As planned, there was one less rehearsal today with run-throughs for the first eight songs in the second semi – video footage of which can be found at songfestivalweblog.nl once more. I wish I could say that the day felt shorter as a result, but it didn’t.
I was flagging by 5pm, at which point Ukraine came to rehearse. Could the nation that took us all by surprise last year when putting sand artist Kseniya Simonova on stage alongside their singer, do it again?
Perhaps Gaitana would appear with other former luminaries of Ukraine’s Got Talent. I was hoping that Timophey Vinkovsky could provide backing on the crystal glasses whilst Just Two Men put in some rope work. Instead we got a body popper who wouldn’t have made it past the audition stage. Pfffft.
The day started out brightly enough. Serbia’s Zeljko Joksimovic gave us exactly what we expected. A flawless vocal surrounded by his musical troupe. Just like the song, the staging ticked all the Balkan ballad boxes. My thoughts on ‘Nije Ljubav Stvar’ remain as they were just after it was first presented.
Macedonia’s Kaliopi proceeded to wow the fans once more with a very strong vocal for ‘Crno E Belo’. What I wrote about its qualification chances after the London Eurovision Party remain the case. It has six allies to help it in the televote, and one would hope the juries will reward her abilities, but counting against her among neutral televoters is a terrible draw, the language barrier and a change in tempo.
I’m afraid it was rather downhill from here. The Netherlands have managed to stuff up their staging again based on the first rehearsal of Joan Franka’s ‘You and Me’. She’s wearing an even bigger Native American headdress than in the national final, and there’s a fiery backdrop for the first minute to match the urns of fire on stage which were only used in later run-throughs.
Those Sofabet readers conversant with our X Factor coverage will know that putting images of fire, or fire itself, next to a performer isn’t the wisest move. It makes the stage look like Hades. In some unfortunate camera angles, Joan’s headdress looks like it might go up in flames, just like the Netherlands’ qualification chances.
I find the Maltese song a long three minutes. This rather impacts on my interpretation of all the action on stage – there’s a DJ, a foot shuffle move and Kurt Calleja making friends with his band. Some bloggers found it energetic; it came across a tad desperate to me.
Kurt’s vocals are not entirely convincing or consistent. Most of their time they are adequate, but the final minute is a bit nervy and occasionally contains a big bum note. ‘This is The Night’ will have to be alright on the night in this respect.
The Belarussian Litesound boys have a gimmick of going horizontal. They took the Cypriot concept to angle oneself at 45 degrees during that 2011 entry and raised it to the max, Spinal Tap style. The outfits, staging and mannerisms are rather Spinal Tap too which is a little incongruous for the newer, poppier version of ‘We Are The Heroes’.
Their English pronunciation, the mike stands, the slightly awkward way the lead singer moves about the stage – it’s all very Belarus at Eurovision raised up to eleven on the dial.
Talking of which, Portugal is just as you would expect too, with a lovely Lisbon setting on the LED screens. Meanwhile, the backing singers do what they always do for these numbers. Filipa Sousa is a sound enough vocalist, but it’s hard to envisage too many neutral televoters picking up their phone and voting for this amongst many other similar ballads in this semi.
This brings me to the Ukraine and Gaitana, who I was hoping would kick the day up its backside. Actually there were high kicks and everything else in this one, including the body popper. My initial reaction was that it was all too much, but everything will depend on how the camera angles deal with it. There’s certainly plenty of energy on stage.
Gaitana belts it out without assistance, which means that each run-through was rather varied based on how much effort she wanted to put in, though at her best she carries ‘Be My Guest’ very effectively. I’ll reserve judgement on its overall claims until I see how it’s coming together in later rehearsals.
We saved the worst till last, with Sofi Marinova all alone on stage looking like she had scared everyone else off it. ‘Love Unlimited’ was the song – the same could not be said of my patience. Despite some strong competition on the evidence of today, Bulgaria is a contender for last place in this semi-final.
Let me know if you can put a more positive spin on these rehearsals in the comments section below.