#ESC2019: Blog of Day One rehearsals #Dare to dream Live from 9.00am CET
So, we’re here. After months of national finals, internal selections, withdrawals and parties, the Eurovision Circus has finally arrived in sunny Tel Aviv.
As ever, we’re blogging the rehearsals. You may not always think we’re right, but these are our views. Feel free to disagree with us.
You know the drill, hit ‘Refresh’ to see our latest thoughts.
But what are we seeing today? All times are CET and subject to change.
Cyprus – 9.00am – 9.30am
John – Tamta’s staging takes us all by surprise. We can see it, but not hear it. However, it’s an early demonstration of Eurovision by numbers. She has five dancers with her, all in similarly monochrome colours to Ms Tamta. She is wearing thigh-length boots with very sparkly hot pants and a dark top. The top is ripped off mid-song to reveal something complementing the said hot pants, There’s lots of movement, as you’d expect, and even a few camera tricks thrown in to demonstrate the “replay”. It’s effective, especially with the sympathetic lighting. And a good way to open semi-final one.
JAMES – After a near miss at the title last year, it falls to Cyprus to open the contest in Tel Aviv. It’s slick, stylish and shiny, staged within an inch of its life… it is nice to see a reveal at Eurovsion again, feels like it’s been a long time since our last reveal! My one critique is that there is such a thing as being overstaged, and this cuts it fine. That being said, Cyprus should sail through to Saturday night with this routine and song, no problem!
Czech Republic – 9.40am – 10.10am
JAMES – Grinning and bouncing around the stage, Lake Malawi are definitely enjoying themselves! For anyone who saw their performance at the Ukrainian final, the staging is mostly the same, (minus Jamala dancing away in the corner!) and has a few neat camera tricks that bring the effects of their music video to the stage. It’s colourful, sweet and radio friendly. Czechia only have 2 finals to their name so far – but I’m confident that will make lucky #3
John – Ooh, this is interesting. Lake Malawi have embraced the fact the contest is a TV show, and the graphics set this out. The three members – seemingly in Belgian national colours – Are framed by square arches. This allows the effective camera work to make it look like they’re on mobile phones. Lead singer Albert moves around a lot and I’m starting to like this now. One thing they may want to think about avoiding is the “Hello Eurovision” shout to the crowd. It’s a TV show. That aside, they did well.
Finland – 10.20am – 10.50am
John – The first song chosen through a televised national final, and unfortunately this isn’t quite Finland’s finest hour. There’s nothing wrong with the song as such, but it will need some work. Sebastian’s vocal is strong, but not quite where it should be for the arrangement of the song. But it’s early days. The green-clad dancer from UMK is on a smaller podium this time, which is lit white. Darude is modestly stage left, allowing Sebastian more of the limelight. There is potential but not on today’s rehearsal.
JAMES – It’s very similar staging to the UMK final, but… something is off. Maybe it doesn’t suit a much bigger stage? There is a lot going on, Darude on the decks, Sebastian singing, the dancer… it’s bit chaotic. Admittedly it was a stronger second run through, but look away indeed… connecting to the camera is a problem. We see this a lot with rock bands and gig performers, they look to the crowd and not the camera – not great if the votes are coming from viewers at home! It’s not bad, it’s just a work in process. This is why we have rehearsals, to work out what needs to be changed and improved on.
Poland – 11.00am – 11.30am
John – Unlike other videos of the Polish foursome, they’re more animated than I was expecting. They start on a turntable, in very traditional colourful outfits. Think of technicolor brides and you get the idea, but with more flamboyant head-dresses. Rehearsals are for getting things right and there were a few looks between the girls as if to say “what happens next”. Still, it’s eye-catching. There’s a moment when they leave the turntable and move their microphones – themselves – to the front of the stage. This needs work as it’s clunky and breaks any momentum it had. I think whilst Tulia is/are trying, this is going to miss the mark. Sorry Poland.
JAMES – Tulia are known for their traditional Polish costumes, so why they’re sporting this look, I’m not quite sure… if the Barbara Dex Award were still going, this would be a top contender! The performance is strange in that it’s very minimalist on one hand (little movement, and even that isn’t always neat or in time) but also feels like it’s trying to be very avant-garde but missing the mark wildly. At the moment it’s a concept with an unpolished delivery. I really want to like it, but Tulia are going to have to work hard to make this more cohesive.
Slovenia – 12.40pm – 1.10pm
JAMES – Admittedly, I was slow to “get” this song… but the more I listen to it, the more I’m liking it! So Slovenia have kept their staging relatively intact from EMA, meaning a very intimate performance from Zala and Gašper. Add to this the wheeling stars around them and Zara’s hypnotic voice, and the effect is quite mesmerising. Earlier today I complained about artists not connecting to the camera and I stand by that – however, this particular song works well with this feeling of no connection. With flashier numbers around it, this may get lost – or stand out all the more. Mellow and new agey, Slovenia have surprised me this afternoon!
John – This song may well divide opinion. I like it because it’s a very pared-down song, keeping things nice and simple and just singing a song without gimmicks. Zala and Gašper are in basic white, him with a guitar, her with a mixing deck. I like the song for these very reasons – it’s a song contest after all. However, I fear for Zala and Gašper. They’re very static, it doesn’t immediately catch your eye and might get lost with all the other lunacy in this semi-final. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully chilled so I’d love this to get through. Jury fodder? likely, Televoter fodder? I’m not so sure.
Montenegro – 1.20pm – 1.50pm
JAMES – Montenegro are sending one of my favourite songs this year and I was curious to see how it would look on stage. I remember during Montevizija I said that where there are so many of them (let’s face it, the maximum allowed!) that they need to be spot on vocally. To their credit, D-Moll sound fantastic. The issue now is with different staging and a lot move moving, the choreography needs to be perfect to not look like a rugby scrum. The first run through was a bit shaky, but again to their credit they pulled it together. It’s very wholesome and I suspect will fair better with the televote than with the jury. I must say I love the look, the white suits and red sashes is very striking. Hajde Crna Gora, I’m willing for you to qualify!
John – Our little sextet from Montenegro are trying, but aside from technical issues, this is not looking promising, although did improve with each run-through. The six do their stuff like we’ve seen vocal acts before. Six4One or Atlantis 2000 anyone? As vocalists, they’re passable, and dressed in white with red scarves. Anyway, stage management needed to point to the camera-people as to who was singing the next line. After much moving around they eventually sing in a line, then queue to the left and queue to the right. As I say, I fear for this song’s chances on 14 May.
Hungary – 2.00pm – 2.30pm
John – We’ve gone simple again, and Joci appears to be alone on stage. He’s even dressed in simple black, and barefoot. It’s the voice – if anything – that will sell this song and he seems to know this. As with a song about a father, there are pictures of gentlemen of a certain age appearing on the backdrop. Joci does move around a bit, and you see overhead shots of him walking on gold. I like this – not as much as Origo – and it’s good that he’s stuck by his guns and singing in Hungarian. This will finish somewhere between 7th and 13th, so a final place is not impossible. And on what we’ve seen today, it’s one of the best.
JAMES – Joci has an amazing voice and conveys such emotion with it. Songs like this are hard to stage in some respects, as the voice is the centre of the performance so any additional gimmicks make it look bizarre (such as floating heads, not a good idea!). Other than that, it’s a simple and solid piece of staging and I love the lighting. I’ve always said less is more, and I think this proves it. Big question: will it qualify? I’d like to say yes. I don’t think it’s as certain a thing Origo was, but Joci’s conviction and incredible voice can do it.
Belarus – 3.00pm – 3.30pm
JAMES – One of my guilty pleasures this year, Zena appears on stage with two backing dancers. It’s all very urban and hip-hop, which is fine, that suits the style of the song. Considering her age, Zena sure can perform and seems very comfortable on stage, which is fantastic because it helps sell the whole performance. The visuals (including Zena’s costume) are very full on, though more in a distracting way rather than memorable, which might detract. But as I said, it’s a great thumping beat and the audience will love it.
John – After a short break, we’re back with Zena – sorry, ZENA. Her song tries to be modern and is in its way. On the plus side, there’s a familiarity to it that might wake viewers from their slumbers. On the other hand, it’s not the best example of its work. She has two male dancers with her, and a large number of packing cases. Vocally it might need a bit of work too, although this is just the first rehearsal. I wish this song well, but I just couldn’t warm to it at the national final, and I can’t do so now.
Serbia – 3.40pm – 4.10pm
John – Nevena brings us her big Adriatic ballad that she wrote herself. It’s a decent song for an Adriatic ballad, and her vocal is without question. The staging is nicely dramatic. It’s stark, dark and full of allusions to stars and the night, mirroring the song’s lyric. Like other songs we’ve seen today, there are better versions of the genres and this continues the trend. Now I’m a sucker for an Adriatic ballad and this is OK. Not outstanding in a ‘Lane moje’ way, but just OK. It’s one of the best rehearsals we’ve seen today, but it might just scrape through qualification, if indeed it does qualify.
JAMES – Nevena returns to Eurovision with a much darker and more intense performance. Dressed in a black gown, singing about a deep and all consuming love while surrounded by shards of glass/ice, she sings well and connects to the camera – so why do I feel like it’s missing something? Maybe after masterpieces like Molitva, Oro and Nije Ljubav Stvar, it’s just not quite in that league and I’m being too harsh. After all, it’s a solid performance and her vocals are great, so we could see Serbia in the final on Saturday night for a second year running.
Authors: Eurovision Ireland
Source: Eurovision Ireland
Image Source: Eurovision instagram