Eurovision In Concert was a blast. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get to see more readers who were also present. Coming in at 6ft2, I assumed I would have no trouble looking out for people, but I forgot this is the Netherlands, otherwise known as the LAND OF GIANTS. Seriously, if you’re under six foot in this country and like gigs, how do you manage?
As for the 25 acts, one shouldn’t get too carried away by performances to a group of fanboys in a small venue. Given the constant chatter, upbeat numbers have an obvious advantage, and the audience had their predetermined favourites. With so many to sort from I’m going to divide the acts into their semis and deal at the end with the two automatic qualifiers who performed last night.
A word of thanks is also required to those brilliant guys at esckaz.com. All the links in this article use their video footage. Please go take a look at the site and follow it: there’s nowhere better for breaking news about Eurovision.
Semi 1 Participants
We were missing Denmark and Netherlands, but big shots Russia and Ukraine were here. Dina Garipova was more impressive than when dialling it in at a Belgian TV studio earlier in the week. The danger here is a vanilla song and vanilla delivery may not capture hearts or minds, but Dina is a strong vocalist for ‘What If’.
Ukraine’s Zlata Ognevich was also the consummate professional, looking and sounding great for her rendition of ‘Gravity’. It will be fascinating to see the stage show for this in Malmo.
The Moje 3 ladies from Serbia displayed vocals that were stronger than we heard at their national final. I don’t think they will have any trouble qualifying on this evidence. I was hoping that Austria‘s Natalia Kelly would show similar improvement from her national final but she still needs to be better on the big notes towards the end of ‘Shine’.
Alyona Lanskaya from Belarus provided a repeat of her Romanian TV performance – she was adequate enough for a song like ‘Solayoh’ though a little hoarse on a few notes. I pray the backing dancers ditch the panelled white tops which look terribly cheap.
There was a nice Riverdance moment at the beginning of Ireland’s ‘Only Love Survives’. Ryan Dolan has a job on to convince me that he can carry this song live, but he sure went down well with last night’s crowd.
As did Lithuania’s Andrius Pojavis who played nicely to the audience for ‘Something’. His vocal had more power in it than I had feared but the problem remains that he is too diffident on stage. The song needs a performance that grabs it by the scruff of the neck. All it gets at present is a tickle.
Belgium’s Roberto Bellarossa looked like he may have a similar issue when initially presenting ‘Love Kills’ on Belgian TV, but he showed a decent amount of emotion on stage last night, especially for the final third of ‘Love Kills’. His vocals were perfectly good, although I’m still not a fan of his English pronunciation.
Hannah Mancini is to singing what Merlene Ottey is to running: they both moved to Slovenia in order to compete on the international stage. A conundrum for punters is that she has more about her vocally than most of the upbeat numbers that follow her in this semi. The question is whether the draw and ‘Straight Into Love’ as a song are still too much of a hindrance.
Directly following her on May 14 are the Croatian Klapa boys, who clearly have no problem with their vocals, although this wasn’t the most conducive environment for ‘Mizerja’. The same could be said for Estonia’s Birgit Oigemeel who has a really lovely voice.
Finally, I think that Moldova’s Aliona Moon is more comfortable singing ‘O Mie’ in Romanian based on this evidence and she’s right in the hunt for qualification.
Semi 2 Participants
Whilst lacking a showing from semi-final favourites Norway, we did get to see second favourites Georgia perform ‘Waterfall’ live for the first time. The impression was generally very good with the pair looking less like newsreaders who’d wandered into the wrong studio than they had at their initial breakfast-time song presentation.
Nodi, possibly a housewives’ favourite in the making, was particularly relaxed and in good voice. He and Sophie nailed the big note and his modulating was effective in its aftermath. This remains one to watch.
Given their upbeat nature, it was no surprise to see the Greek and Finnish songs go down a storm (‘Alcohol Is Free’ got two bites of the cherry after a problem with the backing tape first time around). These are both very professionally performed. Krista Siegfrids and her bridesmaids in particular have got their staging down to a T. Whether to keep the final same-sex kiss that wowed the crowd last night is the only question.
San Marino’s Valentina Monetta was another to get a predictably big reaction. It’s clear that the first two minutes of ‘Crisalide’ suits her style far more than ‘The Social Network Song’ did last year. Romania’s Cezar was another big crowd-pleaser, and was vocally better than I had previously given him credit for. This is one I can’t rule out of qualification, despite my best attempts to.
One problem for Albania is that singer Adrian Lulgjuraj looks and sounds the part far more than guitar player Bledar Sejko for the rocky ‘Identitet’. Both were commendably animated on stage last night, as was Malta’s Gianluca Bezzina who has no vocal problems for the easy listening ‘Tomorrow’.
Bulgaria’s Elitsa was without Stoyan but accompanied instead by a skinny-jeaned bagpipe player. She can sound rather shrill in parts, but clearly relishes performing. ‘Samo Shampioni’ is going to be more about the stage show in Malmo and last night told us little. There was also little new that we learnt about Israel‘s Moran Mazor, who put in a decent vocal performance reminiscent of the one from the national final.
I’m still not convinced that the vocals are strong enough for Switzerland’s Takasa, and their show felt lacking despite the singalong nature of ‘You and Me’. If there was a car crash last night, however, it came from Macedonia’s Esma and Vlatko Lozanovski. Both singers were at complete odds with each other and it felt like they were indulging in two competing songs and performances. This needs major work if it’s to stand any chance of qualifying.
The performers from France and Italy injected a touch of class to proceedings. On this evidence both should be getting plenty of jury love in Malmo. Amandine Bourgeois’ live rendition of ‘L’Enfer et Moi’ really lifts the song and the brooding intensity she brings to it will be her USP in May.
But taking a lead from the organisers, I’ve left the best till last. I’d rather dismissed ‘L’essenziale’ as a standard Italian ballad, but it’s something more in the hands of Marco Mengoni who was outstanding last night. His controlled yet quirky performance had me reconsidering its potential in Malmo.
Were you at the event or have you watched the video footage? Either way, let us know your thoughts below.