This will be a rolling blog, each country in running order, so please refresh to update.
Through some kind of futuristic miracle, I'm able to follow rehearsals from my very own colourful home, and I will attempt to take you through the second run-through of the rest of Semi-Final 1, except Malta, as I refuse to cover boot-malfunctions. After learning what Jordy made out of the first rehearsals, and Yair's fresh eyes on the first segment of second rehearsals, let's see what my (fresh?) fish eyes will make of the rest of today's bunch.
🇭🇷 | Croatia
Which generally is how I'd describe this entire entry and performance, really. There's not much wrong with it per se, but when none of the ingredients are quite up to standard, we're just gonna end up with an average cake (or is it a traditional Rachel trifle with peas?), aren't we? The song isn't quite there, the colours are used by several others, the background graphics are a bit non-descript, the dancers have too much clothes, and there's no teddy bears.
The main selling point is Albina herself, but I can't see her saving this singlehandedly. I tried to come up with a comparison for this package, and the best I could come up with was Jestem - that's not great news, is it...
🇳🇴 | Norway
Patriotic hat (or headband, rather) on? Nah, I've been quite ambivalent to this entry all season, really, and nothing in this rehearsal changes that. We also all know what we're getting, since this is the exact same performance as in MGP.
He managed to tell the story behind the act and entry well in the very good music video (alternatively, thought of a nice story afterwards, that he could clonk onto to the act and entry...), but hardly anyone watching will have any clue of that of course, so this will just be a nice ballad with lots of nice keychanges, performed, for no good reason at all, by some guy dressed like a pimp and hiding behind sunglasses. I expect juries to be put off by the unfitting act, or by the nice, but extremely basic, tune (it's essentially a dansband song in that respect, isn't it?), so it's all in the hands of the televoters - will those that find the wings and stuff so Eurovision! add up with those that like the song, or will the mismatch put everyone off?
Vocally I'd say it's perfectly adequate (which may or may not be thanks to some hidden help, no clue), and visually it also works decently - the highlight for me is for the big NOOOOO in the last chorus, when the colour scheme goes from cold, dark and blue to a warmer gold with some added clouds, creating some needed development. I'd say it's a qualifier, but by no means a certain one!
🇨🇾 | Cyprus
I was a bit worried they'd over-egg this, like I felt they did with Tamta two years ago, but I'd say they've kept it relatively simple, and yet with some nice touches. I particularly like the way the dancers, red from head to toe, are mirrored on the backdrop - it somehow makes you slightly doubt if they are real, or if the ones in the mirror are real, or if any of them are real, or if none of them are real. Is Elena real? Am I real?!
One thing I think the performance is missing, is a little visual variation (particularly for the POW as the chorus kicks in!), as it pretty much looks exactly the same throughout - except when Elena decides she's some kind of bug and goes all bendy and backwards on us. When she's the right way, however, she's surprisinlgy likeable and personable, at least compared to how I expected her to be from the video, and she sounds decent too.
Oh lo and behold, just as I was asking for variation, have they introduced a key change for the last chorus? It sounds a little higher and different at least - I approve!
🇮🇪 | Ireland
I've been quite interested to see this, as the descriptions from the first rehearsal sounded potentially interesting if they get it right, plus I've liked the song a lot all along. The whole "set-up" is there for the first half of the song, with various paper "scenes" right in front of the cameras so she's walking around in a supposed paper landscape and every now and then interacting with it in various ways - picking up a piece of paper from right by the camera, extending a hand towards us (and someone else's coming towards hers?!). It looks quite cute, and certainly different from the rest, but I'm not sure she's comfortable enough with it all to make it work - she seems a little stressed, and the singing is... hmm. It's not really bad, but just a bit shouty here and there, disturbing the flow of the song a bit.
For the second half she "escapes" all the scenery, and walks out to the satellite stage, with the backdrop suddenly bathing in warm orange as if she's in Lion King, while the entire set-up is still very visible around and behind her. I can understand the choice of showing it all, but it makes it look a bit messy. Her singing and general appearance is much better in the second half, which makes sense as she's probably far more relaxed and at ease.
The main verdict I'm left with is why?
🇲🇰 | North Macedonia
Starts off in darkness with just Vasil's face and some little, growing light shining from his chest - it almost feels like one of those special powers you'd see in a 90s timetravel TV show for tweens. His special power keeps growing (cue Michael Scott) until it explodes, and eventually he reveals his Dotter-like shirt. Did they miss that bit where they're meant to project lights at the Dotter-shirt to make it all reflecty, though...? He seems to mainly just stand there with a proud "Look what I can do!"-attitude, but then isn't doing... anything.
The song is obviously an overblown piece of nothingness, but considering North Macedonia's staging history (or HANG ON, North Macedonia actually got it right 100 % of times, is it FYR Macedonia that's been the problem?!), I'd say this is actually about as good as could be expected for it. The colour scheme (just darkness with orange) makes it a bit different from all the pink and purple, and he's not acting quite as ridiculously over the top as he did in the video. I'd throw in five visible backing singers in a corner to make it feel a bit more proper though.
Question: What is that word he's singing in one of the first few lines?? Crack? GREK? Craic...? Is Ireland his favourite...?