Sunday 29 April 2018

Haiku #1

Blue stage, pink roses
Poor Mikolas, get well soon

Also aboard for Belarus to Bulgaria


To me this felt like a 70's choreography (if you can call standing still and walking for a little bit choreography), it was a kind of ABBA style in the beginning, with two of the artists singing towards each other, and a very "Dallas"/80's way to divide the picture into three separate parts and other such effects.

We've now had four run throughs from Bulgaria, all very similar to me and vocally quite stable. Yair is over at the Israeli press conference not being a stupid boy - hopefully!


I got winner vibes from this the first time I heard it. Elina's performance, with perfect vocals and the impressive dress effects (similar to what we have seen earlier, but with a few nice variants added) has not made those feelings go away.

What struck me during the second and third run through is how huge the stage looks in this performance. It suits the song/dress/Elin(a)!


Just back in time to catch some of the lol-iness of Belarus, and my brownie, completely intact - equally amazing! In this performance, I actually thought Alekseev's back was missing at first! But it turned out it was just a rose wound. Such a relief.

First rehearsals: Belarus to Bulgaria


My pre-opinion: This is the best vocal harmony of the contest, a bit like O'G3NE but with a slightly better song and a much more eager broadcaster. Are they eager enough to take it all the way (if it's even possibly with this song)? Let's see.

First run-through: Similar to last year, a lot of quick camera changes and split screens. Venetian blinds Power Point transitions. Not for epileptics. They seem to have thought this through and hired Christer Björkman's best staging directors, I'm sure the younger attention-deficit viewers will love this. The vocals sound higher pitch than the studio version.

Trey stops the second runthrough after five seconds and says he's sorry.

Actual second run-through: More focus on Zhana (who looks a bit out of place and wears too much lipstick). They're standing on three platforms that look like they're made of scaffolding (not sure if this is their final form), and change positions, a bit like Modern Folk Üçlüsü & Aysegül Aldinç. Overall, a solid rehearsal.

I've skipped the rest of it to watch the Israeli press conference, and no, I wasn't a stupid boy, although the songwriter wore a "stupid bøy" t-shirt, and this kind of diacritic misuse annoys me to no end, but it was fun and Netta owned it.


My pre-opinion: When I first saw this, I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. That's not exactly promising, and knowing the whole dress saga, not much is going to change. This kind of thing should have enough fans to take to Saturday though, one would think.

First run-through: As expected, an improved version of the Eesti Laul performance, in a darker, larger stage. The dress is centred in the round stage, which suits it well. Some nice patterns on it, including flowers and a swirly thing like ice cream n ithe end. Elina herself? She's good vocally, but I didn't notice her much, attention goes to the dress.

Second run: Much of the same, she's giving more effort and sounding good. Not much to say, this will do as well as this song can. My main reaction is that I really want ice cream.


My pre-opinion: I've yet to see a good performance of this, but the one that matters hasn't happened yet and I'm not ruling this out completely. Alekseev has the face to appeal to a lot of teens, and the song is 'basic' in a catchy and comforting way, and if done right, may slip into the final in this whole mess. Either way, I'm very much looking forward to see what kind of prop they've come up with this year - can they top a holographic baby and a futuristic airboat?

First run: LOVE IT. Alekseev pulls out a rose, gives it to the camera(!), camera gives it to a Flamenco dancer. Flamenco dancer shoots it back using a crossbow, then breakdances. Press centre is in hysterics. This is Eurovision. Wait, there's more. This ends with him on a very high platform revealing a torn shirt in his back and fake blood (or is it crushed roses?). I don't even.

Second run: I'll try to pay attention to the singing this time, the visuals were so distracting I didn't even notice it. Really, the amount of shock was so big that I didn't even steal Elin's unattended brownie. Well it sounds okish, except that he's mumbling the words. Sorry, got distracted again by everything that's going on. His eyebrows have their own choreography on top of everything. And did I mention rose effects on screen? This is loltastic. I Love Belarus. 

Third run: The rose has lost its petals by now so he's just holding a stem, which is actually made of a metal cord with a rather sharp tip, and he nearly pokes himself in the eye. Watch it, Alekseev, we already have too many artists taken to hospital today!

Mikolas taken to hospital

I popped over to the press conference for a bit. We had these nice men talking about Mikolas.

They assured us that there is no need for any plan B when it comes to his performance and the acrobatics etc, because plan A is still on. 

Still aboard - Czech republic to Israel


I'm scared I'll get hypnotised by the huge amount of "waving cats" (see Yair's post for photo!) on stage right now. But I like it!
The colour theme of the cats (yellow/gold, pink, read, sparkly) goes well with the chicken sounds, reminding me a lot of Easter. Netta was not as convincing as I would have hoped, but it's only the first run through of the first rehearsal yet, still hope for improvement!
There was some improvement second time around, and even more so in the last run through, her confidence came across a lot better towards the end. I'm pleased about that. She also made the whole press centre laugh when she worked wanting more vocals in her earpieces into the lyrics in the beginning of the song the second time. Netta is so cool!


Graphics in black and white of a family and after that a couple dancing, a child kissing another child (in a cute, not creepy way. Too cute in my opinion) is displayed now. Testing testing...
The first run through was surprisingly well received in the press centre. I think people were quite touched by this. To me it was a bit cheesy with the perfect family graphics, but the end was nice. Ieva's husband was suddenly there, held her hand and she sang the last bit in Lithuanian. In the second run through we could see him approaching, I thought the first variant was more effective. The third time was also the see-him-approach-approach, and the Lithuanian rehearsal ended with a husband kissing his wife on the forehead. People around me are loving this song and performance. I'm not convinced.

Czech republic

It seems Mikolas did the first run through half heartedly, focusing on *the jump* (a peek over to Yair for the proper English word: somersault) and problems he/they seem to be having with that. Half of the song he didn't even sing. We do however have pink lights, a backpack and a dancer with a trumpet. Second time around is happening now and it's more properly done this time. He survived the acro but lost his glasses in the process (I know the feeling)!

First rehearsal: Czech R. to Israel


My pre-opinion: Some here completely disagree with its bookie status, other think that as long as they don't do anything stupid, they'll leave dust behind them on the Saturday scoreboard. I sometimes enjoy this song, but upon first listening I was a bit confused, so it won't be easy to live up to expectations I think. IBA and their sponsors have invested unprecedented amount in this act, let's see if they spent it well.

Set up:
CATS! lots of small metal cats with moving hands on shelves that are on both sides of the 'looper' table. Although it's not the same looper we've seen, more of a Star Trek control board.

Yeah these:

First run-through:
Well this is taking forever to set up... finally. Netta is very pink, three dancers are on the bridge, but join Netta later when she leaves the Looper. This sounds different to what we've heard so far, the backing vocals are very high-pitched and Netta looks a bit awkward walking with these shoes. And there's actually not much happening though. Overall not a very impressive run through.

Second run:
They're trying new camera angles and Netta is giving it more, sounding and looking much better already. She's having issues with the looper and had to improvise a bit, and improvising is what she does best, showing her quirky personality. Her fans should almost hope something goes wrong on the night.

Third run:
Pink smoke when the first chorus starts got the fan-press excited. Camera angles much improved again and Netta finally singing like she cares, this should still be a contender if it was before.


My pre-opinion: This has been one of my favourites from first listen, but I'm well aware that I'm in minority here, and this will struggle to stand out. Still, Lithuania have always qualified when I thought they deserved it (and a few times when they didn't...), so a solid rehearsal should be promising.

First run-through:
Similar simplistic approach from the NF with her starting on the floor, with added b/w images on screen of couples dancing. These will need some work to align with the camera. I think there's a second vocal during the chorus, but some here say it's an echo effect. Towards the end she uses the bridge to meet her husband(?) and switches to Lithuanian, this is all really charming and everyone went awwwwww here.

Second run:
Still no improvement on the flash images, I guess that's homework for the video room later. They're trying a new approach of revealing her husband (now you can see him a bit earlier), I thought it's a bit less good but still works. Ieva's vocals are fragile, but in a good way, and overall this is the most effective package I've seen and heard today.

Third run:
Nothing much to say, still looking and sounding good. Saving words for the next country.

Czech (ia/ Republic)

My pre-opinion: It's pretty much a consensus that Mikolas is going to get his country its highest placing ever, and it's certainly doable if the Czech delegation has realised they have something good in their hands and made sure not to let it slip away. He'll need good backing vocals (which so far have been pre-recorded) and an engaging dance during the brassy bits, which has indeed been done well by a certain podium finisher last year, but it's perhaps easier if you have Epic Sax Guy on your team.

First run - or not? Stopped after five seconds when Mikolas said "it's dangerous".

Actual first run:
Mikolas starts without the backpack, but wears it later when we're not looking. There's a lot of focus on the two male dancers doing their own breakdance thing in front of colourful screens. Very very messy and they don't look prepared at all - will need a lot of work to do anything on Saturday (or even get there). The "la la la" bits are sung by female vocals, which I'm not sure was a great idea.

Second run:
There was a long wait, so clearly they had problems to sort out. Still a very messy act and the female backing singers sound weird, but Mikolas himself is a natural performer and just about sells it, adding an acrobatic somersault near the end.

Third and last run:
More improvement, added a split screen with him and the dancers which looks nice. Also added shooting smoke near the end. Now if they can only reduce the breakdance shots and change the gender of the backing singers and they're a shoe in the final.

While Lithuania is setting up, here's a drink that drew my attention.


The sun came out, and there's a really nice mall right outside with lots of options and outside seating area. I have to say that the complex is planned really well.

Congratulations, we are aboard! - Azerbaijan to Belgium


ood is next in line. And inside info from Iceland tells us that Ari's suit is here to stay. I approve!

Our lovely lunch view.


Belgium is currently setting up, right now all we see are eyes, well lit eyes! Which after the first run through seems to be the planned beginning of the performance, logically enough. I thought that was an interesting beginning, it stands out. Otherwise, the blue-ness of the stage continues, hints of blue on a mainly black setting this time. She is wearing a black sleeveless dotty dress with stripes and see through bits mainly on the top part, over black trousers. Nice stage presence from Sennek and she sings the song very well, Go Belgium! Our Belgian room mates were not happy with the performance though, I will convince them later that it was great.


The red and yellow theme of the stage continues, only a bit darker in the beginning. They're keeping it clean, so to speak, the feeling is "back to basics", letting the song and the band be the main attraction, which I like. The most striking thing is a back (of a leather jacket) that's missing! Or perhaps not missing completely, but it's a very open back solution of a jacket!


Next in line for rehearsal was Iceland. We are sitting near our Icelandic friends, they don't like Ari's costume. A white suit with red stripes on the shoulders and arms combined with a red shirt is not their cup of tea. There is a nice re-creation of the outfit in Yair's post!

The stage is lit up in yellow, glitter and red at the end of the song, giving a warm impression after an icy blue start. The camera work is focused on going around Ari in half circles and the vocals sound really good to me!


Azerbaijan started the rehearsal today. I always like going to the arena to start with, to get a sense of the atmosphere there, but it's not open for us yet. From the press centre screen my first impression was a calm one. There were not a lot of fast clips or unnecessary things happening on stage.

A first comment from a fellow blogger (not sure who to be honest) was "Her knickers are FANTASTIC!". I agree, very nice high waisted white undies! She likes to flash them a lot in the beginning of the song. She doesn't need to though, we can see them anyway.

First rehearsal: Azerbaijan to Belgium


My pre-opinion: I like Sennek, and happy for her that her song is getting a lot of love from the fans. I just don't *get* it though. I find the song as engaging as Blackbird, and think she has to do something stand-outy (+sing it flawlessly) to be heard again on Saturday. Good luck to her.

First run:
Starts very dark with a thin light across her face so we can only see her eyes. A bit like Trijntje. When the song kicks in she pulls the microphone from the stands and walks about a bit. This will probably look better with the audience when she gets close to them. Singing is ok, I think there's an invisible backing singer or two but I'm not sure yet. (three backing singers, a Belgian informant whispers in my ear)

Second run:
The light thing is wobbly at the start, hard to tell if it's intended or RTP's light technician has unstable hands. (just then she sings "sometimes it feels like it's meant to be broken", so leaning toward intended). Another fine rehearsal, fans of this song should be satisfied (although I'm still not engaged myself)

Third run:
About the same, with the light a bit less wobbly and Sennek a bit more confident. The stage is black with light beams, and it's refreshing to not have a red or blue stage, but I have to say I'm not a huge fan of this stage. It was a nice idea to get rid of the LEDs, as long as there's some 'character' to replace them with, but there doesn't seem to be any. Rant over.

Fourth run:
The camera is doing its best to find her face, but Sennek is doing her best to avoid it. There's one moment of happiness that it finds her, but she quickly turns away and shows her hair. It's a very long hair that covers most of her back. Echoes echoes of her:


My pre-opinion: I'm a big fan of this, but knowing full well it won't be easy to make the final in this competition. They'll have to get a lot of things right, and I don't trust RTSH who are known to be average at best at staging (Suus did well because it couldn't not, really). Hopefully they've rethought the awkward dancing and will use a couple of mime musicians, and a good choir that can carry the oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH-oh part.

First run:
Very dark stage, first shot on the hairy guitarist. Eugent in the dark. Lights up in the early keychange to reveal a drummer, two clapping female backing singers, another guitar player and Eugent's face. He's giving it all and sounds great. One of the guitarists seems to get bored and starts walking about behind him at some stage, but nothing else happens really (probably for the best - leave the focus on the singing)

Second run:
Someone needs to tell Eugent that this isn't the live show and performing the hell out of it now won't win you votes. A good applause in the press centre though.

In the mean time, there's a storm outside which blew over the plants by the toilet cabin. Where's SuRie when you need her?

Third run:
About the same, so I'll comment on the outfits. Mostly black/leathery for the entire team, with plenty of silvery dazzles, mostly around Eugent's lapels, and a white undershirt that sticks out behind his bum, looking like a tail (think Iceland 1986). Leather strips on his right arm. There's some kind of image on the back of his jacket, but we only see it for a split second. *peaks over Elin's blog* oh, it's just holes.


My pre-opinion: Ari is as cute as a puppy, a great performer and is going to enjoy these rehearsals, knowing that the odds are against him. As for the song's chances, well, I never say never, but they're going to have to pull off an unprecedented spectacle to have a chance.

First run:
Starts very similar to the NF, with the audience behind him. He wears a white suit with red lines on his shoulders that look like some kind of metro map - my guess he won't wear that for the show. Choir of five standing in the dark behind him, smoke on the floor.

Second run:
Not much to say about this, it's all as expected really. Stage starts in blue and during the high note bit changes to red/yellow, at least that's something.

This is (roughly) what he's wearing:

Third run:
OMG! Pyro! AMAZING! Þórunn Erna turns into a holographic fire puffin!
Or not really. Nothing to say about this one, it's as expected.


My pre-opinion: It's a decent Pop song and Aisel was surely trained to make the best of it, but will it be remembered by the time (the similar-ish) Cyprus has performed? They'll need a standout element, although going by Azerbaijan's historic semifinal televoting patterns, they have little to worry about anyway.

First run:
Blue stage, hurrah! Aisel in flappy white dress, four (visible) backing singers also in white, all on some triangular plinths with neon edges. Sounds fine, but it may be the studio version that we hear.

Second run:
Aisel starts lying down in a darkish stage, then sits up. Wind machine and transparent top leave very little for imagination. Stage manages to look quite sparkly for not having LEDs, There's also sparkle effects added on screen. Overall a professional, though not very interesting routine.

Third run:
Aisel does everything to point our attention to her mid-section (so much that the press area started calling it Crotch my Heart), it all looks a bit over-rehearsed and mechanic, but they have plenty of time to polish it and make it look natural I'm sure.


Good morning from a rather crowded press centre with very few seats available for community media with actual view of the screens. It's going to be a carnage, but we're being civilised so far.

At least the goodie bag is nice.

Quick guide to using our blog

Greetings from beautiful Lisbon! The city is lovely and welcoming, but one issue already: The airport has a 'generic' sign at baggage reclaim for all delegations, but a special sign for Macedonia. SCANDAL?

Elin and myself plan to deprive ourselves from our beauty sleeps in order to beat the accreditation queue and report for you from the Azerbaijani rehearsal onwards. The press centre coffee better be stronger than cannoballs.

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