#ESC 2021: Day One Rehearsals Blog from 10.00 CET
After the best part of two years, we finally get a proper rehearsal of performances for a Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, at 09.00 BST/10.00 CET we kick off with the first songs from the First Semi-Final.
REMEMBER: This year the first run through of each song is delegation only and not broadcast to the press centre – we’ll give you all our thoughts as soon as we can!!
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So what are we seeing on Day 1? The highlight is Ireland rehearsing, but who else is on stage?
Lithuania (09.00 – 09.30 BST)
The Roop are rehearsing, but without cameras. Don’t go away!
Bogdan – After some technical problems we finally have a live feed. The Roop are charismatic as ever and performing in the same style as in the National Final. Yellow costumes, great moves and fabulous energy to kick-off the show!
James – When I first heard Lithuania were opening the show, some small part of me wondered if this would scupper their chances to win as had been predicted for them way back in January. But seeing them in their yellow splendour, shimmying along to the dance routine fans all know and love, any fears have been allayed. This is a brilliant opener for the show, it’s upbeat, slick and Vaidotas’ natural charisma and showmanship (and he has that by the bucketful!) will have the televoters of Europe calling in their millions. Very well done Lithuania!
Richard – The Roop are certainly opening the show with a banger of a tune. Dressed is their trademark yellow and there dance routine, Discoteque will definitely have everyone up on their feet – whether at home or in the arena. With the addition of some snazzy graphics – possibly the augmented reality which has been talked about.
Oh the fun of the first day of rehearsals… things never go quite according to plan! The live feed is currently down, but we know they’re working hard to get it up and running again! Don’t despair, good readers of Eurovision Ireland, as soon as we’ve seen something new, we’ll let you know! 😀
John – After some technical hitches (it’s the first time they’ve tried this) we got to see the five-piece Roop do their stuff. All dressed in yellow, on a generally purple background, we got to see how big the stage really is. What we saw seemed OK. A pretty decent opener for a Tuesday evening. Vaidotas engages with the camera well, so they look like a top-half finish is likely.
Slovenia (09.40 – 10.10 BST)
Sarah : After the ongoing technical difficulties, we finally got a very brief glimpse of Slovenia , all of 10 seconds! Ana was alone on stage, dressed in a white . Great vocals , will be good to see this in full.
Richard – From the short clip we’ve seen, Ana is alone on stage in a white dress. Lighting is very orange and the light beams fill the stage from every angle.
James – Ana’s vocals are undeniable – I’d argue among the strongest we have this year! Shame we didn’t get to see much of the staging at the moment, but with a song like this I’d always say less is more. From the clip we saw, it’s going to be quite simple – Ana centre stage with some lighting effects. Nothing wrong with this at all, after all, it’s her vocals that sell the song!
Bogdan – We can’t really judge the whole act by seeing only 10-12 seconds, but what I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed: Strong vocals and great commitment. Ana Soklic is definitely a professional. The same white dress, dark background with yellow lights.
Russia (10.20 – 10.50 BST)
Bogdan – Oh Russia, what madness! Manizha starts in a massive traditional dress, like a doll that has no movements of her own. I could not help but burst into laughter, but I absolutely loved it. She then releases herself from that costume and wears the same style of costume as in the national final. Another surprise comes at the end when the back screen shows lots of women of different ages singing the song. Russia has something here.
Sarah : Well, it’s totally bonkers , but shows how the staging can change opinions of a song. I wouldn’t have given this a chance of qualifying before today , but now I’m not so sure. Manizha, clearly enjoys being on the stage and she’s getting the message of girl power across by using written backdrops in English, proclaiming you should be who you are and the back screen then showing lots of women singing along . I have a feeling this will do better than expected
Richard – It’s amazing how a stage performance can change someone’s opinion of a song! Up until now, Manizha’s “Russian Women” hadn’t done much for me, but it is now oozing female empowerment – just like Destiny. Manizha is dressed like a Russian doll to begin with, until she leaves the Doll and comes out in a red boiler suit. Manizha showers us with anger and boy she lets her emotions show. The performance is powerful, with the bringing together of hundred’s of Russian women on the backdrop at the end.
James – Oh wow… we know Russia can really bring it to the Eurovision stage and I was curious to see how Manizha would stage Russian Woman. It’s very similar to the National Selection staging, save for the fact the housecoat is bigger, more elaborate and now apparently on wheels! Zipping around like a Dalek babushka, Manizha then throws off her coat for her trademark red jumpsuit and swagger, owning every inch of that stage. Behind her we see images of traditional Russian art, empowering slogans and plenty of Zoom screens featuring all kinds of Russian Women too. I was sceptical of Russia’s chances to qualify at first, but now I think they’re in a much better place. Her showmanship and energy are amazing!
John – I didn’t fancy this… until I’ve just seen it. It made me stop for the three minutes, just to see what comes next. Manizha starts off in a large frock. It looks like she’s been squashed. Hmmm. But then she emerges in the boiler suit from the national final. It bounces along quite well, with big slogans about empowerment behind her. Then along comes the money shot. A plethora of – presumably – Russian woman all singing/miming to the chorus that could only come from Russia. It’s gone from a “get out f here, that ain’t qualifying”, to “Yikes, that could do something”.
Sweden (11.00 – 11.30 BST)
Richard – Tusse has brought the Melodifestivalen staging to Rotterdam. It starts off rather bland until the backing dancers come on. The lighting effects add some dramatic energy to the performance. The use of additional people on the backdrop does add some depth to the staging at one point. Sadly though, I feel Tusse’s vocals are not the strongest I’ve heard so far today. I fear a lot of work is needed if this is to be a safe qualifier.
Bogdan – I will begin saying that I’ve enjoyed the staging but Tusse struggled a bit vocally this morning. Thankfully, he has a little bit of time to warm-up his voice. The staging is similar to what we saw at Melodifestivalen, though more elevated and more powerful with a ‘march’ of people projected on the back-screen. Tusse’s outfit is still red, but this time some sparkling gloves have been added, which I think distract a lot from the message of the song.
James – For some, Sweden are sacrosanct at Eurovision and can do no wrong. There is a lot right with this staging, it’s as well thought through as most Swedish Eurovision entries are – and the second run through we saw was definitely more confident. But there are a few areas I feel that need tweaking. Tusse sounds like he’s struggling with some of the notes and it feels like there’s a little too much reliance on the backing vocals as a result – but that’s OK, that’s why we have rehearsals! I feel like the gloves were meant to be a statement piece, but instead look gaudy Dynasty off-cast and distracting. The images with the crowd of people are very effective though. Sweden have drawn what is a traditionally a difficult spot in the First Semi Final but with a few tweaks I think they could pull it off.
John – Hmmm. I know Tusse has had some vocal issues, but this really wasn’t vintage Sweden. You could tell he was really struggling, and the backing vocalists really had to carry him. The key change is a bit clunky for me, even though you know it’s coming. Admittedly, he doesn’t need to get it spot on until the Jury semi-final next Monday. But there will be some work to do between now and then.
Sarah-Sweden usually send either something that stands a good chance of winning or a very safe song that will get past the semi final and get a good finishing position in the final. Tusse is a fine performer but today I feel he was struggling to hit those notes and heavily reliant on the backing vocals. I can’t fault the staging , but think his outfit does distract from the song , I preferred his Melodivestivalen outfit. A few tweaks will be needed to get this up to scratch for the big night
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Australia (12.40 – 13.10 BST)
Richard – For Australia, we were shown a very short video, that’s already available on YouTube:
North Macedonia (13.20 – 13.50 BST)
Bogdan – Vasil likes to perform on stage and we could definitely see that. The vocals weren’t at 100% and no one asks of him to give his best from the first rehearsal. To appeal more to the public we have the ‘Dotter’ effect on his chest with the mirrors reflecting the light. Not a bad effort from North Macedonia, but I was hoping that the choir would be powerful. The whole performance was very Broadway and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Richard – Vasil has brought bit more of a classical performance to the stage, that we have yet to see today. The back projection enhances the performance and Vasil oozes emotion. I do wonder if Dotter has managed to get to Rotterdam though. Vasil has stolen her breastplate and the Melodifestivalen lighting effect. A lot of the Press are now using the #Dotterdam.
Sarah – Vasil is clearly very comfortable on stage , I could imagine him on a West End stage . He puts a lot of emotion into his performance . I do feel he is holding back with his vocals and that’s ok as he will want to save his best for the big night . A good first rehearsal .
James – I loved that! So simple and intimate, Vasil’s vocals are incredible and I feel like North Macedonia have done something special with this song and performance. I said from the beginning this song is jury bait – I suspect the glitter ball chest plate (loving the #Dotterdam comments out there!) is to attract televoter points as well, which is a sensible strategy. I feel like this song has gone under the radar for a lot of people, but having just seen that, I think North Macedonia have a very strong change of making it to the final. Bravo Vasil!
Ireland (14.00 – 14.30 BST)
John – Well that was different. It was innovative, and you couldn’t really take your eyes off the performance. Perchance it’s a bit too busy in places, but I like what RTÉ are trying to achieve. The genera; close-up nature of what we saw tells me that this is designed for a TV show – which Eurovision is – and it’s for the viewers out there. However, as regards the staging, with so much happening, it could be that because this takes a long time to set up, meaning Lesley could be on after an ad break or some inane chat in the Green Room. That isn’t always a plus. I still live in hope, and as I’ve said before she only needs to get it right twice next week to qualify for the Grand Final.
James – As Eurovision Ireland, we of course were doubly interested to see the Irish rehearsals today, especially after rumours we were going to see something we’ve never seen on the Eurovision stage before!! Well, we’ve definitely seen that! The visually the pop-up book style of the set instantly draws you in. It’s very complex, perhaps even more so (if it’s possible!) than the levels of DoReDos’ show in Lisbon – but to the point that Lesley feels lost on the middle of it all. We only got to watch one run-through and it’s always difficult to ascertain exactly what you think from just a first reaction. Ireland have definitely raised the bar in terms of staging sophistication and the close-up feel is perfect for TV. While I’m undecided on its ultimate impact, I still have to commend Lesley for a very confident performance, well done!
Sarah-After all the anticipation and waiting, this was definitely different . The pop up set was engaging but I think to the point where I felt it got a little too busy on stage and I found myself concentrating on that rather than the actual song, which is a good song. Overall, Lesley is a very confident performer and I felt the focus should be more on her rather than the staging . Overall not a bad rehearsal .
Richard – This is the first time we’ve heard Lesley Roy sing Maps live and she did a pretty decent job. Sadly the staging takes the focus away from her, which is a massive shame. There are too many elements to the staging, which detracts the focus away from Lesley herself. Admittedly this is a television show and Ireland want to sell “Maps’ to the televoter, however less props would still deliver the job.
Right, that’s all for today folks! Hope you’re enjoyed the first day of rehearsals as much as we have! Don’t forget to join us tomorrow for more coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021!
Authors: Eurovision Ireland Team