Monday 9 May 2016

Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 1

Petra and Måns are on stage informing us that the 10 finalists have been chosen and they will join the big 5 and Sweden on stage on Saturday. Nothing left to say but Good Night, Bonne Nuit and God Natt!

Well, we should have a recap but this techincally finished even before San Marino finished.

San Marino
Bosnia & Herzegovina

Russia has failed to qualify! We are now expecting nuclear war within the next few hours. Call your loved ones and tell them you love them!

Petra is behind the podium. We then speak to Jan Ola Sand and after his speach we're back with both presenters in place. It is now time to find out the finalists which will be revealed in a random order.

If Frans were sorry, he'd get his lazy behind out of his music studio and do some walking whilst chugging away on coffee, poured from a thermos flask. He would then also have marshmallows at a campfire with his friends. Maybe, if he really was sorry, he'd find the Swedish Stonehenge or a wooden gulf breaker at the Swedish coast. But he's not sorry.

Vocally confident but Frans still just doesn't seem to want to be there. Still in his Chacky jacket and grey top, he mumbles his song, ends and goes off. Don't see why this will light Europe but it seems that it will.

Breaking News: Barei has made it to the top of a mountain without stumbling. Too much. Maybe once or twice. Okay they had to helicopter her in. But luckily she found her feet (and her wriggling hands) in the shopping streets of Madrid. If the Spanish HoD wouldn't have told her it was time to leave, she probably would've still been in said street, mincing in the middle of it.

After the postcard there is a pause. They are getting something ready. We hear the intro chords again to prepare the singer for the start of the song. The backing dancers have changed into black dresses and Barei herself has a golden number with the number 03 on it which is a bit weird but maybe this will not be her final outfit. When the blackout happens, the camera struggles to find her and therefore when the spotlight comes back on, it is not in the correct position. Big applause for her.

Amir plays football in the park at Versailles. He is then taking selfies in what we think is a cinema (wasn't paying enough attention).

The same things which we saw yesterday are happening today. Amir is struggling with the high notes,  the camera angles are not always on point. He has changed his suit to grey from the black from the second dress rehearsal. 

We are then informed that for the first time we will actually see the finalists perform on stage. And we are introduced to Barei, France and Amir (from France).

Lines closed and we get told about a message, a message of the refugees which are trying to get into Europe. There is a dance dedicated to it.

For someone who understands pretty much absolutely nothing about interpretive dance, this is quite emotional. 

After the second recap, Petra and Måns are on the satellite stage telling us we only have seconds left before the lines close. It is time for the final countdown. Queue Europe (the band) playing again with Petra and Måns trying to stop them once more. Apparently this happens quite often in Sweden.

It is now time to close the lines in 32, 31,... and then realising that it should have been less time Måns asks Petra - "So how are you?" to which we all giggle. They are waiting for their cue cards.

Another recap after a very funny mockumentary. The Swedes do good humour.

We see a mockumentary of what Sweden used to be like in the 1973 - back when Sweden used to be Europe's favourite pushover.

*Sergey Lazarev who is currently in interview room 2, came out only to take a look at his bit and then went back it. Bless.

Ira shows off some of the sites of Malta - first she's in Gozo, then she is at the Aquarium in Buġibba, later has a spot of food - the traditional 'ftira'. She finishes in Republic Street, Valletta, looking seductively into the camera while the rest of the pedestrians walk on past not giving her a second look.

Ira is no longer mentioned in the credits of the song. The dress is from the second rehearsal. In fact, it was quite similar to that rehearsal. Some slight changes of the camera angles was all that could be noticed. Vocally strong however it could be that the song will be lost in the whole swirl of this year.

Bosnia's troupe (you know who they are) are being followed in the studio, we can watch them as they sing together. Yes. Together. Imagine that. There's also a photo session in the local deli, with fresh Bosnian produce and olive oil adorning them.

Wearing all black while Dalal is in red, the group perform without errors. This will definitely be a hit in the Balkan region. Nothing much to say - definite qualifier.

Greta like geysers. But she also likes waterfalls. But what she likes most of all is playing her violin. Sitting at the campfire she doesn't mind, but violin playing is her absolute favourite thing ever.
The interaction between Greta and the images of the projections is much better than in any of the rehearsals we've seen before. She is also looking a lot more confident that she had been before. The camera angles are a hundred times better than what it was and things are coming together nicely. This received the biggest applause it has up to now this week. Maybe we shouldn't have been so quick to write Iceland off this year.

The guys from Highway like walking through white corridors, and loitering in music school class rooms. They also like playing a bit of basketball. But their favourite pass-time is freezing to death on some Montenegrin mountain. Each his own I guess.

And we start off with a bad not - the intro scream scares us. The camera is still a mess, and it appears that none of the Montenegrin requests have been taken into account by SVT. Marija is on the satellite stage doing her own thing. Petar seems to have issues with his in-ear since he keeps on touching it - either to put it back in properly or to try and indicate it. The song ends without much attention being given to it having been on.

Samra has decided to put on her running shoes, and then wants to explore some antiques shops. Bored because she couldn't find the old record player she wanted, she then goes to the square in front of the Heydar Aliyev Centre where she spends the rest of the 30 seconds rollerblading.

Song starts and backing vocals have been made higher to try and cover Samra's voice. Unfortunately they need a whole choir on stage in order to cover this mess. Samra is wearing her number from the second rehearsal. The backing dancer who had his chest showing appears to have a white cloth to cover himself now - shame! It was the best part of the show! The Azeri's have paid a lot of money for pyro - another tactic to distract from the song.

After Estonia we get another break, with Måns announcing 5 more songs. After the animation, Petra is vamping to the camera from the green room. However the greenroom is empty now. The tables of the greenroom are adorned with fancy cut-glass bottles, that sparkle invitingly. Probably only water though. Stingy Swedes.

Jüri goes about his business in Tallinn; being on stage, waiting to be touched up by a make-up artist, sitting on chairs, walking in streets but all of that's not important. We actually get to see him doing a spot of sauna. First in a light blue towel, then - after the hot sauna - cooling off Douwe Bob style. He seems to enjoy it. He's not the only one.

The Estonian delegation have hired a magician to teach Jüri the trick. Dressed in his blue suit he is taking control of the song. Glasses are still off. We are getting to the point where it is a bit hard to concentrate on everything and type so forgive me for any mishaps.

Zoë has decided the vineyards are the way to show herself. With wine of course goes a drop of two of white wine. Probably yet another reference to the actual Frenchness of this entry. Next we see her running about the gardens near one of the many palaces of Vienna and almost getting lost in a Labyrinth. But don't worry, she manages to get out just in time so sit down in the grass an smile seductively at the camera.

Zoë was at the Euroclub last night and had received an amazing applause. She is singing well and it seems that the sickening sweetness of the song has been toned down a bit with the camera angles and lighting. Don't misunderstand - it is still cavity-creating but it is now more of a song for an adult stage rather than something you would see in some childrens' talent show. No pyro nor dry ice or any gimmick - which the song didn't need anyway.

The guys from Minus One are standing on a beach. Then we see them doing what boys like to do: Hanging out with each other, do some instrument shopping, drive around in the dune buggy, throwing old tv's from an apartment building, then finally a bit of volleyball on the beach. Ah. Good times.

Alex Panayi (Cyrus 1995, 2000) is in the press room watching intently his homeland. There is still lots of strobe lighting and cages and shouting and howling. The howl that Francois does is a bit off key. There are more images of the wolves however. And negative imaging. A bit of a 'throw everything and see what happens' approach to the song. Not sure it works.

Gabriella is looking on the hills of Prague. She then decides she wants to do a spot of wall climbing. Active girl. She finishes up in Prague on the Charles Bridge.

After the manicness that is Russia, this is relying purely on a grand voice and a message. In her simplicity and harmony, Gabriela is lighting the stage. This needs to qualify. If it doesn't, there is something very wrong with Eurovision.

Russia's postcards consist of Sergey meeting fans, but also smiling to the camera, whilst being reflected in the mirror. Finally we get him enjoying time with his dog. Cuteness!

The shadow still didn't work completely this time. There is an angle where the wing clearly is seen not to be attached to Sergey which is the point of it. Vocally outstanding, there is nothing to fault this in this round. The projections are back on their point so you can't really see how Sergey is standing on the screen - or rather, it is hard to do when you don't know it already.

Petra thanks San Marino, Eurovision's smallest country. In fact we have just seen "half the population on stage!"

Serhat enjoys the San Marinese view whilst sipping a coffee. He then wanders through the old ancient buildings that San Marino has. Finally he's dancing alone in a random theatre whilst probably humming some song to himself - probably 'I Didn't Know'.
The stage was not ready in time, and the stage director primises this will not be the case on the rehearsal this afternoon.

The French backing singer/dancers are ready and we're off. The presentation is ok but just reminds you too much of a bad cruise ship entertainment theatre where you go just because it's the only thing that you still haven't watched on the ship when you've been sailing for a week and are now in the middle of the ocean.

Iveta is witnessing some women baking traditional flatbread. After that she finds herself in a fruittree garden, wearing a flower crown.

And the second issue of the day. We are soon back on track however.

The camera angles are getting cleaner and there is much pyro going on in this rehearsal - which is much more effective. It is now making a lot more sense than in the dress rehearsals where the use of pyro was not available. Before it just looked like she was having a moment but now it all ties together.

The holograms on screen did not happen this time - we are not sure if that was intentional or if it was a mistake. Largest applause up to now in the room.

The Dutch postcard is about Douwe doing Parkour, Pool and Horses. Parkour in a tree, Pool in a bar, and riding a horse.

Although everyone on stage seems confident vocally the song is still losing us at the 10 second break. This could go really bad if the audience doesn't play along.

After Croatia we have our first break, with Petra and Måns introducing themselves once more. Just to make sure that people who have the attentionspan of an ant. The intervalclip is then something like the Carpool Karaoke that James Corden does in the Late Late Show. In this, Petra and Måns are taking unsuspecting travellers for a taxiride they won't forget soon. It's mostly bloggers and editors from our colleague-websites and they are enjoying themselves immensely. Verka Serduchka even makes a suprise cameo.

Nina leaves behind bouquets of flowers in the laps of statues. She then hugs trees, She ends her postcard in a libray.
First error of the day - we're stopped. We have to do the intro music (after the postcard) again.

The ripping of the first dress is still a bit random - two people dressed in dark cloacks one on each side rip her clothes off - hmm... Vocally she is doing a lot better than expected considering she is apparently sick. The dress still takes too much attention away however.

Freddie finds himself in the covered marketplace in Budapest, then shows off his cooking skills in a pizzeria. Finally he contemplates, guitar in hand, next to the river Danube, whilst glancing smoldering in the camera.

Freddie appears to have left his usual attire at home and is now wearing rippd jeans,  a white oversized t with an overlength on his right hand side. Vocally coming accross quite nicely. Less shots of the drummer who has no clue what he's doing. First time there has been a solid clap in the room.

idia is standing on the plain, not in Spain, but somewhere in Moldova, to then look for the falling stars through a telescope in an observatory. She also runs. Towards the qualification? Who will say. But the title animations are still ace. Each country's letters appears in a completely different way.

The outfit from the second rehearsal appears to be the one chosen for the contest. The dancer is camping it up. Lidia is doing her best vocally but has a really bad note in the bridge before the final chorus. The song is sung fully in English - it appears they did not want to pay the fine for changing parts to French.

The postcards was filmed in Thessaloniki, with them dancing along in a dance studio and then along the promenade with the white tower in the background.

Vocally as we have known them before - not that good but it's Greece so never rule them out. The dancer takes his shirt off but in order to not be so obvious that his mic leads are behind his back, he has a white tree painted on with the trunk being along his spine.

The postcard for Finland starts with Sandhja on a tram. The theme of the postcards isn't really clear yet. But I'm really impressed with how the name of the country appears: circles swish about to form the letters and then become the background for the title of the song onto which the song title and writers appear.

The outfit we have been seeing during the rehearsals *is* the one she wears for the show. The hair has had a bit of a turn for the worse. Not sure what is being behind that idea but hey ho. Vocally Sandhja started quite bad but improved during the song. The group are enjoying their time on stage but unfortunately it is not really receiving any acclamation from the gathered members.

We now have shots of every day life in Sweden, a guy with a surfboard by the sea, someone taking the stools off the tables in a restaurant, someone blowing a dandylion whose seeds flow up throughout Gamla Stan, people in the forest, watching the northern lights on horseback, meeting friends at a party, all the time the seedlings are still floating. The globen arena is set alight with colour and turns into the logo of this years' contest.

Petra and Måns are invited on stage. Måns is dressed in a tux while Petra is in a sparkly grey number. Petra and Måns chit chat - Petra tells us not to feed Måns' ego while she also reveals she has been doing nothing since hosting in Malmö apart from sitting on the sofa waiting for Sweden to win again. She rightly thanks Måns.

A joke about Europe the continent and the Europe the band is made. The band appears on stage and starts playing The Final Countdown until they are stopped by the hosts.

The children we saw earlier also have one thoght in common - not only that they think Måns is their father, as told by the man himself, but also that one day they may take part in the ESC.

A quick note on how to vote and then we are ready to begin. Petra mentions "Grab your towels Europe, it's time to come together!" laughter erupts in the room.

And the te deum starts - two minutes late

Aerial shot of going towards Globen, flashing images from last years' contest, including points given to Måns, shot to and from while the aerial shot of Globen keeps on getting closer.

We arrive at Globen and Måns is on stage and starts singing the orchestral version of Heroes.

We have a real balloon boy - who is blond. Later on, even more children come on stage. If this was the staging for Heroes last year there is no way in hell it would have won.

Before we Begin
And so we have it, already over a week here in the beautiful city of Stockholm - or so they say since the only part of it that we have seen has been the press room, the euroclub and the t-bana to and from. Oh, and the walk from Gamla Stan station to the euroclub itself. The weather has been amazing - again, not that we have been able to experience it apart from the fleeting moments when we are allowed to go for lunch. Still, although we know this is the annual pilgrimage from hell, overworked, underslept and definitely underpaid (we all do this for free while taking two weeks of holiday from our buckets) we still come here for the love of the contest and the love of the people whom we have met over the years who make it all worth while.

But enough of the gushing sentiments, let's get to business. The first dress-rehearsal is about to begin. The stage is seen on the screens, voices are informing the crew of what to do if something goes wrong and we are all waiting with baited breath until the te deum starts and we see the opening to the show.