Eurovision 2016: May 4 rehearsals

Latvia’s Justs decided to ditch his favourite brown leather jacket in favour of a black one for Stockholm. The staging for ‘Heartbeat’ is simple and effective. A grey stage with pulse effects that are busier during the quieter part of the song, turns to red at the second chorus. They were trying out different camera angles, though sticking with the most effective one, from the back during the bridge, which comes towards him then swirls. Justs’ tendency to oversing doesn’t feel like such an issue in the big arena.

I was less impressed by the Polish staging, which lacked a concept. Why not play with colour for ‘The Color of Your Life’? Instead, the stage is a generic dark blue with red and white spotlights. Three violinists, a cellist and pianist play behind Michal, who is in fine voice. He tried a silver jacket for the first run-through, then ditched it for the black vest underneath. Personally, I’d stick with the jacket.

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Eurovision 2016: May 3 rehearsals

Gabriela Guncikova got today’s rehearsals underway in bridal white, with a background of purple / blue triangles from the video. She walks forward at the start of ‘I Stand’, and keeps it simple from there on in, merely loosening her hair at the big moment, and allowing it to flutter in the wind machine. On the plus side, the Czech act looked and sounded amazing; but a face like that needs more close-ups, and the backdrop was occasionally overpowering too.

The Cypriots have some hard rock staging for the poodle rock ‘Alter Ego’. The band are caged before the guitarists come out for a face-off. There’s strobe lighting and quick camera cutaways, some of them pre-recorded footage showing a CGI wolf. Plenty of high-concept ideas were being tried out, which makes it a work in progress. The vocals weren’t always perfect, but the backing singer helps with the higher notes.

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Eurovision 2016: May 2 rehearsals

“Sing it away!” Finland’s Sandjha started proceedings in a powder blue catsuit to a purple backdrop. She was holding back on the vocals, and the focus was on interacting with her backing singers. They walk onto the stage from the back for the first chorus, and split into two groups either side of the lead singer. Sandjha uses the catwalk to the smaller satellite stage during the bridge, but turns back no sooner than she’s there. This early practice didn’t change any minds on its qualification prospects.

There was no sound in the press centre for the first Greek rehearsals, so we could only judge visuals. Those were very much “Greece at Eurovision #101”, which is a compliment from these quarters. Think ‘Opa!’ with the band in white, some homoerotic touches between the new young dancer and the older rapper, and a ‘My Number One’ moment at the bridge. A fiery backdrop soon changes into an evolving set of golden compass patterns. There was plenty to keep the eye interested.

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Sofabet in Stockholm

Good evening from sunny Stockholm. Over the next two weeks, you can expect the usual coverage of Eurovision rehearsals on Sofabet. From the press centre, I will tweet my impressions of each practice session as they happen, before posting an article summarising the day’s events. I can be found on Twitter here.

It feels like an open year, and I’ll try to bring as open a mind as possible to proceedings. It’s worth reminding readers that there are lots of reports, often contradictory, about each rehearsal. Bear in mind that some concepts take a little while longer to perfect than others – whether it’s Eric Saade smashing his glass box, or last year’s Estonian duo finding the right angles to tell their story. First efforts can be rough or ready, and much can change in the space of a week.

The only clips you’ll get of first rehearsals will be on Eurovision.tv, before the fan press moves in to film second rehearsals onwards. The full schedule can be found here. Most of all, enjoy the next few weeks, and keep your thoughts coming below.

Eurovision 2016: Get your hits out for the lads

Everyone’s favourite annual cultural nadir is right around the corner – and this year’s uninspiring songs are putting the homo in homogenous, even by the standards of the 2010s contest (or my old benchmark for blandness, 1994). The samier the lineup, the more important the staging and performance; this being the case, it wouldn’t be incisive for me to pen an in-depth analysis of every entry (like I did last year) so close to the event, especially now we know the semifinal running orders.

Trying to pick at least 2 qualifiers out of What’s The Pressure, Fairytale, Icebreaker and Soldiers Of Love is like trying to pick my favourite genocide: my brain rolls over and refuses to compute the moment I try. Moreover, over the course of the selection season, most of us in the comments section seems to have come to a pretty good consensus on the state of affairs this year, and this is partly why I’ve held off putting finger to keyboard: because I basically agree with everything Daniel has written on Eurovision 2016 as well as the bulk of reader comments. Plus I wasn’t drunk enough (this article is brought to you by Perła).

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London Eurovision Party 2016

The London Eurovision Party is a more informal affair than its Amsterdam counterpart. The usual caveat about not reading too much into fan events definitely applies here: the stage is tiny, and the backing track was often too high in the sound mix. Nonetheless, the organisers did a good job in mixing spontaneity with efficiency, and a good time was had by all. Go to the esckaz playlist to watch for yourself.

The first to perform was one of those we didn’t see in Amsterdam: Ireland’s Nicky Byrne. We didn’t learn too much from his rendition of ‘Sunlight’ that we didn’t know before. He doesn’t have the strongest voice, but a bigger problem may be the number of slightly generic, radio-friendly pop songs of this ilk up against him.

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Eurovision In Concert 2016

Twenty-six of this year’s Eurovision acts performed at last night’s preview concert in Amsterdam. It’s always a highly enjoyable event, though performing in a small venue to a group of fans is always a very different experience to the arena setting of the big event.

It’s therefore best to be cautious about extrapolating impressions from the gig and applying them beyond last night’s fun. For videos of all the performances, you can see for yourself on the esckaz YouTube channel. Rather than go through all 26 here, I’ll just give my most significant thoughts in the circumstances. Feel free to ask in the comments section about any others.

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BGT 2016 Discussion Thread

Britain’s Got Talent starts on ITV this evening – the tenth outing of a franchise Syco have so far kept in rather better shape than the X Factor. ITV’s press release for this series promises, inter alia, “a dancing polar bear”, “a one-man band on stilts” and “the world’s fastest tortoise”. If history is any guide, we’re likely in for seven Saturdays of taped auditions before live semi-finals in the week starting May 23rd. Do let us know your thoughts below as the series unfolds.