The initial dress rehearsal is the first chance to see the show as it will be. It can therefore be an eye-opening experience. No more the repeated run-throughs for each act and the leisurely time between each one which marks the practice period up till now. In fact, the dress rehearsal flies by like a speeding bullet. Below are my impressions. Do bear in mind that this rehearsal doesn’t count towards anything, unlike tonight’s second attempt, from midnight-2am local time, which is what the juries watch and judge.
Can I reiterate that as well as tweeting anything of particular significance as it happens in the jury rehearsal tonight, I have decided to give my general impressions straight after it finishes in the comments section to this article rather than leave you waiting till the next day.
Anyway, let’s get cracking…
The feed in the press centre was too quiet for the first four songs, which makes them harder to evaluate. However, it was easy to tell that Montenegro is still a shambles. Rambo spent the first minute sorting out his guitar strap, and the rest wasn’t much better. Next up, even with the poor sound on the TV feed you could tell Iceland’s Jonsi was too low in the mix, and he gave the game away by fiddling with his volume dial. Once this had been sorted, the final minute brought a welcome change in gear with the two coming together, but ‘Never Forget’ feels a little static before then.
Greece’s choreography and vocals were improved today and the whole thing is making more sense. Eleftheria with an oyster or fire detail on her short dress matches the backdrop and is flashing rather a lot of knicker, which I think is a mistake. Latvia’s Anmary is in a more flattering blue dress than before, and her backing vocalists have also changed outfits for the better. This is as it was: a fun, casual song that has a mountain to climb. I wasn’t a fan of the Rona Nishliu’s look for Albania, with her dreadlocked hair forming a necklace and a dress featuring a futuristically scooped neckline with a high back. It made her appear rather alien. She was on fine form vocally but visually it was a scary three minutes.
I’ve been a little disappointed with the way they’ve decided to stage ‘Zaleilah’ during earlier rehearsals but within ten seconds this clearly blows everything before it out of the water. The toned down presentation actually makes it look more sensible, it still makes you want to dance and Elena is in great form. This seems likely to be at least top three in this semi.
It’s followed by another strong performance in the shape of Switzerland’s Sinplus. There’s good movement around the stage, excellent vocals and a backdrop that suits the song. This is my preferred rock performance among the rehearsals and the band have to be hopeful as regards qualification.
We get Belgium and Finland up next. Iris is in a nice simple white dress and vocally gets stronger as the song progresses. I just wish the backdrop was a bit more dynamic, because there’s a danger of losing the viewer’s interest before Iris really starts engaging the camera, but this is still in the mix. Finland’s Pernilla looks better in her green dress now that she’s taken her jumper off. This doesn’t change from rehearsal to rehearsal.
Israel remain in good form on stage, sounding strong and looking like they are having fun. It all depends whether there is enough of a market for this kind of thing; I hope there is. The irony of San Marino is that Valentina Monetta is an excellent vocalist, and she upstages plenty of her better-fancied rivals here. The staging is still laughable though, not to mention the song.
I thought this was one of Ivi’s better rehearsals for Cyprus, but then again, I’ve not been impressed with her previously. It’s a shame that the outfits and backdrops are all in the same colour as the routine gets a little lost on stage. Familiarity with Denmark’s ‘Should’ve Known Better’ is not helping my assessment of its chances. I felt a little bored by it just now even though it’s a song I like that is performed well. The Russian grannies are as they were, with plenty of attention for the short, cute one again. This is another one I found myself switching off from.
This was much better from Hungary’s Compact Disco, with the lead singer in very good form vocally. I had rather written this off a few days ago, but that’s premature based on this. The same can be said for Austria’s Trackshittaz, who give the semi a kick up its popo. The routine is much tighter than before, with all the light effects working well and coming across much more effectively. I think this is going to do much better in the televote than many people imagine.
Moldova’s ‘Lautar’ is a lot of fun on the screens. Telegenic Pasha is in a yellow top with boots and ethnic-style brown trousers. He’s selling it well, the camera angles come together nicely, and I think this is going to the final.
That impression was also helped today by a very weak Jedward rehearsal. They looked ridiculous in their power ranger outfits, and I don’t mean ridiculous in a fun, Jedward-style way. The spiky hair had gone and with it their powers to entertain. The vocals were weak, the water feature just doesn’t come across very effectively on screen, and the whole performance was very ragged. Jedward jumped into the fountain at the end, but that looked rather desperate given the three minutes that had preceded it. If it looks and sounds like this tonight, I don’t think the juries will be impressed.
A closing thought: the opening of the envelopes to reveal tomorrow night’s qualifiers will be the first time that fans’ expectations meet with Eurovision reality this week. This goes some way to explain why more often than not there are ‘shock’ results. The shock to fans is that viewers around Europe and national juries have different tastes to them. Which shouldn’t be a shock at all.
Bear this in mind over Eurovision week, where you can expect the unexpected to occur at some points. All the assumptions that have been built up from long before rehearsals started count for little. Even during rehearsals, punters and fans who have invested in certain entries – financially and/or emotionally – can be guilty of seeing what they want to see. As someone who keeps an eagle eye on the contest for months beforehand, and carries large financial liabilities into it, that goes for me too.
But in a semi-final where qualification odds are very short on those seemingly certain to go through, whilst the borderline cases are dependent on the whims of the juries which are generally much harder to predict, one way to find value is in the potential for disconnect between fans’ assumptions and what will turn out to be Eurovision reality.
Anyway, don’t forget to check back in the comments section tonight for my thoughts on the all-important jury rehearsal, when it really counts.