#ESC 2021: Day Three Rehearsals Blog from 10.00 CET (9.00 BST)

#ESC 2021: Day Three Rehearsals Blog from 10.00 CET (9.00 BST)

What an Experience Eurovision is! This last weekend the official rehearsals started and today we ‘ll see the first rehearsal for the first half of Semi Final 2.

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 3? Colourful wigs, maybe a flying horse or even some delicious ice cream cones. Stay tuned to find out!

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Good morning everyone, welcome to Day 3 of our rehearsals blog . We’re just waiting for the live stream to feed through then we’ll be giving you our thoughts on the opening act of the day, San Marino . Just a reminder that we don’t get to see the first run through as it’s open to delegation only. We’ll be with you with our first comments as soon as we can !

SAN MARINO (09.00 – 09.30 BST)

James – Oh wow… we all suspected San Marino would have something spectacular up their sleeves for Adrenalina… and spectacular it is, though not necessarily for the intended reasons! Starting out dressed as what can only be described as an iconostasis, Senhit erupts to life and bounces around the stage with a zest for life that’s brilliant to watch. Her accompanying backing dancers, dressed in Mexican wrestling masks pop and lock around her. It’s clear a lot of time and choreography went into planning this, and it shows. The end result is just a touch frenzied, but it’s the kind of colourful mania-induced hallucination that the televoters will love… dare I say it, if San Marino get to Saturday’s final (and I’m still confident they will) then I suspect they might seize the televote. Brava Senhit… that was brilliant and bonkers, what a way to start a Monday morning!

John – First rehearsal of the day, and if you weren’t awake before, then you are now. Senhit and her pals are busy busy busy. We get turntables, aliens, pyros (of course), and a Flo Rida stand in. Did I mention it was busy? The song itself bounces along quite nicely, and is set off by elements of the preview video on the backdrop. And it’s busy. I have concerns about a religious motif right at the start of the song that I don’t think works. It gets removed early on, but the manoeuvre to do so is very clumsy. The turntable effect (think The Ark without the swirls) is different, but she has to keep moving to stay facing forwards. A full arena would really get behind this. And the televoters might do too. And it’s busy – did I mention that?

Sarah-Well, we kind of expected after seeing their promotional video that San Marino would come to Rotterdam with a big show and that’s exactly what we got ! Senhit has packed an awful lot into 3 minutes, we have ever changing very bright and colourful LED’s , at times seeing pictures of Senhit and her wigs included, pyros, turntables , rap, male dancers strutting around in suits that I can only describe as being from something I have seen in science fiction/space movies! For me ,it’s very in your face and perhaps too much going on , which actually detracts from the song itself . It’s definitely one that will grab the attention of televoters and certainly will stick in the memories of viewers, despite performing first.

Richard – I’m really not sure what I can say about San Marino apart from the fact it’s really busy. There are costume changes, a Flo Rida stand-in, explosions of colour, four backing dancers – you might as well throw in the kitchen sink too! Senhit is doing everything to sell this to the audience both in the arena and the television viewers at home. It’ll definitely open the second semi final with a bang!

ESTONIA (09.40 – 10.10 BST)

James – Coming into the contest, The Lucky One is easily my favourite song so I was curious to see how Estonia would stage it. Uku gives us a very confident performance and there are lots of very good elements to it. Open shirt, tie draped across his shoulders, Uku looks every part the smouldering lovelorn singer and it suits the mood of the song perfectly. The sections with him in the water like in the music video is a nice touch, and the imagery of smoke, lightening and the full moon create a simple but memorable visual hook. Some might argue that coming on after the technicoloured whirlwind that was San Marino might be a rough draw for Estonia, but I can actually see a more understated performance doing well and standing out all the more. Uku, you’ve done a great job and thank you – for once I’m very happy to see how my favourite song has been staged!

Richard – Uku Suviste delivers a strong and emotional performance after a very busy opener from Senhit. This could work in his favour too. The more maturer viewers are likely to be turned off by Senhit and will see Uku as the true opener to the Semi Final thus equalling televotes. I do feel like other members of the team that the backing singers should accompany him onstage, although I understand the focus should be on him in such a powerful performance. This is the Eesti Laul staging, but enhanced graphics wise on the back projection.

Sarah -Uku has used Eesti Laul staging with some tweaks to it and it actually works well on the bigger stage in Rotterdam . A nice, emotional performance from him and it may be that having come down from the whirlwind that is San Marino will work in his favour . I would like this to qualify and hopefully those voters who aren’t into the big stage shows such as that put on like San Marino before him , will pick up the phone and vote Uku through to the final.

John – Uku has the advantage of being in the more open semi-final. This is because I think he could be overshadowed a little after what he’s following. That’s the head talking by the way. The heart would have this through no question as he’s got a cracking voice that really suits what he’s singing, and he doesn’t need the gimmicks other performers are relying on. What this will come down to is whether the ideal demographic to vote for Uku’s earnest, honest performance are watching. I think the camera angles need tightening up a little, as he’s alone on the vast stage and that could work against it. What I would do is bring the backing vocalists on stage (if they’re there) as that might provide squeeze out the extra votes it’ll need.

CZECH REPUBLIC (10.20-10.50 BST)

Richard – The opening of this performance reminded me very much of Danny Saucedo’s “In The Club” from Melodifestivalen 2011. In all honestly, I found the whole thing quite underwhelming and expected something similar to what Senhit gave us. Benny is definitely holding back in this first rehearsal, so we are bound to see improvements come Thursday.

John – Benny is quite a charismatic performer. He could sell any song to anyone. However, we think he was holding back. It’s understandable, as the first performance that counts is next Wednesday. Based on what we saw, it’s not that bad. He’s clearly going for the ‘yoof’ vote, and may yet get what he needs. The choreography is not too in-your-face, and again that suits this song. And he makes reasonable use of the catwalk. In addition, for the sharp-eared among us, he even throws in a line of Czech. A qualifier? Hmmm

James – Having really enjoyed Benny’s music video for Omaga, I was hoping he’d bring the same zany energy to the stage. This morning’s run through seems a little tame and Benny seems to be taking things very easy. Admittedly, these are only rehearsals. An artist doesn’t need to bring their A-Game now, they can use it just for pace and place. As a result, the backing dancers seem to be bringing most of the energy this morning. There are some good elements here, but it’s still a work in progress. Benny’s natural charisma shone through more in the second run through, but still feels like he’s holding back somewhat. I wonder if he’s the kind of performer that needs an audience and will blossom during the live shows?

Sarah -I’m with the others in the team in that I feel that Benny was holding back today, which isn’t a bad thing ( it is only first rehearsals after all) and that may be we have more to come in the next rehearsals. It’s a very much a staging that will attract the youth vote. Nice touch of a line being sung in Czech . Benny is a charismatic performer and I hope he lets us see more of that in the next rehearsals.

GREECE (11.00 -11.30 BST)

Richard – At first I thought some Augmented Reality was in play, but in fact we have some very clever Green Screen trickery in use. Stefania has brought a music video to life onstage and it works. Vocally it went well and her shiny purple catsuit helps you to keep the focus on her. Greece will qualify with this, how well it does in the Final will depend on the running order probably.

John – This is making full use of any camera trickery going. There are disembodied dancers in white suits. There’s hovering in mid air. There’s a very photogenic girl in a sparkly catsuit (although that last bit isn’t camera trickery). Greece has gone for the full music video effect, rather than paring things back and relying on just a song’s appeal. That said, it doesn’t disappoint, and you will be glued to your screen for the full three Greek minutes. It could be likened to previous stagings, but your average televoter might not be too bothered by that. And it was her first time on this stage, but Stefania maybe looked a bit nervous. She doesn’t need to be, as it’s arguably the best thing we’ve seen today.

Sarah-Greece have made full use of Green Screen trickery and given us a really eye -catching performance , with Stefania in a sparkly purple cat suit , clever images of dancers with invisible faces and bodies but you see their white clothing and Stefania looking as if she’s been spirited away to the rooftops of a city centre and having a walk on and around the buildings. We then culminate in seeing the dancers as they usually would be and joining Stefania for a last dance on stage , which fits as the song title is ” Last Dance”. A really powerful performance, which will definitely catch the attention of televoters.

James – Greece promised, and Greece delivered! Last Dance shows very sophisticated staging with green screen – and in a year when we’ve all been disappearing into Zoom call backgrounds, it’s nice to see it elevated into a fine artform! There will be comparisons to Sergey Lazarev and his staging from 2016, but Greece has taken this a step further and the end result is impressive. Stefania admittedly looks a little nervous, but she’s very young and this must be a daunting prospect to perform on such a big stage. But she should be very proud, she did a fantastic job!

AUSTRIA (12.40 – 13.10 BST)

Richard – Vincent Bueno has arrived in Rotterdam with a rather polished performance. Vincent is great vocally and shows real emotion. The stage isn’t overly lit, but that adds to the atmosphere of the performance. This also proves that some Acts have rehearsed more than others, going on from what we’ve seen since Saturday morning.

James – I must admit, I didn’t think much of Amen on a first listen, but it’s easily this year’s biggest grower for me and one of the songs I enjoy most from this year’s collection. Vincent sings with such raw and unabashed emotion, emoting the lyrics of the song beautifully. Staging wise it’s very scaled down, darkness, a few lights forming a cathedral like arc over him – but it lets him and his vocals take centre stage and as a result deliver an incredibly powerful performance. The juries are going to melt for this, and I get the feeling this will be one to watch!

Sarah – Now, I wasn’t a fan of this song pre-contest , but the minute this rehearsal started , I started to completely change my views . Vincent does a good job of selling the song well, he’s a confident perfomer, with great vocals. Vincent is alone on stage, with quite simple staging, which is all is needed as this song needs the focus to be on him and him alone .   He sings with passion and conviction and the camera angles have been positioned to show that emotion in his face .He really owns that stage .It’s a pity that we will only have a limited audience in the arena this year as I feel they would really engage with this performance, especially towards the end , at the point where the song slows down to a brief silence and then he goes into full song burst to give us a powerful finale , a bit reminiscent of the way the Olsen brothers concluded Fly on the Wings of love in 2000. A really good solid performance, which doesn’t need a lot, if any, changes for the next rehearsals .Well done Vincent .

John – This is impressive. The Austrians have really thought about this, and they could be on to something. On such a big stage, the catwalk is a good idea, as it allows focus on Vincent – he doesn’t appear lost on stage. He can also carry a tune, and knows how to put emotion in the bits where it needs it. I could also detect a potential Olsen Brothers moment. That bit just before the final chorus where the lights drop and then flash on again. That will be in the final at the expense of some other equally worthy songs. And with a good draw could give ORF a headache on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

POLAND (13.20 – 13.50 BST)

James – Poland have all of the pieces for a decent Eurovision entry, they’re just not necessarily in the right order yet. It’s quite busy with a lot going on… Rafal spins the camera, his dancers have light balls on their hands, there are clips from the video in the background, there are many synchronised dance segments, pyro… fans of 80s nostalgia will love it, that’s for sure! My biggest concern at the moment is that there are too many parts all vying for your attention, which makes the performance seem crowded and messy in places. Coming after the subtle and sublime Austria will only add to this chaotic feel. That being said, there are good elements to this performance (the dancers are brilliant), I’m just worried many things are cancelling each other out.

Sarah -Poland have given us another up- tempo track with the staging having a real 1980’s feel about it with elements of the video thrown in on the LED backdrop with the addition of pyros during the performance. Rafael and his dancers reminding me a bit of the group Madness  in their outfits, which are white suits, black shirts  ,hats and dark glasses , with Rafal dressed in all black  . Fans of 1980’s electro pop will love this , although I fear for its chances coming just after the emotion and passion of the Austrian performance, as for me, it’s a little bit chaotic in some areas in the actual dance routine .

Richard – I want to be positive about Rafal and this year’s entry, but I’m finding it difficult if I’m honest. The 80’s vibe from the music video has been brought to the stage, which works well. Rafal’s vocals improved on the second run-through, but rehearsals are needed more. The song was obviously designed for a younger singer.

John – I want to like this. It’s a great song for radio and there’s a slightly retro vibe that takes me back to my youth. I just think that dear old Rafa might not be the right singer for a song like this. As such, he makes a reasonable attempt with what he’s got. There are radical elements when he grabs the Steadicam to follow him around. The dancers have interesting light-based props which they use well. The entire crew make a lot of use of the stage too. Yet after all this, he might be the wrong fit for this. And that might scupper his chances of qualifying.

MOLDOVA (14.00 – 14.30 BST)

Richard – Yes, I agree you may have had to tone down Natalia’s performance after the official music video, but you’ve taken all the sugary goodness out of the stage performance. Where are the dancing Ice Cream cones and Doughnuts? The pink is still there though. It should qualify, but it’s not the Moldovan bonkers that we expect from Moldova.

Sarah – Natalia stands on a podium , with a pink laser backdrop , surrounded by four male backing dancers dressed in black , who perform dance moves similar to those done in the video . I felt that Natalia needs to join them with the dance routine a little more. It’s a very watered down act from the promotional video and unfortunately, I think this may jeopardize  Moldova’s chances as without the  candy, sugar-filled doughnuts ,cakes and dancing cones of the video , the song comes across as quite ordinary. However, it is  only the first rehearsal and it could be that Moldova will bring something more into the act. Please Natalia , give us some sugar and  dancing ice cream cornets !

John – I was expecting big things of this. Plenty of pink, lots of ice cream-themed backdropped-ness, and maybe even ice cream cones on stage. Well, we got the pink – of sorts. But it’s because the video was so memorable means I’m a tad disappointed. Natalia’s tried to perform a grown-up uptempo song, and fair play to her for that. However, it needs something lift it, and make it stand out from other songs of a similar ilk in the same contest. The saving grace is this is in the more open second semi-final. The slickness might just be enough, and your typical televoter may have no knowledge of the video. But I really was expecting more.

James – Moldova have given us some of the most memorable and downright whacky staging concepts at this contest, so after seeing the music video for Sugar I was ready for candy flavoured madness the likes of which the Eurovision Song Contest has never seen! Natalia seemed a little hesitant during her run-throughs, but it’s likely she’s saving her energy for later. The dance routine we all know and love is still central to the piece, but other than that, it feels very safe. Let me be clear, safe isn’t a bad thing and there’s nothing wrong with the staging – it’s very slick, well-rehearsed and would suit many Eurovision songs. It could have been gloriously deranged, but is actually quite contemporary and glossy. So why do I feel like Moldova have really missed a trick here…?

ICELAND (15.00- 15.30 BST)

Richard – Well, that was dare I say it safe? After “Think About Things” been a hit across Europe last year, even with the cancelled Contest. Dado’s entry this year will get compared. It has elements that Moldova needed – colourful, bright imagery on the back projection, even cartoon characters of the band itself. We’ve seen the circular piano gimmick before with Romania back in 2014, but for this performance it fits in very well. Iceland will qualify, but how well it’ll do in the final against the rest, I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess.

John – Unlike many other returning artists, the televoters out there will have heard ‘Think about things’ many times. That means they’ll be comparing that with ’10 years’. This year’s song is different, but I’m not sure it’ll have the same appeal. Having said all that, there’s nothing wrong with what Daði and his chums have done. It’s nicely quirky with the dad-dancing, pleasing keyboards, and retro sound. It will have its fans both from juries and televoters. Not a winner mind you, although it only needs to beat eight songs to make the final – and it will do that. I did like the bit where the backdrop appears, adorned with cutely cartoonish fans, all dressed in matching jade green outfits. It made me smile.

James – A lot of people declared Iceland the winner of last year’s contest and while we’re never going to know that for sure, they were still tipped as one of those to watch for 2021. The biggest issue for me is that in 2020, Think About Things went so big that anything that came afterwards had an uphill battle to live up to it and I still feel like 10 Years is a direct sequel to Think About Things. Despite my misgivings about the song itself, the Icelandic delegation have staged this very very well. It allows the band to showcase their characteristic quirkiness with cartoons, the space theme and bright colours – I also liked the bit at the very beginning with the silhouettes against the purple background! It’s impossible not to smile watching these guys in action and it’s a lot of fun! Iceland should have no problem making it into the final with that performance. Til harmingju, Island!

Sarah- We have been waiting with anticipation to see what Iceland will do after not having the chance to see them on the big stage last year, with “Think about things”.Dadi and co appear dressed in their traditional green tops . It’s a nice simple, quirky routine , fun to watch and doesn’t need a large amount of gimmicks to make it work . Nice use of LED backdrops showing cartoon figures in an audience dressed similarly to Dadi and co and we had, keyboards and pyro thrown in at the end . I think this is the type of act that will appeal to all generations, so should be easily be able to gather the televotes and should appeal to juries too . This should qualify .

SERBIA (15.40 – 16.10 BST)

John – And finally today is our only girl band. All dressed in black with ornaments, with varying degrees of skimpiness. It’s a song you’ll want to love. And some will love it. I’m not sure whether enough will love it so it beats eight other songs. I live in hope as we need stuff like this in the final, and it’s not your typical female-singer-with-four/five-dancers schtick. The vocal may need a bit of work – there’s time for that. The smoke machines during the first part of the song as they are way too noisy – there’s time to remedy that. They use the stage well and that could be a bit more polished – there’s time for that too.

Sarah- And the final song of the day goes to Serbia and the all girl group, Hurricane , giving us a banger of a song and a seemingly continuing a common theme this year of scantily clad outfits . they have certainly made full of the LED backdrops with some lyrics of the songs being hilighted. The vocals need a bit of work but there’s time to remedy that. They need to think about the use of the smoke machines, they are too noisy and need shorter shots of smoke rather than prolonged use. Some tweaks to the performance may push it into the qualifier bracket .

James – Serbia round off today’s rehearsals with Loco Loco. The girls ooze sass and swagger round the stage like they own it. At times it feels a little like they’re competing with each other rather than performing as a unit, but that could just be me – it’s been a long day, after all! The limited colour scheme with black, red and white works well, though I think the smoke jets are a mistake as their sound detracts from the music a bit too much. It’s not there yet, but with a few more rehearsals under their belt, Hurricane should have it sorted.

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