For the fifth year in a row, Eurovision acts from all over Europe flew into the Dutch capital, to be part of Amsterdam’s “Eurovision in Concert” on April 14th. This year broke all previous records with 25 of the 39 acts going to Malmo, taking part and a completely sold out Melkweg Arena, which this year had over 30 Irish Eurovision fans joining other from all over Europe and beyond.
The day began at 13:00 CET in the nearby DeLaMar Theatre when journalists and bloggers were welcomed by the organising group and Eurovision event supervisor Sietse Bakker. After the 25 acts were presented, we were treated a performance of “Captured By A Lovestorm” by 1991 Eurovision winner, Carola, who bravely tried to stop an unfortunate costume malfunction caused by a vigorous wind-machine and a rather poorly chosen short shirt. After that a “Meet and greet” session helped the artists and delegations to get better acquainted with the media, a perfect instruction to what awaits them, in Malmo in May.
The evening show saw a queue of almost 400 meters build up outside the Melkweg arena, but with typical Dutch efficiency everyone was in before the show began. As an all standing venue it gave many of those heading to Malmo an idea of what three hours of standing at an event can be. This year’s presenters were former Dutch representatives Esther Harte (“One Good Reason” in 1999) and Linda Wagenmakers (No Goodbyes” in 2000).
After our presenters treated us to some local Eurovision entries it was time for the first of the 25 acts going to Malmo. All the acts sounded as if they were singing live this year although some employed pre-recorded backing vocals and a basic lead vocal track to support their live vocals. A few acts (including Ireland) brought backing dancers and many were performing the final version of their Eurovision song for the first time.
The afternoon session gave me a chance to chat to Andrius Pojavis in the afternoon session and he told me that he had spent a couple of years living and working in Cork and was hoping to tap into the Lithuanian diaspora vote in Ireland. It’s still unclear if the older more guitar based version or the newer and poppier version of “Something” will be performed in Malmo, as Andrius clearly prefers the original. Andrius was wearing a t-shirt and leather jacket, and had no backing support, but this was a good opening number, which was well, if slightly over performed and it remains a marginal qualifier for me.
Moje 3 (pronounced mow-ya trey) were also in casual clothes and had slightly changed the routine of their song, from the selection in Belgrade with blond Nevena Božoviće now taking more of the centre stage. Vocally this was great and why wouldn’t it be from three off the “Voice of Serbia” finalists and the girls are clearly enjoying each other’s company as we saw from their interaction with other acts in the afternoon and later at the after-show party. The crowd loved it and this remains a likely qualifier.
Birgit looked great in a red dress and performed her song for everything it is worth, but whether it was the fact that it was the first ballad of the evening or whether the song doesn’t have any immediate impact, but the crowd were certainly less enthused if still appreciative. I fear this has gone from being an unlikely qualifier to a no hoper, but no other reason than its lack of something to keep it fresh in the memory after 16 songs have been performed.
The six Klapa s Mora boys were the fourth acts, from Ireland’s semi, the first of the two qualifiers in Malmo. These boys seemed a little frosty to some at the afternoon event but I found them chatty and very informative. They agreed that some of the rather stilted choreography moves for their first preview videos looked rather unnatural and on Saturday it was a simple case of “stand and sing” which they did magnificently. They will have to do some camera shots for the instrumental break but otherwise this is looking better and has gone from a marginal qualifier to a likely qualifier in my book despite the poor running order.
Amandine Bourgeois was the first of two of the six automatic finalists to make it to Amsterdam. In the afternoon, her frankness and friendliness made many conquests and she certainly made full use of her three minutes to belt out and a very emotional and powerful version of her song, which the audience really appreciated. With few compromises to pop or a family audience, this could go either way in Malmo, but I think it may backfire and I, now seeing little hope for anything bar a bottom three finish on Final night, but I hope I’m wrong.
With Stoyan having another concert on the same evening, Elitsa recruited what look like a hyper-active street urchin to help her out on stage. It looked rather contrived and while Elitsa sang well, it seemed to divide the arena between converts and those with a rather stony disposition. This remains a marginal qualifier, at best from semi two.
A complete change of tempo and style from Zlata from Ukraine, who was dressed in a figure-hugging black dress. This was very under-stated performed, with no backing vocals and just depending on a smooth vocally perfect performance to sell the song. This was as good as it could be under the circumstances but it’s hard to judge it until we see all the bells and whistles planned for “Gravity” in Malmo. This will sail through from Ireland’s semi and it remains a serious contender for the Top 10 in the final, but as of now, an unlikely winner.
Natalia Kelly had also won many admirers in the afternoon meeting sessions and seems to ooze a relaxed charm that belies her young age. Another straight-forward stand there and sing it performance which went down very well with the audience. This will be a nice show opener but I’m not sure it’s anything more than a marginal qualifier from Ireland’s semi.
We got a bi-lingual version of “ “Pred Da Se Razdeni” with Lozano singing some English parts and Esma sticking with Romani. This was rather awkward and messy and vocally a little off and the grandmother/grandson look is rather incongruous on stage. This has gone from a marginal finalist to an unlikely qualifier in my book.
With their new Takasa name and white shirts and black ties, it’s hard to remember the original Salvation Army performance. This was very ropey and it looked poor and very static on an over-crowded stage. Nevertheless the audience seemed to like it a lot, but I remain unconvinced that it’s anything but an unlikely qualifier at best.
I think we all knew that Moran’s “Ugly Betty” fashion forward outfit from the afternoon was unlikely to be her performance costume. However what she chose was even worse as she looked like a badly packed Christmas cracker. The unfortunate outfit aside, this was very much as before and Moran can certainly belt out her song. There needs to be some major “styling och consulting” for Malmo and as of now it’s a marginal qualifier from semi two.
Cezar was a popular interviewee in the afternoon and he certainly has some great jackets in his wardrobe. This was a performance that split sound and vision. Sound wise it was fine as long as you appreciate the skills of a counter-tenor but visually Cezar made several rather off-putting grimaces. While I like this, I can see that it made little impact and I’m moving this from a likely qualifier to a marginal qualifier, even if it is the last song in semi two.
WE moved next door to Moldova and my first time hearing the live Romanian version of “O Mie”. In a split black and orange dress Aliona absolutely belted this out and I got my first big surprise of the evening. This was very powerful and with 2012 sing Pasha Parfany who is the songwriter, knowing the Eurovision ropes, this has gone from being a marginal qualifier to an almost certainty to progress from semi one. Indeed, if Romania doesn’t qualify, expect this to do very well in the final.
The Amsterdam set-up really didn’t suit this as it’s a big song that needs a stadium to demonstrate its full rock power and the audience in Amsterdam may be too Eurovision centred. Having said that, there was nothing much wrong with it and I would keep Albania as a marginal qualifier from semi two.
Gianluca on his own in a two-tone shirt and florescent red pants. This was simple, charming, well performed and the audience really loved it. With the full band in Malmo and working the camera, this should have no problem qualifying from semi two and with few uptempo pop songs, who knows?
Hannah also travelled alone and wore what is unlikely to be her Eurovision stage costume. While this was more suited to the Amsterdam audience, the vocals were a little shaky at points and the audience reaction a little less than I might have expected. This remains a marginal qualifier at best from semi one and right now I wouldn’t see it making the cut.
The recent visit of President Putin to Amsterdam has generated a somewhat mixed reaction in Amsterdam, but the Welkweg crowd were far more welcoming for Dina Garipova in her big red dress. Vocally strong and an engaging performance and I would push this a little higher up the rankings based on last Saturday’s performance. It could well be another Top 5 result for Russia in Malmo.
I had chatted with Roberto Bellarosa in the afternoon and I got the impression of a rather nervous boy behind those puppy-dog eyes. Perhaps it was the thought of his parents in the audience. After a false start where he had no in-ear sound, he gave a very good run through of “Love Kills” and while I don’t expect it to be on the left side of the scoreboard in final night, it could well make it out of Ireland’s semi.
Back to semi-two and the second successive Eurovision for Valentina Monetta. She has matured in the past year and so has her Eurovision song choice. Gone are the gimmicks of last year and instead, wearing a sweeping red and purple dress, she alternated for holding the mic to putting it on the stand for the uptempo climax. This was very good and got a great reaction in the hall, however with no neighbours or diaspora, it’s depending on a lot of goodwill to make the cut. Right now I would say it’s got a better than 50/50 chance.
Krista Siegfrids and her five member female entourage seem to annoy a lot of people in the afternoon session as their loud chanting and attention seeking was interfering with interviews. This was a brash unapologetic performance that is also likely to divide voters in Malmo. However despite my personal dislike for it, I can see this appealing to a teenage audience and it was visually and vocally good. Now a likely qualifier from semi two.
No kilts or plaid shorts but a full size drum kit for the Greek team. There was lots of mad-cap antics and running around and the crowd seemed to love it. The song had to be reprised at the end because of some technical issues. There’s no question that this will work very well in a big arena and the standing crowd in Malmo will lap it up. It’s now a very likely qualifier and we could well see Greece back in the Top 10 after a year’s break.
Another song with an entourage, this time two male and two female dancers, with the girls also providing a bit of vocal support. Alyona in a simple blue dress was flanked by two deranged male body-poppers with the most awful costumes and dance routines I’ve seen for many years. This was very messy and totally distracted from the song. There is major work required here, if this is to be anything more than a marginal qualifier.
Nodi and Sophie have been my dark horses to win in Malmo since I first heard “Waterfalls” and Saturday night’s performance seems to have added more people with a good feeling about Georgia’s chances. Sophie’s green dress was stunning and Nodi does need to calm down the theatrics a bit. Some think there’s little on stage chemistry at work, but there is still time to get that right and more than ever, I think this could be the one to beat with a good draw.
Ryan got the nice position of being the last uptempo song of the evening and he looked very fresh for someone who had been up at 2:00 am to catch the first flight from Dublin to Amsterdam. He brought two backing dancers/bodhran players. In the afternoon session, Ryan did a great job getting publicity for himself but giving very little away on the staging plans for Malmo , although I suspect the platform used for Ryan in the Eurosong final, won’t be seen in Sweden. We had a somewhat improvised “Riverdance” style opening which slightly blurred the start of “Only Love Survives” but once it got going Ryan was in good voice. Personally I would tone down the backing dancers until the second half of the song and use a lot of camera sweeps for variety. This remains a likely qualifier, in my book.
The last of this year’s entrants was Marco Mengoni wearing his now trademark 1960s suit with matching shirt and tie. After Blue in 2011 and Jedward in 2012, it was no surprise to see Marco saved for last as the biggest name at the event. This was an absolutely flawless interpretation of “L’essenziale” and while I was looking forward to what might have been the shorter Eurovision version of the song, it was still a treat to hear the longer original version. This was pure class and while Marco’s mannerisms may not be to everyone’s tastes this is likely to do very well with juries. The public vote may come down to running order and the number of ballads that qualify, but this is a serious Top 5 contender, as of now.
The fantastic evening was brought to a close by Carola, wearing a black and silver number and while there is no doubt that she remains a great singer, it’s a shame self-awareness isn’t a strong point. An awful remix of her 1983 song “Fraemling” which managed to remove any of the charm of the orinal version was followed by a second version of her 1991 entry “Captured By A Love Storm” (with predictable wind machine) and she closed the evening with her 2006 entry “Invincible”.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and it was great to see so many Irish faces in Amsterdam and everyone seemed to have a great night and the after-show party or at the after-after-show party that went on until 10:00 on Sunday morning.
A big thanks to the organisers and to the artists for the kindness.
Author and Guest Writer Keith Mills of AKOE
Source – Eurovision Ireland/Picture Courtesy of 12points.tv / YouTube Videos Courtesy of embedded owners