Today’s article is split into two parts. This first instalment covers the last six songs of semi 1, who have now done their thing for the second time.
This afternoon we get to see the first seven songs of semi 2 again, including a second look at Bosnia – which I thought, after its first rehearsal, was shaping up into a realistic contender. Thoughts on these will follow this evening are now posted below.
First, the first semi-final. This contains all the big hitters – many of them crammed into the top half of the draw, who all had their second rehearsals yesterday. It remains a tricky one to call, with the possibility of a surprise casualty – will someone follow in the footsteps of Sweden’s Anna Bergandahl last year? She failed to qualify when a 1.1 chance to go through on the exchanges.
The last six in the running order of the first semi contains three who are strongly fancied to qualify (Hungary, Azerbaijan and Greece), and three who are not (Iceland, Portugal and Lithuania). The more fancied runners all had a positive day, just to add to those increasingly crowded ‘definite’ and ‘maybe’ columns that punters are compiling.
Firstly, Hungary’s Kati Wolf appeared far more comfortable with ‘What About My Dreams’ than in her first rehearsal.
She was more confident early on in the song, and while she still had her shaky moments, they were more confined to the final minute at the points when she starts moving. A key note near the end is still proving problematic, but the backing singers are now doing a better job at this point, aided by one of the dancers.
This one can now be comfortably filed in the ‘maybe’ column. It will be aided by having the likes of the UK, Malta, Iceland and Albania voting in this semi, as all of these nations tend to favour the more Western-sounding poppy numbers.
Azerbaijan also showed decent progress from its first rehearsal. It’s very competent in so many ways. The choreography and staging look good, and the male vocalist Eldar is selling the song well. With a plum draw – 18th of the 19 songs – there seems little doubt that it will be in the shake-up at the top of the semi-final leaderboard.
The biggest handicap remains the female vocalist, Nigar. On the screens, her solo parts still come across on the weak side, and it has needed a clever arrangement to keep these to a minimum. It would be even shrewder to let the backing vocalists carry her at all times.
Greece remains what it was in a strong first rehearsal: dramatic and cleverly staged. It is the perfect climax to the semi, and benefits from following the soppiness of Lithuania and Azerbaijan. This is another one to file in the ‘definite’ column.
That leaves us with the less-fancied Iceland, Portugal and Lithuania. In today’s second rehearsals, all were much as they were before. Whilst I would be surprised to see any of them qualify, each has a great draw, a niche if not broad appeal, and a couple of friends. I can’t completely discount any of them, despite the strength in depth against them.
If this all sounds inconclusive, it’s meant to. The dress rehearsals, which begin on Monday, will hopefully help to clarify this exceptionally tricky heat somewhat.
Now onto those rehearsals for the second semi-final. We saw second rehearsals from the first seven to perform in next Thursday’s heat, and these were a reminder that it is in many cases a more clearcut affair.
Bosnia, opening the show, will surely be fighting it out at the top of the leaderboard in this semi after another excellent rehearsal. The camera shots thankfully give less prominence to the dancing trumpeter, whilst another well-advised tweak is that in the final shot Dino and his merry band are now all looking into camera.
Austria should be joining them in the final after another strong vocal performance from Nadine. The staging here is simple and effective.
Third to perform, the Netherlands has joined the “highly unlikely to qualify” pile in my book, because the staging remains dull and there’s not enough interaction with the camera. Also on that pile are the next two acts – Belgium and Slovakia. Though the latter were better today, with the Twiins not so flat vocally, I still don’t see it being enough.
In answer to Luca’s excellent question in the comments box from earlier on, the producers are doing a good job of capturing Ukraine’s sand gimmick on camera. Nonetheless, while during the first rehearsal it struck me as a welcome diversion from the dullness of the song, now I wonder if it comes across too much as a distraction. For that reason I am not yet quite convinced that the sand makes qualification a dune deal.
Moldova too felt less interesting second time around, though it remains a blessed relief after what has gone before – and while the novelty of the hatted unicyclist may have worn somewhat thin on me, it must be remembered that most viewers will be seeing all these presentations for the first time next Thursday night.