Eurovision 2014: April 28 rehearsals

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.

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11 comments to Eurovision 2014: April 28 rehearsals

  • Justin

    Daniel thanks for doing all the work today and replying to my tweets.

    The Azerbaijani staging looks very impressive. Simple but effective and memorable. I has always thought this song has been under rated by the market, partly because I anticipated something like this staging would be produced.

    I wasn’t surprised that Ukraine was less polished – I seem to remember it being the same situation last year. I actually think the running man is quite a good match with ‘tick-tock’ and was pleasantly surprised when I finally saw the snippet.

    Belgium has gone down even further in my estimations after seeing the backdrop. I simply can’t find anything to commend this one as a Eurovision entry.

    Really not sure about Armenia now. Before today I saw it as an open goal for them. Not so sure now….

  • Hey Justin, as warned by Daniel…..don’t let your estimations rise or fall down that much by a first rehearsal. I must say, I completely agree with Daniel’s first article. Most important thing here is to stay neutral.

    The videos from Eurovision.tv are even shorter than last year’s 1st rehearsals. And based on that you also need to be careful with judgements.

    Daniel? A question for you: Could you perhaps give a more “cinematographical” approach to your judgements? For instance, for Netherlands I have already a bit of an idea where and during which seconds we can expect close-ups, zoom-ins, fade-outs, wide-shots, etc.

    I am very curious to that. And especially since there are a lot of dark staged, intimate ballads in this semi, I am really curious which ballad -Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium or Sweden- looked best (so far) from the press-LED-tv’s. Which one had the best “cinematography”, camerawork so far. And which ballad overuses or underuses close-ups.

    I am curious :-).

    • Daniel

      Hi Gert, in one way it’s hard to answer that question as camera angles were changed with each run-through. With that in mind, Sweden and Azerbaijan were visually the most impressive today.

  • dicksbits

    What I’m looking for is a website that provided the stats on who will vote for who in each semi. Cannot seem to find it. Was published on at least one esc site when the allocation process took place. Would help us now work out how many soft votes each country will receive and where some might fall away.

  • Donal

    ESC Nation has a votes database that can isolate the votes given by/to each country. It even allows the user to select what years they want to research. Its a most excellent way to calculate a buddy index. Look for the button on the top right hand corner.

  • eurovicious

    I find the stage and its light show a little overwhelming. It’s like the stage is the star, the performers ants, mere decoration, figures on a wedding cake. Even more so than 2011.

    If the twins have their ponytails joined at the start, Fokis or whatever his name is has nabbed that from Dejan Milicevic’s video for Etiketa, in which Ljupka Stevic and a male doppelgänger have their ponytails joined: http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/0jXor0BwGWs/hqdefault.jpg

  • I think Netherlands bring the art of cinematography/directing to a new level. Wunderful close-up shots from Ilse and Waylon. Like Sweden, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Netherlands now also know how to master the art of staging. You can see they were in contact with DR way before the rehearsals ( http://12points.tv/all-news/item/2593-netherlands-take-staging-seriously ).

    This is a gem between the happy Brazilian WC-anthem and the ice skater of Montenegro. And allthough the audience will be slightly underwhelmed, in the end this is a TV-contest and those on the sofa and in the jury-studio will see what this entry is about.

  • chewy wesker

    The stage is far too big, and that cube design is ultra modern. I think it will suit the likes of armenia, or hungary. I think aram mp3 has copied a little of sanna nielson staging, with the light beams. I think it’s taken a little of the wind out of swedens’ sails. However I think it may cancel the two front runners out! Hungary looks like the only country that maybe able to fill that big of stage. As for the the Tolmachevy sisters I think they looked great on stage, even if the sea-saw is a little OTT, was expecting a little more from Fokas Evaggelinos, the twins looked kinda of debbie gibson/Tiffany esq in their denim jackets which I think worked well, but this is more casual wear for them and I expect nice girlie dresses for the final. I didn’t however notice the ponytails conjoining them in the short snippet on youtube but some kind of umbilical cord springs to mind. I’m hearing andras does a sprint towards the girl on stage, might just be the the kinda of simple burst of energy needed for hungary to cross the finsh line.

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