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#ESC22: #LiveBlog Of The Second Rehearsals Day 1 – #JoinUs From 09:00 BST/10:00 CEST

Finally! The time has come when we can bring you all the going ons from the rehearsals here in Turin. As you will be aware by now, the first rehearsals were closed to the Press and access was given exclusively to TikTok and of course, eurovision.tv.

So #JoinUs today as we get to see the first fourteen Acts of the first Semi Final take to the stage. Join me, Richard, throughout the day, while the rest of Eurovision Ireland will dip in and out with their opinions too.

Refresh From 09:00 BST/10:00 CEST

10:00 – 10:20 Albania

Richard: Ronela certainly makes an entrance, demanding that “Europe makes some noise”! The dancing is certainly questionable in places, in terms of not erotic, but close to the mark in places. You’ll have all seen the pictures of the backing dancers by now, so you can imagine what I’m talking about. I didn’t think it would be, be it is certainly a great opener to the first Semi Final!

Bogdan: This one is definitely going to get the party started in Turin! Ronela’s performance is filled with dance moves, yet it shows it’s only the second rehearsal as she’s not giving 100%. Could this be because of the rumours that we’ve heard? (asking her to tone down the choreography?) Costume-wise, Ronela is wearing a pink floaty overcoat, which in my opinion should have a darker colour (maybe red?) But hey, I’m not a fashion expert. All in all, not a bad start for today’s rehearsals.

James: After hearing all the scandal drifting around the internet about this performance being too suggestive for a family TV show and potentially needing to be completely reworked, I couldn’t wait to see what Ronela actually gets up to!! My first thoughts are that it’s very pink – not necessarily a bad thing, it catches the eye! Ronela commands the stage like a pro and I’m immediately thinking what a great opening to the semi-final this is going to be! Vocally I feel like it’s not quite there today, but it’s a rehearsal and that’s why we have them – I’m confident she’ll bring the power when she needs to. Yes, there’s lots of thrusting and gyrating that’ll keep dads all over Europe entertained but it’s no more suggest/outrageous/lewd than anything we’ve seen on the Eurovision stage before. Overall Albania, a great staging and amazing start to things!

10:25 – 10:45 Latvia

Richard: Citi Zeni have brought colour and fun to the stage. They bring the party to proceedings and while the naughty language is not sung and we have a couple of second of silence, that won’t stop the audience filling in the gaps! Citi Zeni are dressed in their individually coloured suits – something we have grown to know them for. A number of people don’t see this as qualifying, but I think they should be pleasantly surprised!

John: The rehearsal is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Maybe too busy, although a song like this needs this sort of staging. The camera work is very sympathetic to the song, with much use of Steadicams. It’s also a riot of colour, and if you were at the London Eurovision Party you’ll know what I mean. I would like to see it progress, but I think a lot of things that help it will also count against it. But whatever happens, you can guarantee the muted word early on will be shouted with gusto by the assembled masses next Tuesday.

Bogdan: While I can’t fault  Citi Zeni’s energy and agreeing that ‘being green is hot’, that was just a hot mess. Well not totally, but it was too colourful, too repetitive and without the famous line, you wouldn’t think twice about voting for this entry. I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced yet.

James: I have it on good authority this is Staggy’s favourite entry… but that’s because he thinks it’s about eating cats… no one tell him that’s not what they’re talking about… so, the song itself… well, you can’t fault their enthusiasm, the band swagger around stage and it’s very colourful and fun. It’s staged perfectly to allow the band’s natural charisma to take centre stage and they have that by the (paper) bagful. I suspect a jury is going to be thoroughly unimpressed, but a televote is likely to lap it up… I still wonder if being so early in the running order is going to be a hindrance, but bravo Latvia – no one will forget that in a hurry!

10:50 – 11:10 Lithuania

Richard: Monika joins us on stage in a long sequined, silvery dress. She is all alone on the stage, but for a song like “Sentimentai”, it works quite well – as long as the camera stays on her and doesn’t stray away. I’m getting a seventies retro vibe from this particular vibe. It is different enough to stand out in the first part of Semi Final 1. While we are in the complete unknown surrounding where all of the absent Russia’s votes that they would’ve gained, will be going this year, I feel we could see all three Baltic states in the Grand Final once again.

John: Monika has a lot of guts being on stage alone, especially after the bonkersness of the two previous songs. It allows your average viewer to have a breather before the next song. So the ‘different’ feel of this song could well be its saving grace. Monika does know her craft and sells this really well. Word from a nearby fashionista is slightly questioning the choice of frock, but there’s nothing really wrong with it. Even the Lithuanian lyric doesn’t really detract. If anything, it helps. I’ve moved this from a non-qualifier to a likely one.

Bogdan: Monika is alone on the stage and occasionally accompanied by herself in a mirror effect. She is mesmerizing as always and you can feel she has the likeability factor. However, I think she needs to feed on the public’s energy (which she will on the night) to give as a more engaged performance.

James: Monika looks very sparkly and connects well with the camera during her performance. It’s more of the same that we saw in the National Final performances, but if it works, why change it? There’s something captivating and oddly endearing bout the way Monika schmoozes the camera, and I suspect she’s one of these performers that when she gets an audience in front of her, she’ll come to life all the more and revel in their attention. I see this qualifying quite easily.

11:15 – 11:35 Switzerland

Richard: Marius Bear has taken to the stage in a full black outfit. Like Monika, he is on the stage on his own, however for a number like “Boys Do Cry”, I feel he needs to be joined by some contemporary dancers or something to bring the performance alive. At present, I watch this and instantly forget about it. Switzerland are sadly not qualifying for me based on this rehearsal.

John: Marius appears to be doing his best George Ezra impression. Or has George been mimicking Marius all these years? Anyway, the setting has a dark motif. Marius’s outfit, and the backdrop could seem to meld into one if they’re not careful. And if you want a gimmick, then at one point a broken heart is projected onto Marius’s face. It’s only when the second chorus happens that we start to get a bit more light, and I suspect some viewers might have switched off by then. He’s going to have an uphill struggle to make the top 10 I think.

Bogdan: Marius is alone on the stage (as we expected) and the background is mainly black with occasional flashes and sparkles. At one point a broken heart is projected on his cheek and on the floor. I love his raspy voice, but I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed by what I saw. It lacks the wow factor for me. Knowing that Slovenia is up next, I fear for Switzerland’s chances to qualify.

James: Switzerland have gone all dark and moody in what I suspect is an attempt to cash in on the love the dark and moody Tout L’Univers got last year… the issue for me is that a lot of these arm movements are not so much dramatic as more flailing in a very unnatural and forced way… and you don’t need to mime what an airplane is Marius, we know! Hmm… I applaud his voice, but in terms of staging, I see this getting lost between two more upbeat numbers…

11:40 – 12:00 Slovenia

Richard: LPS have sort of replicated their official music video as their stage performance. LPS are smartly dressed in suits – both the lead singer and the musicians. The drummer is playing on stage, but raised up be a hydraulic lift behind a massive disco ball. Sadly, the disco ball is sitting on some wheels, which is obvious thanks to the camera work and sadly ruins the illusion the disco ball creates. Will this qualify? I currently see Slovenia as borderline.

John: After two slower songs, this is almost a breath of fresh air. LPS do look the business, and they’ve even borrowed Alyona Lanskaya’s giant glitterball. It must have initially obscured the drummer, so they put him on a big high plinth. The song bounces along nicely, with the slightly surprising slower bit that is designed to fit in with the story being told. The band members interact with the Steadicam and they almost the antithesis of your band. It works for me. I didn’t hold out much hope for it before I can to Turin, but they have a chance. The one thing I would recommend – for aesthetic purposes – is to put something around the castors the glitterball stands on.

Bogdan: Is it the LPS or the last giant disco ball? I think Slovenia’s counting on the flashing of the disco ball to trick us we are indeed listening to a disco song.  After what we had earlier, a bit more of a pseudo-dancing song on the stage doesn’t hurt. Having said that, I’m thinking: is song 5; when will the wow factor come? Sorry, this one doesn’t say much to me. It could be anyone’s chance at this point.

James: Now, in the national final performance I applauded Filip for his camera connectivity and even went as far as to say he was the best I saw throughout all the national final season. But as often happens, songs that suit a smaller stage look a bit lost on a bigger stage and I fear that’s what is happening here. A lot of what worked in that performance has been stripped away, which is a shame. Large props can also be a bit of a gamble, but how can you not like a whacking-great disco ball? (definitely agree with John though, cover up the wheels on it!) It’s not bad, and think going after a slow ballad will help it stand out. Given how much people like disco, I can see this being the qualifier that no one sees coming until it does!

13:05 – 13:25 Ukraine

Richard: Kalush Orchestra have delivered the performance that everyone was expecting and more. The sun is used as the back drop as a sign of peace throughout most of the performance, however it ends with blue and yellows – the colours of the Ukrainian flag. The outfits are part traditional and part wacky. Whether you are a fan of this or not, this will spark emotions next Tuesday night. It will qualify from the Semi Final, but can it go on and win the whole show? This is where opinion divides.

John: Well, where do we start? Is our winner there for all to see? The sextet is mainly stood in a line, but they obviously move about. The two at the ends are in long colourful outfits, and one is playing a double bass. The rap seems very angry, although I’m not a real expert on rap. The singer is also putting everything into this. There are the traditional Ukrainian motifs here and there, just to remind you who this is. The whole package is definitely up to the country’s high Eurovision standards. If I did have a criticism, they could shave 15 seconds off the end and it would still be as good. But this performance is mesmerizing, heartfelt and almost has me in bits.

Bogdan: Finally the kinetic sun actually looks like a sun.  There’s great energy on the stage and great visuals as well; we have weeping eyes on the side panels on the background, while the tears seem to converge in a gold river, reminding me of Jamala. While this isn’t the best Ukrainian performance I’ve ever seen, I think there will be lots of support for Ukraine.

James: Ukraine have already won Eurovision 2022 by being here on this stage. So many people, from the fjords of Iceland to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, an entire continent are going to be cheering, crying and just so emotional that the country we have very much taken to our hearts these last terrible weeks is on that stage, representing their homeland, their culture and their language. Even taking recent events out of the equation, it’s a strong performance with folkloric elements that’s in a genre most casual viewers would never normally encounter. Is it going to qualify? Certain. Can it win Eurovision 2022? If some of those long angle shots show an arena cheering and singing along, they could do…

13:30 – 13:50 Bulgaria

Richard: The Intelligent Music Project – what do I say? I’m sure they have the “Intention” to deliver a great performance, but I feel the vocals let them down. Overall, I just see this as noise. There will be those that this style of music appeals to, but this performance does nothing for me – that is my opinion only and not of the whole team. I see this struggling to qualify.

John: After the Lord Mayor’s show, we have rock. Or is it? There’s a lot of familiar in this. The way the song is constructed, the archetypal band members, the plethora of guitars and heavy drumbeat. And yet, and yet, the sum of what we see might just completely miss the point. It might fall down because it’s not enough of one thing. I think it’s a contrived lyric, if people are distracted enough for people to listen to what it is. This is going to struggle.

Bogdan: I can’t help to think that Bulgaria will ride on the Ukraine’s wave due to the song’s lyrics. With a public already sensitised about the war issue, a song that sings that they are never in the ‘safety zone’ and ‘they were sending me to war’ might just be enough to save Bulgarian from DNQ. The vocals were ok, but without what I’ve mentioned before I would have feared much more for their chances to get to the final.

James: I know I’m in a minority being a Eurovision fan that actually likes this year’s Bulgarian entry (like, not love, admittedly!). It’s very much a rock show with one crucial difference – so many rock bands are so used to performing to an arena, they forget Eurovision is a TV show and don’t connect to the camera. The singers here are doing some connecting, which is a good thing. It’s not bad at all, the staging suits the mood of the song. But I’m left feeling like there isn’t much there to hook in a televoter and potential votes. Coming after Ukraine in the running order is also quite a stroke of bad luck…

13:55 – 14:15 The Netherlands

Richard: S10 has arrived in Turin with a rather simplistic performance. The stage is quite dark and she is wearing a black, what can only be described, as a circus ring-masters outfit. A sunset appears behind her during the final third of the song, however she looks lost on that stage all on her own. Admittedly, I am impressed now I have seen the performance live and for me it may now qualify from the Semi Final.

John: This is reminiscent of something I’ve seen before, and I think it’s Sennek. Don’t’ get me wrong, this song is half-decent and switches between powerful and moody. It has a sympathetic staging, which is also minimalist and generally dark, set off by spotlights coming on at the right times and a backdrop of sunlight over water. It could go either way. In the past, I’ve heard crowd chatter over soft parts of songs, which has completely sunk them. So if we hear that chatter, I fear for it. If not, it should make the Grand Final.

Bogdan: I don’t know if what I’ve heard was raw emotion or nerves, but you can’t say that S10 didn’t show her feelings on the stage. Again, a lot of darkness and rays of lights; nothing we haven’t seen in other performances so far.  I don’t see this as a winner, but it has a chance to qualify.

James: Dressed in black and singing from the darkness, S10’s performance has instant impact. As a song, it’s not in my personal Top 10 (Top 20 perhaps) but my goodness… everything about this works!! The lighting, her connectivity and conviction, her vocals… a performance like that is a potential winner… could we be back in the Netherlands a year after we left? After seeing that, wouldn’t surprise me!

14:20 – 14:40 Moldova

Richard: Zdob și Zdub and the Advahov Brothers have brought the fun of the official music video of “Trenulețul” to the stage. While the stage isn’t a train carriage, the performance utilises the whole stage. The performance is full of colourful lighting and quite frankly, it is very infectious. This will grab the attention of that first time viewer with great ease. The choo-choo at the end is quiet sweet too, with reference to the official video. A definite qualifier for me and a potential top ten in the Final.

John: Let’s go! Talking of breaths of fresh air, here come the tastefully attired Moldovans. Actually, I want one of those suits worn by Frații Advahov. Lead singer Roman is charismatic enough to pull this nifty little song off. There’s a nice bonkers charm to the whole three minutes. Is it a novelty song? Maybe. But it has some nicely Balkan (if that’s the right word) elements to it, to add some realism. We also get our first taste of an act using the small stage in front of the main stage. They get to it via the gift of drawbridge. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen today, and should qualify easily.

Bogdan: Finally something without a depressive feeling, Moldova is on the stage and they are infectiously funny and entertaining.  This is a song you can’t ignore; hate it or love it, the sound will be remembered.  Was it as crazy as other Zdob si Zdub performances? No, but in a semi-final like this, I’ll take it. Must admit, the ending with ‘choo choo’ made me giggle. There are a few reasons why televoters will vote for this one. Will the jury like it as well? We’ll have to wait and see.

James: Moldova have provided some of Eurovision’s most iconic stagings, which is perhaps why I feel a little deflated watching now… first of all, no dancing ice creams from Natalia Gordienko, now no actual trains from Zdob si Zdub! This being said, it shows they’ve done this before in everything from the way they connect to the camera and the way they move around the stage. This is going to go down very well in the arena and across Europe, and I see Moldova making it to the final no problem. And while I flinch every time I hear some of the words (for any avoidance of doubt, it’s Bookarest, NEVER Byukarest!!!), the TOOT TOOT at the end made me laugh!!

14:45 – 15:05 Portugal

The EBU have released a statement surrounding the Portuguese delegation and a case of COVID-19. The rehearsal was announced to carry on as scheduled, but it hasn’t. We will bring you more details when we have them.

15:35 – 15:55 Croatia

Richard: Mia Dimšić is wearing a pink dress and is joined by a contemporary dancer in white. The performance doesn’t really grab me, yet it is one that utilises the stage maybe more than others. Mia has been having some sound issues, although this is something that can be sorted easily. At this moment in time, I feel “Guilty Pleasure” is a safe entry and could face a non-qualification.

John: Mia has been joined by three dancers, unlike the single one she had at Dora. She’s also in a very vivid pink with extra fabric. It’s a sweet song, but sweet often doesn’t get you very far. During the first run through she kept her guitar with her throughout. After that, she took it off (Anna Bergandahl), which works better. Mia also switches to Croatian for the final part of the song. I always have me reservations about that. Will it qualify? Well, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s ripe for being one of those inoffensive songs that gets overlooked.

Bogdan: I can’t believe I’m saying this but Croatia might just have a chance of qualifying ONLY and ONLY if they make a few big adjustments. Please, please don’t keep MIA’s face in the dark the second part of the song. WHY? She is singing ‘Would you run away with me?’ and we can’t even see her! It doesn’t make any sense. Please put the spotlight on her. You need to see her face, her eyes to connect with her lyrics. Keeping her in the dark is a mistake.

James: I’d seen pictures of Mia’s frock and thought it looked rather stunning. She’s beautiful and has a lovely sweet voice, and I must admit that I enjoy the song (you could say it’s a guilty pleasure… I’ll see myself out…) I see what they’re going for on the stage, the whole idea of lovers running away (across the stage…) together but it just looks haphazard. There’s a fine line between looking spontaneous and looking like there is no plan. There are also far too many moments when Mia is either not looking at the camera when it’s on her, or she’s in darkness when it is… it’s a real shame, there are some great elements there, but they’re not adding up well… such a shame…

16:00 – 16:20 Denmark

Richard: Reddi have replicated their National Final performance for “The Show” here in Turin. This is certainly a lively number, which will grab the viewer’s attention instantly. For those watching the Semi Final and not seen any of the Acts before, I’d be confident that Denmark could qualify on what I’ve seen and heard.

John: I’ve called this ‘Hygge Pop’. It’s friendly, inoffensive, and very very safe. The band are dressed in a very individual stylee, competently playing their instruments. I struggle with the song starting in one style, and then kicking into another style. It jars a little with me. The singers are all decent singers, but I think there’s something missing.

Bogdan – The lead singer singing at the piano in the beginning reminds me of Dolly Parton. Unfortunately, once the song breaks into a more energetic performance, we lose the connectivity with the camera and the camera shots are a bit hap-hazarded. There are too many shots from far away and defocused from the lead singer.  This is not how you get votes, Denmark! It’s rock, but it is still a TV show and we need to see your face and eyes. Do you think Italy won last year by not showcasing the lead singer in almost all the shots?

James: I’m all for songs that change tempo as they progress, the problem with doing that with an audience that are going to vote for you is that you may have switched a lot of them off before you actually get going. I think Denmark are treading that line at the moment, but this being said the band’s energy is infectious and translates well down a camera. It’s colourful and they look like they’re having a lot of fun, which is fantastic. My concern is that it’s a bit tame musically and the sort of thing I can imagine being everyone’s 11th favourite – which will spell disaster when the votes are being counted.

16:25 – 16:45 Austria

Richard: LUM!X & Pia Maria have brought the club vibe to the Eurovision stage here in Turin. Sadly, Pia is struggling with the vocals from what I can hear and whatever pyrotechnics that are thrown at this performance, it isn’t enough for a qualification at the moment. Yes it’s a modern, dance number, but sadly II can’t seeing it compete with some of the other songs we’ve seen today.

John: I’d sort of been looking forward to this one as we all love a good bop. Sadly, I’m a bit disappointed. The bop potential is there. The halo of lights around Lumix and Pia Maria is there. The tight staging is there. Yet there’s an issue with the vocal. The mix between Pia Maria and her backing appears to be very wrong. It’s going to be an uphill battle to salvage something good out of this. But at least it has pyro.

Bogdan: Definitely this is the most contemporary –sounding song that we’ve heard tonight. The halo that they’re in, feels like their own mini disco and they are performing a concert for us. I hope the vocals will be on point on the night because at  the moment, I am not that impressed. Still enjoyed the song though.

James: I’m getting flashbacks to Paula and Ovi’s circular piano from Romania in 2014! Despite Luca’s attempts to whip the non-existent crowd into a frenzy, vocally it feels really flat, which is disappointing. This is always the danger with synth sounding tracks, replicating the sound live can be problematic. While I enjoy the song and still think it’ll go down well in the arena, part of me wonders whether having them both stood inside their light halo restricts their movement too much and makes for a bit of a dull show… not what I was expecting at all…

16:50 – 17:10 Greece

Richard: Amanda Tenfjord has brought a rather haunting performance of “Die Together”. The stage is lit in blues and whites, wit h broken chairs as props. Vocally OK, and I can see it doing well in a Semi Final. However when it comes to the Final, for me, it will depend wear Greece falls into the running order. Hauntingly lovely.

John: There’s a curious set up for this one. Amanda is in a long white dress, and she’s wandering amidst a large number of chairs at odd angles scattered around the stage. There’s a vocal effect that sounds like a harmonic to my untrained ear. It’s not bad and actually lifts the song a little.  The song comes after something very upbeat and this is competent song from a competent singer. It’s gone up in my estimation. Well done Greece!

Bogdan:  Greece is giving me Bulgaria 2017 vibes and that’s not a bad thing. The beginning of the song seems to last a bit too long seen on the main stage, but once the song really starts, you will enjoy Amanda’s commitment and connection with the camera. This is definitely one of the best performances I’ve seen today. Greece should qualify easily as Amanda sings beautifully, with conviction.

James: I remember very clearly being told by someone that Greece were going to do well at Eurovision this year and at some point I would see that. I think I may have just had that moment. It’s very simple staging, Amanda starting on a chair with her eyes closed… it’s a very simple staging technique, but surprisingly effective! Simple white and blue lights combined with the emotion in her voice… usually I would have said broken chairs don’t make for great props, but they add a slightly surreal, dreamlike quality. I’m very impressed Greece! I think this should sail out of the semi-final no problem, probably in the Top 3. Could it do the same in the final? I think it has a chance!

17:15 – 17:35 Portugal (Rescheduled)

Sarah-Hi everyone, well, I have finally made it to see the very end of the rehearsal day . What a rehearsal to come in on though. I have always had a sneaking regard for this song and I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw. I know there have been complaints about the staging being too dark because of malfunction of the kinetic sun, but this act is one that actually suits the darker staging. It’s moody ,atmospheric , the vocals are harmonious and it’s just a joy to watch and listen to . The girls are on stage, sat down , as they were in the Portugese National Final . It’s simple , with no gimmicks, a song like this does not need gimmicks. Based on what I have seen today, it’s a total contrast to the uptempo numbers seen today and could just sneak through and qualify .Well done Portugal !

John: Shades of lilac appear to be the motif here. Maro and her pals are performing in a circle. Think Tommy Seebach in 1993 but without the musical instruments. It’s a thoroughly pleasant song, and thoroughly Portuguese. There was nothing wrong with this rehearsal and they all seem fairly happy with things. It would be great to see it through. But does it have enough oomph? In this semi-final, I think it doesn’t need it.

Bogdan: MARO is giving us the sound we all love and expect from Portugal. The staging is again dark with a few accents of colours. I love the song, I really do, but I’m afraid it’s a semi-final with too many dark-themed songs. Unfortunately, except the sound, I can’t say there was something in the staging that caught my eye. The lead singer should also connect more with the camera. It would be great to have Portugal in the final, but I’m not that convinced at the moment.

We will be back tomorrow morning from 09:00 BST/10:00 CEST for another ten rehearsals – the remaining three of Semi Final 1 and the first seven from Semi Final 2. Let us know what you think about the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest – either in the comments below or on our FACEBOOK and TWITTER pages.

Author: Richard Taylor

Source: Eurovision Ireland

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