There weren’t any earthquakes in the betting markets, reflecting the fact that the first day of rehearsals largely kept to expectations, except high-concept staging from Russia and Ukraine. My story of the day is that it’s one big mother of a stage: each of the acts has to try not to look lost.
We started off with contest favourite, Armenia’s Aram MP3. The staging looks to mirror the quiet-epic-quiet arc of ‘Not Alone’ with the use of spotlights. They initially surround Aram before two of them home in on him as if he’s going to be beamed up to the Starship Enterprise. As far as it went, this was a promising first rehearsal; I’m expecting additions such as dry ice to create further atmosphere in subsequent practice runs. Vocally, Aram was solid and there was nothing to change minds here.
I don’t think Latvia’s Aarzemnieki overturned any preconceptions either. They were charming or amateurish depending on where you already stood regarding ‘Cake to Bake’. The foursome generally stand in a line, though Joran used the catwalk for the second chorus.
Dressed in white, Estonia’s Tanja provided a carbon copy of her national final choreography. With the backing singers hidden and a dance studio feel to the backdrop, the stage looked at its biggest here, but there was nothing wrong with the vocals for ‘Amazing’.
Sweden knows not to mess with a winning formula, and Sanna stuck to the Melodifestivalen staging for ‘Undo’. The wigwam of light creates a feeling of intimacy that works well with the song. I’ve never been its biggest fan, but this rehearsal was nothing but highly professional.
Iceland brought some much-needed colour and vibrancy to the stage. ‘No Prejudice’ was polished in its own way: the sidestep group dance remains the best moment and there’s a nice bit at the end when Pollaponk use their arms to spell the word ‘Love’. This was as good as could be expected.
The staging isn’t terribly helpful for Albania’s ‘One Night’s Anger’, with Hersi on a large plinth, the guitar player shuffling down the catwalk during his solo and an emerging backdrop of dead trees. But Hersi’s voice is gorgeous and cuts through these issues. It was good to see the backing singers given due attention too, so many were hidden away today.
Fokas Evangelinos has provided Russia’s Tomalchevy Twins with a see-saw, ensuring it was an up-and-down rehearsal of ‘Shine’. As I wrote yesterday, more practice is required for this kind of gimmicky routine. Some of it currently looks awkward, such as the way their ponytails are tied together for the first verse. The twins were in fine voice, however.
Azerbaijan kept things simple, and as a result looked most polished. Dilara started stage right next to a trapeze artist, before confidently moving around. She sounded great, with none of the technical problems that affected her performance at the Amsterdam preview party. There was excellent use of skyscraper imagery in the backdrop and on the LED floor.
Ukraine’s concept was a guy running in a hamster wheel whilst Mariya swished her dress. She ended up being rolled to the top of it two-thirds of the way through ‘Tick-Tock’. This was just the kind of staging that, like Russia’s, needs further practice. Though I was hoping for rather more choreography, the routine – and our running man – were coming on in bounds by the final run-through.
It was back to what I expected for Belgium’s Axel Hirsoux. There’s some nice purple and blue lighting for ‘Mother’ though the flower motif on the floor and backdrop was a little static. The scary mother figure is still there looking out for Axel’s back. It’s not my cup of tea, but if you reckoned on its chances based on what you saw in Antwerp, there was nothing to worry about here.
You can find short snippets of all these performances at eurovision.tv. Do take a look and give us your thoughts below.