Monday 30 April 2018

Haiku #2

Black, grey, snow and flame
Throwing stones will get you hurt
Aegean blue dream

First rehearsals: Ireland and Cyprus


Pre-opinion: Very much the same as Azerbaijan, so they would be wise to do something different. Everyone around me is hoping for something trashy and OTT.

Set up: We can already see some of the on-screen effects, fireballs and volcanic ash. Eleni in golden tight suit leaving very little for imagination.

First runthrough: Well, the press centre had fun. Laser tunnel, overdose of flame effects on screen, Beyonce-esque dancing. And the singing, well, let's say she's very brave to not get backing help during the verses. Thank you for waking us up after a long sleepy afternoon.

Second run: She sounds better now. A well-rehearsed routine of her and the four dancers, perhaps doing enough to buy over the trashpop lovers. I'm not too keen on the on-screen effects, it looks like there's two little dragons living in her knees.

Third run: They're trying a different knee dragon effect (red bits of fire, as if the dragon has a cold), looks a bit better. Some real actual pyro at the end.

Overall: this comes for me in the right time and place, after what feels like a very long semi. We're off now to argue about what colour her suit is. Thank you for reading.


Pre-opinion: This is the strongest Irish entry in some years, but it's also easy for my attention to drift away after the second minute or so. They'll need to do something to keep us interested, and yet come off as sincere, which won't be simple

First runthrough: Ryan is holding a giant guitar (or is it a normal guitar and he's just small)? Props are an old street lamp, a bench and the familiar interpretive dancers from the preview video. Woman on piano helps him vocally. Euphoria snow effect near the end. Cute.

Second run: A pretty clever revelation of the piano woman (you'll have to wait and see it, I guess). Still a lot of bad camera shots and visible crew, but that should be sorted out.

Third and last run: Working a bit better, still the main problem for me is that the (really charismatic) Ryan becomes a side player after the first chorus, from the moment the dancers appear. You barely see him for the rest of the song, and it's a shame. RTE/P: More Ryan, less dancers please.

Day 2 of first rehearsals - Ireland and Cyprus


Glittery (that must be the best way to start a sentence) multi coloured (I think Yair is right, it's golden, but the different coloured lights make it shift) fitted trouser-suit is what Eleni is wearing. She starts by walking through a laser tunnel (many dangerous things on stage this year!), which was a cool start of the song. Then, it just went over the top. The press centre is in a *state* after this, what an energy boost!


There is quite some focus on the two male dancers in this act, which I think is a wise decision. It adds a dimension/illustration to the lyrics and music, and makes the performance more interesting to watch all the way through than if it would have been "just" Ryan and his guitar. He sings the song well, it was a very pleasant performance.

There was also awww-inducing (I'm from the north of Sweden, so no awwws from me for that part) fake snow in the end.

When it comes to the guitar being huge or not... My theory is that it's a normal guitar, but Ryan's dark jacket is slimming, making him look smaller.

First rehearsal: Finland to Switzerland


Pre-opinion: I failed to notice this when it was on the Swiss final, and it hasn't really grown on me either. It seems to have a lot of avid fans, so maybe there's something to it I don't hear? And if the Armenian stage concept is stones, can they just leave them there?

While we wait, I'm reading this fun blog at escgo, putting all those hysterical reactions, including mine (ok, especially mine) into perspective.

First run: Woman ZiBB with strappy black top that reveals a lot and pink hat. She drums a bit and then throws her stick and starts to walk about the bridge. Oh no, she's doing the "I want anybody who's been hurt put your hand up" thing. Invisible (male?) backing singers doing oh-oh-om, but nobody's helping her and her vocals are on the harsh side. Man ZiBB alternates between drumming and playing the keyboard.

Oh, and she takes her mic stand to the bridge, walks across half of it and back, then picks it up. The mic stand has long pink straps, when she walks it she carries it low enough for it to mop the floor behind her. That's Swiss efficiency.

Second run: Better vocals now. I guess the best thing going for it is Woman ZiBB's figure (she worked hard for it, I can tell) and perhaps being more colourful than the previous entry, by default.

Third run: I think they've worked out the sound mix issues, and she doesn't sound harsh anymore (thanks to backing vocals). She's now holding a flare while she asks us to put our hands up. Well not all of us, just those who have ever been hurt.


Pre-opinion: Another one I enjoy, and he's a good singer, although the performances I've seen so far were a bit tame (including the NF one), and they're going to do better than this to stand out. Curious how they'll do the high pitch qamiiiiiiiiii in the end, which has so far been assisted by pre-recorded bits.

First runthrough: He's standing inside a circle of long stones of uneven length, looking like remains of an ancient shrine, or a modern genocide memorial. Backing singers not visible (boo). It's all very grey/black until the 'climax' bit where we see some red lights. I'm not entirely sold on the concept, but he may still carry it on his charisma.

Second run: There's a heated debate on the ESC Nation desk on whether these are stones or wood planks (we may have to ask your opinion). The performance is much of the same, all very grey with a bit of red. Wind machine (a must with this song title) makes Sevak's top flap about.


Pre-opinion: The fan world seems to have gone from "OMGZ pop diva so winning" to "such disappointment, NQ". I was always in the middle about this: An OK Pop song with an OK performer that might earn itself a spot in the final in the right circumstances.

Setup: Triangles is the theme (but not in the Gabriela Gunčíková way). A platform made of tringles of purple neons, on top an eight-pointed star made of more triangles, and Saara (the only non-geometric shape in here),

First runthrough: Saara lying on the platform in a glittery black top and long boots, she has two male dancers who may have neck mics, but I only hear female singers ain't scared no more. Very purple and turquoise everything. It was very much the bubblegumy pop performance expected from this, Saara falling backwards and caught by the dancers is a nice ending.

* oh, she's not lying on the floor, it's a vertical circle and she's tied to it as it rotates. Pretty cool, but there's a lot of upside down head in this. Can she handle the blood rush?

Second runthrough: Dancers tried to release her from the disc, but couldn't quite do it fast enough. They need to work on that. Pyro geysers during the last chorus. People near me are not impressed, but I think that this staging suits the song, at least.

Think of this, but with fifteen tons of Swarowskis. And no knives (they're on the list of prohibited items, thankfully):

Third and last run: Pyro curtain! And more shooting pyro we haven't seen before. Those of you who like pyro will love this.

Day 2 of first rehearsals - Finland to Switzerland


It might be a sign of mental disease, but this outfit reminds me of another animal skeleton, a beetle skeleton. It's a short leather top with that pattern, that she's wearing. A pink hat tops the outfit off. We get a tour of the stage, that is, there's a lot of walking around on it. And as Yair already wrote, the vocals were not that pleasant to listen to (no disaster, but no relaxataxi either).

The top, mentally unwell (?) artist's impression...

Second and third run went better and better. Still, I had a hard time focusing on the song/performance. It just doesn't do much for me.


Sevak is surrounded by a circle of painted "3 tum 4" (quite thick planks) in different lengths. He looks pretty lonely in there. Yet another blue/dark light setting for the stage. I don't have much else to say about this performance. It didn't stand out in any particular way, other than being good promotion for building material.

The outfit is what I am focusing on during the second run. It is a dark grey well worn bathrobe looking long coat. I do believe there's some wind machine action there as well, it just doesn't have much effect on the thick material of the robe.

Looks like there won't be a third run for the eyes of the press from Armenia either. Rumor has it (at least from Greece, but it must be a general thing, surely) that means something awesome beyond words will happen, that they don't want to show us just yet. My guess is that pyro will set the planks (or whatever they may be) on fire and - or - the wind machine will get a boost of power and blow them off stage.


Saara performs in high glittery black boots and a short sparkly black dress with a statement piece silver necklace reminding me of a fish skeleton! There might have been some technical problems in the beginning of the song, the vocals were quite low in volume. She did a good job, even though it must be difficult being upside down in the end!

Second run through shows that fish skeletons can be dangerous, dancers can get caught it them trying to help singers off spinning discs! Although, catching dancer doesn't have to be a bad thing.

In the third and last run Saara put herself into even more danger, through pyro which she was a lot closer to than the recommended minimum safety distance. It was quite an effective end to the performance! Finland gets a good round of applause from the press centre.

Day 2 of first rehearsals - Macedonia to Greece

Time to eat. So far the food in Portugal has been super delicious. This is what Yair and I had last night:


Yianna is alone on stage, wearing a long white dress with extra fabric that goes down to the floor at the end of the sleeves. It covers everything except a small rectangular peek gap at the waist and a circle in the back. A mainly blue stage makes it all extra Greek in combination. A lot of blinking lights going on. Slightly shaky on the vocals at the end.

During the second run the vocals were good all the way through. And either I got used to the blinking lights, or there was not as much of that.

The last run was just hacked by a Macedonian press conference! They like skiing in the Austrian alps apparently. I just like Austria.


Cesár, wearing a sweater and trousers in three shades of silvery grey, starts off standing on a big platform. The effect of that and a hologram of his face made the press people here go Oooohhhh! This also got the best response in here from what we have heard so far. I was quite affected by it too!

I got goose bumps during the second run through as well. Such a great performance (and song)!


Franka seems very confident and sings the song very well. The performance gave a well rehearsed impression. Her dress is a black fitted long one, made of  lace with a lot of different patterns and many see through parts... See through lace - another theme for outfits this year! And there's a wind machine.

The second run through was spot on as well.


After about 30 minutes of waiting, we finally got to see Eye Cue rehearse. Unfortunately we just got the last run through. Something was weird with the sound, at least in the beginning of the song, a lot of extra echo. If it was intended, it is a bad idea... Marija's in a cute pink short dress with a lot of extra fabric in the back (back and jacket details seem to be the thing of this year). The stage was blue and yellow, and sometimes just blue, she was dressed in . Nothing that stands out really, not great, not bad.

Tourist information is all we are getting in the press centre at the moment, so here's a little taste for you - another photo from our historic tram experience yesterday.

First rehearsal: Macedonia to Greece


Pre-opinion: This stands out for me in this semi line-up, in a good way. But it will need to be staged with an 'atmosphere', and it won't be simple with this kind of stage.

Set up: Yianna is in a clean white dress with flappy sleeves that reach the floor.

First run: Oh. :-/
She's all alone on stage (more hidden singers..), which I think wasn't a great idea as she doesn't carry it visually by herself. She just flaps her sleeves about and looks robotic. Vocally fine until the last few lines, which made us squirm a bit.

Second run: Some improvements here, vocally and visually. The blue background and white dress make it look very Greek, at least. There's some light effect projecting on her dress during the drummy bit. She still looks lonely there, but they're on the right track with the vocals, at least.

Third run: We only got a few seconds of it, then the feed switched to the Macedonian press conference. Overall, they still need to work on the sound mix during the last chorus, but should probably sound good on the night. This is roughly how the whole thing looks:


Pre-opinion: I really like this one, but it depends on a strong backing choir for this to do well. And it better be visible too, because Cesár hasn't looked too comfortable on his own so far. ORF have a good record for doing their homework lately, so I guess I don't need to tell them that.

First run: Fabulous. He's on a futuristic platform that reveals itself dramatically, backing choir sounds great (they're behind the platform, we can only see their heads). Silver shirt that flatters his body really well. Giant hologram of his bust and face appears. He jumps off the platform and walks about during the bridge. Some wows and an enthusiastic applause from the press centre.

Second run: I should add he's wearing a neck mic and shakes his arms during the "I'm shaking til I fall down" part. The platform is quite a thing, it's a two-level device that lifts, both parts have lights. The top part looking like an alien spaceship. I both love it and fear green men will emerge from it and invade me.

Third and run and still looking and sounding great. If I were to say something negative about this, it would be that Cesár needs tighter trousers.


Pre-opinion: There's not a lot of opinion, really. Most of us struggle to remember it's there. Can they do anything to change that?

First run-though: Dark stage. Backing singers are off-stage. Franka sings well, but not a lot happens, apart from a wind machine. I guess they're planning the focus will be on her facial expressions, trying to look 'crazy', but in this run-through it's all very mechanic.

Second run: First shot is on her stretched hand, slowly revealing her face. She uses the mic stand until the 'talky' bit, then she pulls it out, walks about for a bit, then goes back the stand. Some yellow lights in the back. The camera shows her from every possible angle, when it runs out of angles it does it again. Sound mix is absolutely fine, it sounds a lot like the studio.

Third and last run: They're trying a sound effect during the talky bit that makes her sound like she's on a walkie-talkie. There's also smoke that shoots from behind the camera when she goes 'skyyyyyyyy'.

To sum it all, this is... fine


Pre-opinion: One of my favourites this year, finding the change of styles fascinating. But well aware that this is a difficult song to sell, and adding Macedonia's staging track record and the live performances of this I've heard so far, chances are against them.

(still not started, on our screens at least, we're getting views of Portuguese forest bike trails)
(screens are on, looks like we get to see the last runthrough only)

So, it's not the carcrash many feared (hoped?). A standard Pop performance, with Marija walking about and interacting with Bojan and the drummer, and sometimes joining the three female backing singers/dancer in the chorus dance from the music video. Vocals are ok most of the time. Best part for me: the backings snap their fingers! It's very loud in the sound mix, so possibly an added sound effect (guess that's allowed...?)

The routine and outfits very much remind me of Karma's final performance from Dora 2003 .

Bom dia

Lisbon is so lovely! The historic trams aren't just a sight, they also take you to nice neighbourhoods your foot probably won't. If you're a smoker, however, you're never allowed on the metro.