Bang goes that theory. A succession of better-than-expected rehearsals this morning seemed to mock my suggestion that the second half of the first semi was full of potential non-qualifiers. However, a few less-impressive-than-expected rehearsals this afternoon helped even up matters a bit.
However, there’s now a race on for the qualification places thanks to one or two raising their game, and it’s looking more competitive than I had envisaged. This is partly thanks to Montenegro. Who See emerged out of the dry ice first thing this morning in their spaceman suits and Nina Zizic suddenly appeared from a trap door to deliver a flawless vocal.
It woke everyone up in the press centre, and gives this semi just the jolt it needs after the earnestness of the first half. Of course, ‘Igranka’ is almost as far removed from your traditional Eurovision fare as ‘Woki mit deim Popo’ and look how that did for Austria last year. I’m not calling this a qualifier by any means yet; I’m just not calling it a non-qualifier yet either.
Lithuania’s Andrius Pojavis actually performed this afternoon, in a temporary swap with Belgium, but I’ll consider him next to respect the order you’ll see them in next Tuesday. Unfortunately, I don’t think he would have impressed from anywhere in the running order today, looking lost on stage and failing to convey the strong beat of ‘Something’. I’m afraid the overall effect was incredibly amateurish.
I had my fears for Belarus’s Alyona Lanskaya too, when she emerged from a giant disco ball at the start of ‘Solayoh’. This was the same choreography team as for ‘Boom Boom’, Armenia’s doomed 2011 entry, and it showed. They’ve got one thing right though: they don’t have her moving too much and her vocals are largely undisturbed.
Three backing vocalists give her extra support in this respect but this means only two backing dancers. The new, reduced choreography has drained some fun from the package, and trashy fun is what ‘Solayoh’ is all about. The dancers, who resort to drums during the bridge, looked a little mechanical, as did Alyona herself. Maybe they’ll get into the spirit of things with this practice under their belt.
It was a good day at the office for Moldova’s Aliona Moon. She showed up in a big white dress, sung flawlessly, then got raised high on a plinth as images were projected, Sabina Babayeva-style, onto her extending outfit. Behind her three backing dancers performed some tasteful contemporary choreography and Pasha Parfeny played the piano. The press centre gushed. She could rightly be pleased with herself.
I wasn’t so convinced by the Irish staging. It’s very tribal and very busy. Ryan Dolan stands front and centre as three shirtless drummers bang away behind him, two of them doing plenty of energetic dancing. The backing singers were a little too high in the mix on early run-throughs and though the overal vocal effect improved, the visual one still looked messy.
Cyprus’s Despina Olympiou offered something incredibly simple in stark contrast to the shenanigans going on elsewhere. She just stood there in an elegant dress and sang ‘An Me Thimasai’. The only feature was a sixty-knot gale aimed at her slim frame for the final third. Unfortunately the vocal wasn’t quite flawless – she had some problems with the more demanding cracked notes towards the climax – and it needs to be for a song that is dull and dated.
She’ll be followed next Tuesday night by Belgium’s Roberto Bellarosa, who switched with Andrius to sing in this morning’s session. He was one of those to perform above expectations before lunch. Once he got over a hesitant opening 20 seconds, his vocals grew in stature, and ably assisted by three backing singers, the strength of ‘Love Kills’ as a pop song came through.
Roberto is never going to be the Belgian equivalent of Robbie Williams when it comes to stage presence. Two female backing dancers angle their limbs in various ways to help share the attention. If that was the main purpose of the choreography, it largely succeeded, though I can’t say I was completely convinced by all the moves.
The day ended as it has begun – with a press centre gasp at a costume reveal. Unfortunately for Serbia’s Moje 3, it was a gasp of horror at their unflattering, candy-coloured outfits. This and a stage routine that is far too self-involved detracted from a good vocal performance for ‘Ljubav je Svuda’.
The angel / devil storyline from the national final was at least comprehensible to a non-native audience. Without it, the new stage concept is confusing and visually unappealing: they looked like three spoilt teenagers fighting and making up with each other.
You can check out some of the action from today’s rehearsals in the official eurovision.tv videos that I have added to my tweets. Let me know what you think of them below.