The last of the semi-final first rehearsals took place today, covering the second half of the second heat. We started with the Greek Koza Mostra boys, whose ‘Alcohol Is Free’ shtick is already well rehearsed. This was always going to be difficult to film right initially with four of them charging around the stage, and I’m sure camera angles will improve significantly as the practices progress.
There are a few changes to what we saw at the London and Amsterdam concerts: the boys use the catwalk a little pointlessly for the first Iakovidis solo; and the bridge, when they raise one knee then another, now takes place in darkness with their instruments lit up by themselves. I can’t say I’m a particular fan of either of these tweaks, but lead singer Ilias Kozas has a strong vocal and the infectious energy remains.
Israel’s Moran Mazor stuck even more closely to what we’d seen in the national final. She’d just blinged up the same dress, but otherwise kept it simple and effective. Her vocals were strong on ‘Rak Bishvilo’ and the camerawork had some nice touches, including an opening shot at the piano keys.
Armenia’s Dorians with ‘Lonely Planet’ languish near the bottom of most fan polls, and that was reflected in the reaction to their rehearsal today. There was nothing wrong with Gor Sujyan’s lead vocals, and his band did what you’d expect. I thought that everything was competent enough though the pyros used in the song’s climax for the final run-through seemed a little incongruous with the worthy, static presentation.
Hungary’s ByeAlex was another to follow the template of his national final presentation, with the graphics from the official video used in the backdrop. The only difference was that his jeans were even skinnier and he had a new asymmetrical hairstyle.
If the fashion statement is anti-fashion, the performance statement was anti-performance. The three on stage were so laid-back they may as well have been horizontal. At one point mid-song, Alex even checked his watch and had a quick word with the guitarist. The fans loved it, and ‘Kedvesem’ worked its charms on me too. But quite how the rest of Europe will take to a Hungarian hipster mumbling into his microphone, as eurovicious has aptly described it, is open to question.
Next up, Norway’s Margaret Berger was the most keenly anticipated act of the day and scrutiny was high. There were a few missed notes on the first run-through of ‘I Feed You My Love’ but I thought the vocals came across really well after that, aided by three backing singers, and was surprised that some commentators disagreed.
In fact, I preferred the performance here to the admittedly very similar one in the national final, now that it has a backdrop and a few excellent camera shots, including a nice swirly one for her second “The whole world is mine”. Margaret was a little less reserved too, smiling lots and putting extra into her at-the-club-throwing-some-moves moment. This was a very positive first rehearsal.
I warmed to the various run-throughs of Albania’s ‘Identitet’ but that may have been due to the copious use of pyros in the final run-through, including a Roman candle out of Bledar’s guitar during his solo on the satellite stage. There was certainly more energy and oomph about the performance than the rather more subdued Armenian one.
I still find Bledar’s initial vocal solo off-putting, but if getting over that hump, the voting public looking to rock may find that this satisfies them more than ‘Lonely Planet’.
Georgia’s ‘Waterall’ followed the template of the staging concept video that had been briefly posted in the Sofabet comments section. It was everything you’d expect from a country clearly doing its best to win this competition. In the final run-through we got jets of steam followed by the curtain of fire for the impressive big note, and there were jets of fire for the ending.
Nodi and Sophie’s vocals were excellent, with my only issue being how heavy their accents are in the opening solos. Sophie’s lean on Nodi was the only one of their calculated moves which looked a little awkward, but there was no denying this was another impressive rehearsal.
Switzerland’s Takasa fell very flat in comparison. The six band members were largely rooted to the spot for their three minutes of ‘You and Me’ and the overall feel was rather amateurish despite an adequate vocal. They looked like the church band who should stick to the Sunday fete. I’d call this a non-qualifier now but for the question of whether Salvation Army members around Europe are being mobilised to vote for them.
Romania’s Cezar may have been last but he certainly didn’t provide least for the staging of ‘It’s My Life’. In a wizard’s outfit open to the navel to show off a huge cross round his neck, Cezar played Merlin whilst three backing dancers appeared to struggle with a red parachute below him.
The pendant lights and backdrop soon went from dark blue to deep red and in the flames of hell, Cezar maintained his falsetto all the way from the first chorus. During the bridge, like Aliona Moon he started to rise on a podium as his outfit extended, whilst the female backing dancer had the tarpaulin wrapped around her before rising to try and greet him. If it sounds bad conceptually, on screen it was worse: poorly executed, messy and laughable.
What did you think of today’s rehearsals, and its implications for the second semi and indeed the contest as a whole? Do let us know below.