Azerbaijan

#ESC 2021: Day Two Rehearsals Blog from 10.00 CET

#ESC 2021: Day Two 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!!

Follow Eurovision Ireland’s blog, to see what we think, and who could make it to the Grand Final, or even win. Hit your refresh button to keep an eye on our thoughts!

So what’s in store for Day 2? Angels, demons and techno-folk… those of a nervous disposition, take cover… 😉

Cyprus (09.00 – 09.30 BST)

Good morning everyone! Although it’s almost half past, we haven’t seen anything from Cyprus yet. We’re not sure if this is due to technical issues. We’ll let you know once we’ve seen something!

John – We only very briefly saw one run through. There are definitely technical issues which we’d hoped would be sorted by the end of yesterday. Anyway, Elina is in a short silver-white frock with tassles. She’s backed by four dancers, all in red catsuits. It’s been choreographed to within an inch of its life.

James – A few technical hiccups this morning meant we got a very disjointed look at the Cypriot rehearsal. From what I saw, however, Elena sounds good, looks eye-catching in her silvery garment and is joined on stage by 4 very flexible backing dancers, cavorting around the stage in red bodysuits (presumably Los Diablos she sings about!). I know, it’s not much to go on, but as I’ve said before I was confident Cyprus would give us a good show for this song and from the clips I saw, they seem to have pulled it off – though it is hard to tell from maybe 5 seconds of footage…

Bogdan – Elena looks very polished in a silverfish costume and she sounded really good. There was a lot of camera work around her and she had 4 dancers dressed in red. Unfortunately, because the broadcast wasn’t that stable, I can’t comment more than this. I definitely enjoyed what I saw.

Sarah- Difficult to comment on this as technical hitches meant we only got a very brief glimpse. From what I was able to see, it looks like Cyprus are going to put on a good show for us .

Norway (09.40 – 10.10 BST)

Sarah- Tix has stuck mainly to the format he used in the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix final , minus two of the demons in chains. He’s dressed in the same angel attire too, as expected, yellow beams shining down onto the stage and we then get a backdrop of clouds. It’s a good performance but I do feel that Tix is holding back on his vocals, which is to be expected at this stage . I can’t help but feel there’s still something lacking to make it a certain qualifier .

John – As I expected, Tix has only got four demons with him now. The rest of the staging is pretty much how we saw at MGP earlier this year. The visuals will catch the eye of your average televoter. In addition, it’s a good radio song which might tempt the juries to go for it too. We get to see plenty of dry ice and flames too. He appears to be holding back slightly – as you might expect from a first go on stage. Yeah, it’s a good solid song that should make the final.

Richard – From the devils of Cyprus, to the demons and angel of Norway! TIX is on a platform in the centre of the stage throughout, unlike the final of MGP when he moved about. TIX, as the angel, is chained to the four backing dancers, who are the demons. You can’t fault TIX’s vocals neither. The dark lighting, dry ice and pyrotechnics add the right atmosphere needed for the angel and demons scenario.

James – Norway have given us a confident few run throughs of Fallen Angel. Anyone who has seen the Melodi Grand Prix final staging will be very familiar with the set up: Tix in his trademark shades, giant fluffy wings and coat, surrounded by winged demons in black (but just the 4 this time) and their chains. Flashes of pyro add to the overall effect without being too over the top and there are some nice lighting and visual effects of clouds towards the end of the song. Tix felt like he was holding back vocally, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s just a rehearsal. While some fans might feel disappointed that it’s more or less the same staging we saw at MGP, for a televoter audience that have never seen this before, it’s Eurovision gold!

Bogdan – TIX is giving us very similar performance to what we saw on the national final. The things that are changed: two less demons, TIX is dressed in sparkling silver and he is wearing a huge white fluffy cape that trails a long way on the back. I don’t like this last aspect, especially since the daemons are jumping on it while they dancing around the singer.  Having said that, I enjoyed the performance and with every rehearsal, he got better.

Croatia (10.20 – 10.50 BST)

Bogdan – Albina looks ready for the competition. She’s the silver galaxy warrior joined by even more silverish eye-candy dancers. The performance looked polished and it was very enjoyable to watch, sing and dance along to. Not all the vocals were quite there yet, but well done Croatia!

Richard – Albina has arrived on the stage in Rotterdam with a rather polished performance. Dressed in silver just like her backing dancers, Albina had a really good choreographed routine. Neon lighting and augmented reality images certainly gave it a 1980’s vibe. Vocally, Albina had one or two rough notes, but that is really only a minor issue at this stage.

John – Albina hardly put a foot wrong. The routine is polished and slick. The staging is a bit Shady lady, a bit Süper star, even a bit My number one. These are tried and tested with good results, so something similar could happen here. At one point, there is five of her – camera trickery obviously. She’s in a not dis-similar frock to Cyprus’s Elina, but she uses male dancers in silver costumes instead. I think I have this above Cyprus now.

James –‘Ajmo Hrvatsko! That was awesome! Albina’s rehearsal this morning was slick, polished and had some great flourishes that really revved up the show factor! Blue and pink lighting with the silver costumes works really well, making it simple but memorable and the dancers choreography suits the mood of the song perfectly. Loved the multiple Albina moment too – 5 of them… one for each historic region of Croatia? The pyro burst at the end is a nice touch too! This hits the 1980s vibe beautifully and I still stand by what I said in #ReVu2 – I suspect this’ll give Croatia their best placing at the contest for a good many years!! Very well done!

Sarah – A very slick and polished performance from Albina, with great choreography. Of all the performances we have seen so far today , this has been the one I have enjoyed the most . I don’t think this will have any problem qualifying .

Belgium (11.00 – 11.30 BST)

John – I have absolutely no idea how this will do. In its favour, it’s between two uptempo songs, so the contrast is quite stark. I was also happy Hooverphonic didn’t recreate the preview video on stage. That said, it’s a very dark, almost sombre, setting. The band are all in black, and the lead singer Geike doesn’t move around much. She relies heavily on the good use of Steadicams. The backdrop could be seen as either disturbing or fitting the song perfectly, depending on your perspective. A qualifier? Maybe, if it cuts through the histrionics we’ll see in this semi-final. Now, where’s my Johnny Cash T-shirt?

Richard – I must say this wasn’t as bad as I was expecting from Hooverphonic. Vocals from Geike were strong and having backing vocalists were a good strategic move. The staging is dark and mysterious, but not as dark and disturbing as the official music video is, which again is a good strategic move when most people viewing the semi final will be seeing this for the first time. Disturbing does not get the votes.

Bogdan – Hooverphonic have surprised me. I must admit I wasn’t a big fan of the song, but I actually think this could qualify. It is dark, moody and it catches your attention. In a semi full of sparks, this dark horse stands out. Simple and black… Is this song in the wrong place or is Eurovision the right place for it?

James – Belgium… hmm… I’m really not sure what to make of that… it’s very dark and moody, which stands out against the up-tempo songs that come before and after it and suits the pathos of the song… Geike connects well to the camera and has very clear and emotive vocals, the camera work is innovative without being too out there (the shot of the backing singer and Geike was great!) I’m really undecided how this will do… for me, it’s the sort of staging and song that’ll either strike a chord with many and come 5th…. or do the exact opposite and vanish… after watching a second run through, I’m leaning more towards it qualifying at the moment. After recent years on the Eurovision stage, I was convinced Belgium would give us something weak and insipid… but I was very wrong, that was quite classy!

Sarah – Wow Belgium, in the words of a well-known song ;”I wasn’t expecting that ” !They have really cracked it with their staging this year! It’s dark, it’s moody but that fits with the theme of the song. The backdrop of the lead singer Geike’s face blends in to the moody atmosphere on stage  . Nice addition of a backing vocal too to give more strength to performance . The experience of Hooverphonic as an established band , shows through. This has gone up in my estimations and with this coming between two up-tempo numbers in Croatia and Israel will really stand out.  Think this has a good chance to qualify now .

Israel (12.40 – 13.10 BST)

Richard – Eden is joined onstage by four backing dancers – who seem to have been choreographed to an inch of their lives. Eden has a lot of character about her and she is vocally strong, with the exception of one or two dubious high notes near the end. We even have this year’s first costume change!

Bogdan – Eden’s rehearsal got better with each take. She is definitely charismatic and knows how to connect with the camera. The whole performance seemed a bit too busy at times but I suppose it might work, giving this is a dance song. The younger generation will definitely enjoy this more. We have dance moves, we have neon signs, and even a change of costumes at the end. My only concern is that Eden is taking some vocal risks throughout the performance and she really needs to nail them. Also, I’m not sure if the final head piece distracts from the message or enhances it… I guess the viewers will tell.

James – There’s a lot going on in 3 minutes for Set Me Free, and a lot of it works very well. The dancers provide many kinds of handsome eye candy, their dancing ranges from very staccato to modern and complements the song and music well. Eden is a born performer and connects to the camera well and has the personality to drive the performance. These are all good points. My concern with such a lot going on is the potential for things to go wrong increases dramatically. So far we’ve had two reveals not go quite according to plan and a head dress slip at an inopportune moment during rehearsals alone. It’s clear an awful lot of time and thought have gone into this show, and if it all goes flawlessly it will look very glossy and well-rehearsed. If, however, things go even slightly off plan then I fear it could derail an otherwise exemplary performance. Well done Eden!

Sarah-Eden packs a lot into the three minutes on stage , accompanied by her 4 backing dancers, with a busy choreography . Good connection with the camera and looks like she’s enjoying herself . As has already been said there is a lot going on in the routine and there is the potential for something to go wrong. Good performance Eden !

John – It’s more of the same. Another performance with a lot of busy choreography happening. Eden is very charismatic, so selling this song won’t be a problem. The Ethiopic backdrops are a nice touch and give this song something else to mark it out for the average televoter. That said, I do fear that with similarly performed songs from Cyprus and Croatia, there could be the risk of a split vote. There are few things that may need a tweak but they have a few days to do this. In particular, Eden dons a wig at the end of the song and I’m not totally sure why. However, I have always liked this song and I don’t like it any less.

Romania (13.20 – 13.50 BST)

Richard – This song has been written to suit Roxen’s vocals. She is joined onstage by five backing dancers, who are very contemporary. When Roxen isn’t trying to get away from the backing dancers, we see quite a modern contemporary dance display. Could this qualify? It definitely needs some work doing to it.

John – This is another one I’m not sure what to make of. Roxen’s voice has a quality that’s unique to this contest. It’s been written for her, so I think if another performer was given this song they’d struggle. As it is, the waif-like performance might appeal to a certain audience, rather than getting widespread plaudits. If that certain audience tunes in, this will get votes in droves. The message in the song might also resonate, but there’s also an argument for wanting something a bit more positive to win this year. Do I like it? Well I don’t dislike it. I suspect there are about six certain qualifiers in this semi-final, and Roxen is one of, say, six or seven acts fighting for the remaining places.

Sarah-Roxen has some quite unique vocals and they suit this particular song. The staging has a contemporary feel to it with five backing dancers . It’s a quiet little song in comparison to others we have heard today , I am not sure what to make of its chances to qualify . My fear is it may not have the sort of appeal that would generate amongst viewers who aren’t into this particular type of music and may risk getting lost amongst some other other bigger hitting acts .

Bogdan – Roxen is trying to recreate what we saw on the video, but with such a huge amount of choreography, many times she was out of breath.  I can only hope she will manage to get the vocal right while doing the choreography; otherwise Romania will struggle to qualify.

Azerbaijan (14.00 – 14.30 BST)

John – We’re in the Netherlands so a song called Cleopatra Mata Hari is quite apt. The song bounces along nicely but is still lacking something. It’s something they could find by the next rehearsal. Maybe it’s something as simple as pyrotechnics. The backdrop, I suspect, might have been the one set up for Cleopatra last year, as a cobra design features, the sort of one that would appear on a Pharaonic head-dress. It’s main competitor today would be Israel, and I can see Azerbaijan coming off second to that one. In its favour, I love the ethnic musical instruments featuring in the backing track.

Richard – Efendi has brought to the stage the Turkish ethnic sounds we have been missing from the Contest in recent years. Vocally, Efendi doesn’t struggle, but the overall feel is a bit underwhelming. Sadly, the staging looks like it was meant to be used for “Cleopatra” last year. Overall, I expected more.

Bogdan – Efendi is accompanied by 4 dancers on stage. They are all dressed in black. While the background has some nice ‘Cleopatra suited’ effects, the rest of the performance let me a bit underwhelming. I was expecting more, especially since it’s Azerbaijan. The vocals were good, but I’m not sold yet.

James – From horse’s heads to robotic arms to glass boxes filled with petals, Azerbaijan always bring it to the Eurovision stage – which is perhaps why Mata Hari feels a little flat by comparison. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with it staging at all – Efendi is a confident performer, her backing dancers look great and synchronise well and there are memorable visuals. So why do I feel like it’s all a bit plain? I suspect it’s because Azerbaijan are usually SOOOOO over the top with their staging ideas, this feels quite tame. Nothing wrong with it though, and has all the potential to do well.

Sarah- I found myself feeling a little underwhelmed by this , this seemed very toned down in comparison to past Azerbaijani entries and I feel we have yet to see more . The staging has a flavour of the East with fire-flame backdrops and Efendi shows confidence in her performance along with her four backing dancers . I’ll be interested to see if they make any changes to the performance in the next rehearsals

Ukraine (15.00 – 15.30 BST)

Richard – GO_A have just upped the ante. They’ve brought the Chernobyl vibe to the Rotterdam stage, as they did in their official video for Shum. The ethnic sound is part of the winning concept, which see’s Shum sung in Ukrainian, rather than English, again something more and more countries are doing this year. It’s an amazing staging concept too, as it only uses a portion of the main stage – it works! Kyiv 2022 is not out of the question!

Sarah- Go_A have really smashed it with their staging . White trees, Go_A, dressed in white , green and black , it’s very ethnic but does bring over the message of the song . I was just mesmerized by the whole act . Who said Kyiv 2022 isn’t possible ?

John – Ukraine you beauty. You’ve come up with the goods yet again, with a slightly less bonkers performance than I was expecting. It’s still memorable, catchy and the best thing we’ve seen – so far – today by quite a way. The staging is the right side of busy, the camera work is pretty decent. Lots of petrified trees, white motifs, and halos/aerobies making an appearance. The vocal does not disappoint either. Even the striking green clothing worn by lead singer Kateryna works. It doesn’t so much ask you politely to vote for it, but more likely grabs you by the throat – in the nicest possible way – and tells you to vote for it or else. And it definitely has my vote.

James – WOW!! That was perhaps the best we’ve seen all day! When Eurovision Ireland spoke to Go_A a few weeks back, the band assured us they had big plans for the stage in Rotterdam – and they were not wrong! Both ultra-modern with a folk edge, Kataryna performs with her trademark poise and class – it’s a real treat to watch! The backing dancers with the (for the lack of a better word) halos gives the whole performance a very edgy hook. Incredible visuals – check! Stunning vocals – check! Memorable look – oh yes!! A lot of fans have dismissed this song over the last few months, and I am beyond thrilled to see Go_A have given us something so brilliant. If I was performing either side of Ukraine, I’d be worried about now… this is going to storm the scoreboards!

Bogdan – I want to echo what everyone else has already said before me. Ukraine and Go_A was the best performance we’ve had today (at least so far). Good, engaging and captivating staging, great vocals and high energy. Well done!

Malta (15.40 – 16.10 BST)

Richard – Vocally, nobody can fault Destiny and her singing talent. I however feel underwhelmed and this is down to how the song was staged. I don’t know what I expected, but a big yellow screen and ballet bar wasn’t it. But I’m sure like many other countries, the staging will be improved. Destiny oozes the sass factor, but it’d come across stronger if she was wearing a black or navy blue dress.

John – And finally, Malta is my pre-contest favourite. Destiny has a superb voice and effortlessly sang this song. She’s arguably the best singer today. It’s very well choreographed too. And yet… And yet. There’s something missing. Maybe it’s because I have high hopes for Destiny winning. It could be the bold colours of the outfits and the backdrop. It could be because it’s after Ukraine. These are still very early days. A Grand Final place is assured, and I’m not ruling a win for Malta 50 years after first participation. Destiny is professional enough to resolve any nagging concerns. It’s not over yet.

James – So, this is the one many of you have declared will win Eurovision 2021… as a vocalist, we all know Destiny is superb and she demonstrates just how powerful her voice is with ease. Staging wise, it’s very bright with bold colours and slick choreography and the production values are evident. It’s not perfect, but the details that need ironing out are minor and can be addressed. One such detail is I would suggest Destiny makes sure she connects with the camera and opens her eyes more. Yes, her voice is incredible, but she needs to connect too. Overall, a strong note to end today’s rehearsals on!

Sarah – This ,as for many others, was my pre contest favourite and potential winner. The staging is very bright with Destiny and her backing vocals dressed in bright pink . She has four backing dancers and they perform some slick choreography. However, for me there is something lacking at this point . As always , her vocals are incredible and I think there is a possibility that more emphasis is being put on displaying those than on the staging . Plenty of time to work more on the staging , I think she will qualify and be up in with the contenders for the win .

And that’s it folks, we’ve come to the end of another rehearsal day . Thank you for joining us today .Please #joinus again tomorrow at 9am ( BST) for more of our thoughts and comments when the first half of the second semi finalists take to the stage in Rotterdam.

Author: Eurovision Ireland Team

Source : EBU

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