Albania

ROLLING BLOG: Second rehearsal of semi-final one – 2 May

DSCF9270 Hi folks, we’re back after a day off from rehearsals, to bring you the second set of rehearsals for the countries in the first semi-final.  Still with us?  We will see how the delegations have take on board the feedback from their first rehearsals, and tried to polish things in readiness for the first live show on 6 May.

ARMENIA

Fascinating fact: In 2006 Andre became the first (and to date only) performer to open the first semi-final and close the final.  He finished 8th.

Andrew: Armenia are sounding good this morning. The right mix of slow and dub step and the lighting and backdrop really help make the mood of the song . Aram MP3 is wearing a grey jacket and black fingerless cycling gloves. He is on stage alone and when the dubstep kicks there is a certain rawness in his voice which enhances the performance. Good use of spotlights round him at the start. There are  flames shooting up when the dubstep part kicks in too.

John: There haven’t been many changes since the first rehearsal.  It starts dark, it lights up for the middle part of the song, and goes dark again for the end.  We did see a run-through with pyros, but it was made clear these may not appear next week.

Garrett : Gone is the Madonna mic and back is the mic stand. Aram needs to make sure that he checks his facial expressions as at times he looks in pain or over excitement (you know what I mean) but I still love this! #GoingToTheFinal

LATVIA

Fascinating fact: In their 14 appearances, Latvia have performed songs in Latvian, Russian, Italian and English.  Their best results have been when they’ve sung in English

Andrew: Latvia is very jolly isn’t it. They walk onto stage together at the start. Then stand in a group centre stage. It is extremely catchy but looks like a bunch of buskers off the street. After Armenia it looks rather amateurish but whether this will put off voters we shall see, it is possible folk may be attracted by its charm and catchiness.

John: The Latvian song was pretty much set at the first rehearsal, so there were just a few different camera angles.  They don’t make the full use of the immense stage, but this sort of song doesn’t need it.  It’s pleasant and you will be humming it later on in the show.

Garrett : Moist and not a soggy bottom in site. I am licking my fingers after this performance. Strong contrance after the dramatic Armenia. #Delicious

ESTONIA

Fascinating fact: In 2001 when Estonia won the last time the contest was in Copenhagen, Dave Benton became the oldest individual to be involved in singing a winning entry.

John: The close camera work as the song gets going suits it, with an interesting viewpoint for the audience at the start of the song.  Tanja’s dancer chum continues to throw her about a lot, but she appears to cope with is very well as her voice doesn’t change.  Admittedly she has backing singers carefully placed in the shadows but these enhance Tanja rather than cover for her.

Andrew: Estonia was a bit messy today but only because Tanja was fiddling with her microphone box which eventually fell off towards the end. There was also a few off notes but overall visually it was great. She and her dancer are all in white and work the stage beautifully with their energetic dance routine. How she sings at all sometimes is Amazing. But it is a fact that they have a backing singer singing in unison with her which helps solidify the vocal. The dance routine is also very clever as when you look at it more closely it looks energetic on stage and on camera but in reality Tanja is not moving frenetically around at all but is placed into positions and held by her dancer hence why she is not out of breath.

Garrett : Where are the rest of the “Kids From Fame” – I want Leroy to be on the stage. This is less #Amazing and more #Meaaah

SWEDEN

Fascinating fact: In 1965, Ingvar Wixell became the first singer to perform a Eurovision song in a language (English) that was not an official one of the country it was representing.

Andrew: There is some lovely effect with spotlights for Sanna’s performance. She stands within a ring of spots which point upwards to form a cone shape. They eventually move outward and down and it is fairly effective. I would have better use of a big impact shot at the crescendo moments later on but it came across as underwhelming. Vocally though it was pretty near perfect. But it does not have the wow factor that a lot of people perhaps were hoping for.

John: Sanna appears to be in the frock she’ll be wearing next Tuesday.  It’s short, black and a little bit lacey.  Arguably someone slightly younger could carry it off better, but at least it’s not too showy.  She didn’t quite every note but on the whole it was OK.

Garrett : They have put Sanna into a black cocktail dress that makes her look like a character from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. Can I ask SVT to “Undo” this decision and make her look like she is going to Eurovision and not a Charity event for Ladies that Lunch

ICELAND

Fascinating fact: Iceland is the only Nordic country yet to win the contest.  They have, however, been runners-up twice.

John: The staging is excellent, unless you’re watching the show in black & white.  Beards are back and this is fun fun fun.  Despite this, they still have the no prejudice message that comes across well, without being trivial.  There’s the slim risk of them shouting the last chorus but as Pollapönk are accomplished performers so that may not prove to be an issue.

Garrett : I want one of their suits and I can grow my beard longer. I fear it may not qualify but that certainly does not stop me liking it!

Andrew: Well Iceland is very colourful not only the suits but also the stage and backdrop. Its very energetic but I still cannot see past the song itself. I just do not get it to be honest its done well but certainly not my cup of tea. I would not have this qualifying but you never know sometimes.

ALBANIA

Fascinating fact: The Festival I Këngës which is used to pick the country’s song for Eurovision, started in 1962.  Aurela Gaçe, who sang for Albania in 2010, has won it three times.

John: Hersi has a different frock.  It’s long, gold and highly elaborate.  I’m not totally sure whether her outfit fits in with the rocky guitar solo in the middle of the song.  Maybe something more rock-chick would have seemed better.  I’m also still not sure whether the ship’s bow works, because it means she can’t move.  Still, she sells this song very well.

Garrett : This will be my rest room break in the contest and will be here now. Drowned in lace I can see through this performance – literally – and it fails to excite. Prediction – not qualifying.

Andrew: I moved into the arena for the first time to watch the next couple of song. The stage and backdrop with the metal cube look fantastic. It is amazing what they have done to transform a shipyard shed into a working arena. The press are up really close to the front of the stage so an excellent view. Albania have Hersi on an extended platform in a long flowing cream dress, very classy. Lots of dry ice and 2 backing singers along with the rock guitarist and drummer. This is not overstated and the vocals are really lovely no gimmicks really and some very good camera angles. Albania have managed to make the most of what they have got here. Still not sure it has enough to get through though.

After song 6 there will be TV advert break.

RUSSIA

Fascinating fact: Since 2000, Russia has had seven top5 finishes, the most for any country.

Garrett : This is a master class on how to make a weak song even worse. The girls to their credit sing perfectly and do exactly what is asked of them. It is what they are being asked to do that is the problem. They have made 2 beautiful young teenagers look like 2 married housewives complete with white Chanel suits and Tin Man hats from the Wizard of Oz. Why of why oh why? I am not sure if it is Alla Pugecheva or Philip Kirkirov’s wardrobe 😉

John: Our twins are now in their long frocks.  The seesaw is still a very bad idea.  I was hoping that It would have gone after the comments from the first rehearsal.  However, the vocals are OK and you can tell they are good at what they do.  But this has been glammed up way too much.  Especially with the tiny hats they wear.

Andrew: The twins from Russia are on a platform that turns out to be a seesaw. They wear pill hats and their hair is entwined together at the start. They are holding Perspex rods which I see no point in at all. Once they come off the seesaw Rui the male backing singer from Portugal  goes behind it to raise a large fan as a backdrop to the twins in front. It is as camp as Christmas and the vocals are good and I can see this sailing into the final.

AZERBAIJAN

Fascinating fact: Azerbaijan’s average score in six Eurovision finals is 181 points.

Andrew: There is a lot of red  in the Azeri performance, red dresses for Dilara and the trapeze artist, red backdrop and lighting. It is vocally good and the backdrop with the city skyscrapers is very effective on screen as we see the trapeze artist doing her stuff in front of it. It then turns into a red church window. Very good rehearsal.

 

UKRAINE

Fascinating fact: Debut entrant Olexandr Ponomaryov was formally a boxer, and injuries forced him to switch careers to music

Andrew: There is more than one way to polish a turd, Russia  found their way and Ukraine are now doing it another way. Hamster wheel and male dancer aside there is not much substance to this. The vocals are at time woefully inadequate and shrill. She sounds like a badly oiled door. The overall effect leaves me rather cold. Unfortunately I can imagine this will qualify but why it is so high (4th) in the overall winners list is beyond me (unless bookies are considering the politics and potential for a sympathy vote.)

BELGIUM

Fascinating fact: Fud Leclerc is one of a very select group of acts that have sung in the contest four times.  The best he finished was 5th, although he also took part in 1956 when the full results were never revealed

Andrew: Axel is now on stage for Belgium and is certainly in good voice today. Faultless on the vocals. He is in a dark suit and he has a female behind him who is sort of dancing. The staging of it is predominantly purple. Overall not a lot wrong here and on vocal it should qualify but on song it is rather dull.

John: A big ballad from a big guy.  A few notes were missing this time, and he’d probably be the best dressed man in the show if his suit was just a little better cut for him.  I still can’t make my mind up whether I like this or not.  It’s borderline reverent or schmaltzy, depending on your perspective.  Belgium would be a good host next year, but I don’t think we’ll be there.

MOLDOVA

Fascinating fact:  Lidia Bejenaru who was the ‘granny’ in 2005, was actually only 52 at the time.

Andrew: Moldova started off today rather poorly on the vocal. But it soon improved on the 2nd and 3rd run throughs. The 4 backing dancers are dressed almost like Roman gladiators and Cristina is wearing a blue dress with what looks like armour over one shoulder. Her microphone also looks like a dagger. All very superfluous as it does not enhance anything about this. This is marginal on the qualification I think.

John: Moldova raises its game every year, and this second rehearsal was a major improvement on the first.  Not all songs are good with busy dancing and wind machines, but the dramatic nature of Wild Soul needs this type of presentation.  Her English accent is a little questionable in places, and as for her voice, she was obviously saving it during some of the run throughs.

SAN MARINO

Fascinating fact: In four semi-final appearances, San Marino’s average score is 29 points.

Andrew: The staging of this is rather good I feel, I suspect if they had used this last year they would have made the final. But this year the song is rather bland and not helped by coming on after Moldova and before Portugal. Vocally Valentina is selling it very well and doing as much as possible for folk at home to notice this song. I fear she will fail at her 3rd attempt but would love to see her sneak into the final.

John: This is another enigmatic song.  Maybe it will qualify.  Maybe not? I think her effort last year was better and this is a very tough semi-final to qualify from.  It’s well staged with acres of pale fabric to give this a sophisticated feel.  I just think it still won’t quite be enough.

PORTUGAL

Fascinating fact: Every song from Portugal has been almost entirely sung in the Portuguese language

John: The lambada comes back and I think straight away that this won’t qualify.  Suzy’s vocal seemed a bit off, the choreography means well but doesn’t deliver its full potential.  It could wortk, if they got the camera work right, toned down the extreme busy nature of the stagework, and maybe put Suzy in a more suitable outfit.  On the plus side, it’s amidst some slower songs which may work in its favour, and the red/green motif tells you it’s Portugal.

Andrew: Portugal is fabulous after the snoozefest of 3 ballads and an ad break. It is like a breath of fresh air and so colourful with all the colours of their flag. The vocals more than competent and the Suzi wiggle is on display. The wind machine also kicks in toward the last chorus and the ending is spot on with lots of flashing white lights. I can see this in the final now.

 

NETHERLANDS

Fascinating fact: The Netherlands were the first country to win a second Eurovision, and one of those winners was the first performer to host the show

John: I just watched the first run through of the Netherlands almost open-mouthed.  It is very very effectively staged.  Some would call it dull, but I think understated is a better word.  People will see Portugal, hang around, and get this very contemporary adult country music.  They are also competent assured performers.  The only possible drawback is the fact that country music has a fairly niche audience, and they might not be watching on a Tuesday night.

Andrew: Very country and middle of the road, that is the Netherlands. So what do they do? Introduce a moving road on the stage, it’s very effective. I love the way they are singing facing each other on a double microphone stand. Its lovely and sweet and the vocal harmonies are spot on. The backdrop is also very dark and moody. She is wearing a lace dress with daisies on it. I can really see this getting to the final.

MONTENEGRO

Fascinating fact:  Rambo Amadeus was, in his former years, a renowned competitive sailor, and was the Montenegrin champion several times.

Andrew: Oh dear Montenegro what have you done? A perfectly good Balkan ballad ruined by a gimmick. Whoever thought of a rollerblader dancing around behind him leaving a trail of what looks like bird shit on the stage needs their head examined. His vocals were not exactly on the mark today either. It is just a mess and I fear that they may have scuppered their chances of qualifying based on all this.

John: This is the first time I’ve watched this and I still like the song.  There will be no problems vocally from Sergej.  You can tell that he is comfortable with this very Adriatic ballad.  He has backing singers on stage and not tucked away.  There was a lot of derision with the roller-skater, but I think that it works.  She dances alone and it doesn’t detract too much from the song.  The effect of the floor colour changing as she skates over it is also a nice touch.

HUNGARY

Fascinating fact: Friderika Bayer who sang in 1994 once performed with Annie Lennox and Chuck Berry, and finished second at the 32nd Sopot Festival in Poland.

John: This could be the winner of this semi-final.  Once you get past the slightly darker tone of the song – he means every word he sings too – it’s a great standalone song that would easily fit any modern radio station’s playlist.  As I say, it maybe that this song is from the heart so he feels the pain of those he is singing about.  Finally, he’s a good-looking lad which will also pick up votes.

Predictions

John: My ten qualifiers from this semi-final are (in performance order):

Armenia, Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Netherlands, Montenegro and Hungary

Andrew: My ten qualifiers from this semi-final are:

Armenia, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Netherlands, Hungary, Estonia, Portugal and Belgium.

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