Second rehearsals began today. What we saw on the screens at the press centre here in Dusseldorf should be a much closer approximation to the final look on the big night.
The camera angles should be coming together based on discussions between directors and delegations after the first rehearsal. Meawnhile, many of the acts are trying out their intended costumes for the first time, although these can and do change.
The first 13 of the semi-final 1 contenders rehearsed today. And with nine of them featuring female lead vocalists, two things became clear – the ultra-competitive first half of this semi will be something of a fashion contest, and the male acts should be helped by the contrast they offer.
At the start of the semi, Poland’s Magdalena Tul (singing first) is coming off much worse than Norway’s Stella Mwangi (up second). Whereas the former looks forced singing ‘Jestem’ in a performance that is somehow less impactful here than it was in the Polish final, Stella is all smiles for ‘Haba Haba’ and she projects fun.
If this were purely a fashion face-off, Magdalena would be gone already for ruining her great figure by padding out her leotard at the hips for a Spongebob Squarepants look. Stella looks far more comfortable in her gold hotpants.
Given the overall performance of each today, there’s more than a width of knicker elastic between these two entries right now.
Up third is Albania’s Aurela Gace, who came in for plenty of stick for her flesh-coloured outfit, with a bird motif to match the backdrop of ‘Feel The Passion’. This is generally being seen as a non-qualifier because everything is coming across as too fierce – including Aurela.
What has to be considered, however, is that Albania got drawn with a higher percentage of its strong voting allies (including Greece, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey) than anyone else in this semi, and a bravura vocal performance may well impress the jurors if they can forgive the song.
Fourth up in this heat is Armenia’s Emmy, who has gone for a perfectly acceptable little white dress – though it’s initially covered by a boxing gown, the removal of which before the first chorus of ‘Boom Boom’ is an awkward catwalk moment for an entry that relies on performance as much as song.
Still, the part when the four male dancers make a boxing ring out of ribbons from their pockets remains an easy gimmick of sheer genius, and though ‘Boom Boom’ lacked the polish today to deliver viewers a knockout punch, a points verdict in its favour is still looking likely.
I may not be a fan of Turkey’s ‘Live It Up’ as a song, but I can still recognise that it’s sailing through to the final based on what I have seen today. The song is an 80s rock throwback but the band looks and sounds the part.
Yukset Sadakat have lots going for them, not least a draw which has them – 5th in the order – surrounded by all this frothy female pop. They may not be the most telegenic outfit, but the testosterone is turning out to make a nice change at this stage of the running order.
Immediately after Turkey in 6th comes Serbia’s ‘Caroban’, sung by Nina. It is dividing front row fashionistas with its retro 60s vibe, some finding it too busy on the eye, others – like me – finding the swirly backdrop more effective than that used in the national final. Vocally, Nina was largely in good form today, and the interaction with her backing troupe is excellent.
Following Nina in 7th slot is Russia’s Alexey Vorobyov, doing his best James Dean impression in black leather jacket and white T-shirt. It turns out the ethno introduction shows us that the boy can sing proper stuff and doesn’t just do smooth dance moves to plastic pop – though he can clearly manage that with great aplomb too.
A few glitches aside, the visuals are coming along great for this, and the only thing that would stop it qualifying with ease is if Alexey breaks his ankle doing the back-flip in one of the dress rehearsals. Given that he’s had an awkward landing or two during these run-throughs, I’d have a bucket of ice at the ready if I were the Russian delegation.
Switzerland comes next in position 8, and it’s a shame that the lovely Anna Rossinelli’s sequined rich red dress is twenty years too old for her.
My thoughts on this song have been mentioned before: for 1m20s we’re ‘In Love For A While’, then Anna “na-na-na”s for too long and it goes downhill from there. But context matters in Eurovision and it can’t be emphasised enough how refreshing it is to watch someone just stand there and sing after all that has gone before it.
Hold that thought while we deal with song 9. From the bizarre black outfits with swirly neon designs to the strobe lighting, it looks like Georgia’s Eldrine have decided to perform ‘One More Day’ in the middle of their local Laserquest.
This one is still not quite working right now, and even with five good voting allies in this semi plus a niche for this kind of Evanescence-lite number, it’s a borderline case.
Finland is not a borderline case. The 10th performance of the night is exactly what this semi-final needs amidst all the dance routines, fluffy female stuff and male bravado. Paradise Oskar is sailing into the final with his little-boy-lost look and an outfit that suggests he’s been dressed by his mother.
‘Da Da Dum’ treads a fine line between charmingly naive and horribly cringeworthy. But the Finnish lad belies his helpless appearance by finding the camera every time like a seasoned pro. Little girls and grannies will be cooing all over Europe. The globe backdrop looks stunning, too.
Paradise Oskar is also blessed by the fact that the three songs which follow – Malta (11th), San Marino (12th) and Croatia (13th) – are competing for last place in this semi based on their rehearsals today.