this time. I don't understand why such a static performance was not matched with a microphone stand.

Summary: Similar staging to last year, a bit worse song, a bit better singer. She has her good camera interaction to go for her. But then, everything else about it is really toned-down. As vastly different from preceding Georgia as it may be, I doubt it will make an impact to the average viewer/jury member.


There's something. They are using camera effects that deform the picture (imagine deforming mirrors in an amusement park). It is certainly interesting to say the least. Apart from that, black and white turning to pink and blue, a typical staging with three guitar players, one being the singer and a drummer. He throws the hat and nothing much happens during the faster part, except a total epilepsy alert with yellow, light blue and green beams of light all over the stage. More camera effects and then it suddenly ends in pink and light blue lights.

The deforming effect is better implemented this time. Serious epilepsy alert during the fast part. Then, for the instrumental, the camera turns to a pan from above, showing pink patterns (square and diamond shapes). The ending is extremely abrupt. I'm not sure it will look good with the audience, as the fast part gives in to a very slow and motionless ending.

Nothing different. A bit painful for the eyes to watch 3 times in a row.

Summary: They have come up with something interesting and that's progress. I don't think anything like this has ever happened on the ESC stage at least, so it is quite original. All the visual noise distracts from the audial noise, but I'm not sure that's enough for someone to vote for them. It's good that they are trying and they managed to at least not get ruled out after this rehearsal.


Here for her second run. I expected this to be the same as in the NF, but it's not. She starts in a white dress, slightly glowing in the bottom. A dancer is to her right, about 5 metres away. They are standing on square platforms. Agnete leaves her own at the end of the verse and sings the chorus in generally close shots, while the dancer is visible to her right in the background. Perfectly finds the camera every time. The stage is blue with white light beams filling it during the chorus. The bridge is really good, as the camera slowly approaches her before leaving her during the high note. More white light beams and a star pattern on the floor. Really good vocals. The end is simple, with just her in the middle of the stage. Missed when/if the dancer left the stage.

The squared platforms have small white lights on them. A small Georgia 2015 Final problem, as the dry ice drowns both Agnete and the dancer. I do believe that the act might be relevant to her condition, as the dancer acts weirdly, in response to Agnete's moves. More dry ice during the ending. She was a bit tired vocally this time, however she looks comfortable and it's very pleasant seeing her happily smiling after it's over.

Summary: I've liked it from the start and I'm positive to the change in the staging. Even though it's not as impressive from the first moment now, it is much classier and fits the song better. Also, no way this will come across as cheap, like an actual prop might have been. She's good with the camera and there doesn't seem to be any problem of different nature with her. I hope she does well, she both needs it and deserves it.


Wait, is this Zlata? Similar hair and pose for the beginning. After the first few lines in total black, some colour finally on-stage! She is standing on a flower-shaped graphic with yellow, green and other colours. For the second verse it turns red and the backdrop is black-blue with medium-large red shapes (supposedly blood drops). The camera moves really slowly. The wow moment comes for her shout. The red shape slowly goes colourful again and during the high note it quickly becomes white and rises, creating a tree/fountain effect in the backdrop. Very very impressive! The end shot is just her, as the backdrop has turned dark again. Vocals perfect, I have a feeling she held back for the high note though.

Second run and some more effects for the first few lines. It appears there is a watery effect behind her in a light shade of blue (almost turqoise). Not entirely fitting, but attractive to the eye from the first second. The way she slowly moves her body and the way the camera follows that move is magical. The high-note effect is clearly a tree (yellow branches with blue flowers at the very ends). End shot of her almost smiling and looking beautiful.

More of the same. The watery beginning is more like a square water box that she's walking out from. The flower pattern is yellow in the centre, blue-green points in the circumference and red endings (representing Ukraine bleeding, I may guess?). Not holding back vocally at all this time. The backings are good as well. The tree is visibly collapsing in the background towards the end, before the final shot.

Summary: This has reached the peak of what was expected from them. Graphics were stunning and she connected with them and the camera in an excellent way. Predictions are tough this year, but I can't see this missing top-5. Could be winning the semi as well.


Everyone here is delighted, as the song first doesn't start and then gets cut exactly when the chorus kicked in! Well, it finally starts again and they are there with the white neon microphone stands. Vocally some problems in the chorus (at the high parts). Oh, the stage is as blue as it has ever been, by the way. Seems it is an identical performance to their NF, with roughly the same camera angles as well. For the last chorus they are using the catwalk, but totally not to the rhythm. Very weird dancing while on the final square of the catwalk which shows expanding squares. Very unimpressive and very similar to Ireland, bar the microphone stands and x3.

Second run and trying to find something more positive to right. Well, the vocals are getting better and the ending makes a bit more sense, though still very sudden. They smiled somewhat more as well.

Final chance for them to improve. Vocals keept getting better but they are still not convincing. At times they are covered by their backings. They are good at making all the camera angles. But then again they've been doing this since February. Some more jumping during the last part after the catwalk.

Summary: Really boring, identical to the NF performance and average vocals. This is pretty much everything about it. A huge downpoint after Bulgaria. They need to fix their dancing after the catwalk part, it's very out of rhythm and they are not synchronised at all. Lots of issues and lack of energy.


Close up shot of her and she is wearing huge ear jewellery in her left ear that reminds me of the "accelerate" signs in racing games. She's dressed in black and her hair drops to her right side only. The shot widens and the backdrop is mainly blue/black but filled with little starry dots (think the 2010 logo) so it is lighter. Poli is all alone on stage, accompanied only by figures dancing on the backdrop during the chorus. She does a weird move with her legs every time the chorus starts (there must be a name for it, but the only thing I can compare it to is the Las Ketchup last move during the chorus of Asereje). Some close-up shots seem to work well on-screen, although she doesn't hit most of them. For the last chorus, the backings appear from the right side of the stage and join her as they sing together. What initially looked as knee protectors turns out to be white neon lights that are turned on for the last part. It ends a bit abruptly, but people here react very well.

The dancing is not "diva-esque" at all, rather comes across as simple and contemporary. Better camera-work and manages to hit all the shots. Vocals are really good as well, a bit breathy at parts, but that's reasonable. They are trying for the backings to be a bit lower in the mix (both in volume and in tone). Not sure this works that well, although it gives an interesting result. The end pose is left fist in the air for Poli and the five backings placed in a straight line.

The close-up shot a bit different this time, with her having closed eyes and not openin them until the shot changes. Don't like this change, cause it takes too much time for her to have the first eye-contact with the camera. Oops, a backing came in one sec too early. Some green lights this time, before and during the second verse (not sure if they were there before). It's impressive that the dress is that long and complicated and yet doesn't bother her dancing, actually helping her do some moves. The backings are again low in the mix in the last part, which is short but again I'm not really sure if it's correct, it steals some of its power.

Summary: Great first rehearsal, it appears they've managed all they wanted to achieve. Everything about it is very thought through and yet avoids coming across as too calculated. It lacks the 'wow' factor though. The lighting knee/shoulder/thigh-protectors thing is not so noticeable, certainly not after having seen it once already.

(A much more crowded fan zone at the press centre today. Sitting a bit farther away from the screen compared to other days, so expect me to miss even more!)

Day 4 Morning - Slovenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ukraine


Before the Rehearsal
One of the more controvertial songs this year comes next. Until yesterday Ukraine was on top of the odds to qualify but have been beaten by Australia since.

Starting out of focus, Jamala wearing black starts slowly walking towards the camera which focuses on her while she starts singing the first verse. Vocally she is spot on. The staging starts quite dark with blue and green tones forming a, what can be called a tunnel effect behind her. Standing centre stage, golden, green and blue formations burst out from under her. For the second verse the stage is lit with light columns and a red tone - visually very spectacular. One of the better effects seen this year comes in the bridge where it appears that Jamala is absorbing energy from the ground and this permiates through her and she explodes creating a tree of light. It brings goosebumps and a large applause from all those present.

Second run - Just as spectacular as before. Unfortunatey this just completely nails the coffin of the Danes.

And the third run is just as good. But now, Lidia Isac will do a tribute to Ovidiu Anton in the press area.


We start off well - they are not lit so the boys stop the rehearsal after a few chords. The second time around goes a slightly bit better but also had to stop. Johannes lost his in-ear and therefore the rehearsal stopped. This was not the only issue. The boys sould have lit-up microphone stands however this only worked for two out of three. Unfortunately Johannes was again the one with the issues.

Take three for the first run through - and vocally the boys are very nervous. Unfortunately no amount of Danish blandness seems to be saving this. The stage seems to be nice enough but again, nothing which would make anyone scream 'wow' at it.

Second run -  This one went through without stopping. The boys are still nervous and it is affecting them vocally quite adversely. For the second time Johannes is the only one who drops his stand before the last chorus. The trio go down the catwalk and dance together while singing the last chorus. The silence in the room says a lot.

Third run - More of the same unfortunately. We doubt that the 'Denmark wins in Sweden' trend will continue.


Before the Rehearsal
Now this is one we were all waiting for. There is much expectation for Poli to do well and from what we've seen from her in the promotional tour she did, she is more than ready to rise to this challenge. Bulgaria is currently sixth favourite to win although it was higher earlier in the week - brought down by the rise of Malta. Will they be able to climb back up after today? Only a short while to wait! #excited!

Starting with a close up of poli's facce, we pan out during the first to reveal poli clad in a black leather and fabric with skin-colour centre. A huge chevron earring is on her right ear. The chevron is also repeated on her legs - two on the thigh, two on the lower leg. The backdrop is simple, we have what can be described as 'static' being rhythmically projected with the music. During the chorus, this changes to 10 dancers, or rather, the same image repeated 10 times, 5 on each side. The chevrons also light up since it is now clear that they are also LED. In the second chorus, these end up being 30 since there are three levels. For the last chorus, the backing vocals come out from behind the stage in order to complete the song all together. This has not disappointed at all. Cannot wait for the final run where we will see what extras will be added to the already good spectacle.

Third run - (Yes we skipped second since there was not much to add) The camera angles are getting better. Backing singer error in starting too early for the first chorus. Poli is following the camera which is good at such an early stage. No pyro however we should be expecting this - it is probably that BNT just did not want to spend the money on it at this stage. Definate qualifier.


Before the rehearsal
*sings* 'Cause blue is blue and red is red. The stage will likely, in these be clad, but now the colour doesn't matter, we will all just need to suffer! I joke, it's not that bad. But for this time of the morning I would have preferred somethig else to wake up for.

Oh my god! Blue and red staging! Who would have guessed! ManuElla is wearing a white dress with a very low cut while her 'hope and glory' are tightly packed and trying to escape (not as bad as Mando though). A lot of times she places her hands in the praying position. Angelic. A shirtless dancer comes on stage and starts dancing around a pole and then we see how he got his body. He effortlessly starts doing lots of acrobatics which is nice to see. Vocally ManuElla is quite OK but from the two people on stage I prefer the other talent.

Second run - Apart from the slight audio hiccup (they are still happening on day 4 which is now a bit annoying) it was much the same as the first. We noticed ManuElla is wearing nice heels and the question we also forgot about - will there be a dress reveal? The answer - no, doesn't appear so. Understandably however, the dancer is very slightly not as good as earlier. I guess due to the toll it takes on the body you cannot do this too many times in quick succession.

Third run - And there will be pyro! Much pyro! The middle-eight is when the whole stage starts lighting up much to the admiration of the gathered press. An applause at the end of the song concludes Slovenia's rehearsal today.