This afternoon saw the much anticipated arrival of the automatic qualifiers on stage in Baku for their first rehearsals. Let’s dive straight in.
There’s a very simple presentation for Germany’s Roman Lob who is accompanied by a full band on stage. There’s no doubting he’s a good-looking chap, vocally he was on very fine form, and after the madness of what we had seen this morning, ‘Standing Still’ came across as refreshingly normal. The draw is helping Lob, and this Danish-sounding song is ideal jury fodder too – a full band is on stage to cement that. I’m still not sure quite how much love televoters will give this, but this was a very strong rehearsal.
This is more than can be said for what France revealed, which was essentially homoerotic cabaret. The main show isn’t Anggun, or her two backing singers, but the three musclebound gymnasts who put themselves through their paces in an attempt to confuse the viewer. One of them performs a somersault over Anggun which puts my heart in my mouth every time.
Anggun’s vocals were rather weak in parts and never compelling, but on some run-throughs she was adequate enough. As I indicated in my London Eurovision Party review, I’ve never seen this being a Top 10 contender, and today reiterated what a mountain France has to climb to reach the left side of the scoreboard next Saturday.
Italy’s Nina Zilli, second favourite for the whole contest, was on next. ‘L’amore E’ Femmina (Out of Love)’ depends on Nina selling it, something we know she is capable of. It’s hard to judge its chances based on today, when Zilli was dialing it in. She looked bored and sounded pretty flat for the most part, but it will be about what happens when she puts her lippy and frock on for the moments it matters.
Having said which, the black-and-white backdrop was uninspired and the lack of any instrumentation on stage was also a disappointment. The overall effect at the moment is of a lack of energy with just the lead singer and her three backing vocalists on stage. But like I say, that can all change when Zilli is in the mood.
Azerbaijan’s Sabina Babayeva on the other hand, generally wowed the arena and press centre. The staging here is very atmospheric, though almost as dark as it is for Loreen. The backdrop shows paint hurtling through the air, whilst the largely red and yellow colours used are also projected onto her white dress, which is very effective. There’s a mugam player on a platform just behind her. On one or two later run-throughs, Sabina occasionally held back, but she had already showed what she could do, and it was no surprise to see Azerbaijan’s odds shortening in general after a very solid first rehearsal.
Spain’s Pastora Soler generally gave it full throttle for ‘Quedate Conmigo’ and was another to sound very impressive, but there are some visual issues. The initial backdrop of rain coming down a windowpane is a little uninspired, and this can definitely do without the 80s-style Eurovision choreography from the backing singers who emerge in the final third and completely detract from the whole performance. Pastora looks as pained as ever too, but she’s definitely the equal of this very difficult song.
Unfortunately, Engelbert Humperdinck is no longer the equal of ‘Love Will Set You Free’. Watching him walk forward slowly, whilst two dancers waltz to one side and a guitar player sits on the other side, was a rather painful experience. The UK will be nowhere near a Top 10 place on this evidence.
Let us know your thoughts on these rehearsals below.