We got the last ten songs of the second semi today. I think it’s a poor heat in general and today only confirmed that impression. The last time we saw a semi even shorter on quality – the first one in 2010 – it’s worth noting that the running order had an even bigger impact than usual.
First on today – sixth in the running order on the Thursday night – Austria’s Conchita Wurst will undoubtedly be one of the talking points. There’s a traditional look to this, with the singer on a small plinth and a fiery red backdrop swirling behind her. She’s shrouded in darkness for the first 35secs with the spotlight revealing her face after the line, “Who can this person be”. We got the facsimile performance of ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ from her today, to the unrestrained joy of the press centre.
Lithuania’s Vilija tried to get our ‘Attention’ afterwards, but she had a hard job on her hands. This is exactly as we saw it in the national final with the one dancer and a green backdrop. She performs this well, but it’s not particularly melodic as Eurovision numbers go, and Lithuania may well be relying on a little help from their friends in this semi.
The Softengine boys are a young, inexperienced-looking bunch. There was a general lack of stagecraft for ‘Something Better’ today, with lead singer Topi keeping his eyes closed for large parts of the early run-throughs. He seemed to be getting more of an idea towards the end, though the swirling spotlights for the chorus still meant that the band aren’t visible at key moments.
I’m hoping that Ireland were going through the motions today, working on camera angles rather than selling the routine, because that’s what it looked like. Kasey is in a long, slightly unwieldy gold dress, with a gold tribal backdrop. She walks slowly around the stage whilst the two kilted dancers celebrate the 20th anniversary of Riverdance.
In comparison, Teo did a better job of selling ‘Cheesecake’, although you got the impression the Belarus team were closer to the finished article already. With a Vegas neon backdrop, the lead singer and his male rat pack swayed their way through the routine. Teo diction’s has improved considerably since the national final.
FYROM’s staging was confusing and disjointed. Like Ireland’s, I’m hoping they were treating it as a rough and ready technical exercise. The young male ballet dancer threw some shapes behind Tijana, before distracting the backing singers. Visually it was very messy and needs plenty of work.
Switzerland’s Sebalter is all charm, and works the camera from the off with an effective red-and-yellow fiery backdrop. This is charming and only descends into amateurishness on rare occasions, such as his mugging for camera and nonchalance with the fiddle during the bridge. He could also do with the same diction coach Teo has benefited from, but the camera loves him anyway.
Greece’s Freaky Fortune caused a rumpus for ‘Rise Up’ with a trampoline reveal. Rapper Riskykidd was actually the stronger link today, smiling at the camera and really enjoying himself as he and Nikolas walked down different runways during an early part of the song. They joined in the bouncing after the false finish. Camera angles are key to this, and it’s a work in progress as a result.
Slovenia didn’t impress. Tinkara looked unhappy in a big, ugly blue dress against a blue backdrop that turns gold for the climax. She struggled with the transitions from singing to flute-playing and her vocals were off at points too, which is a surprise given that she sounded fine in the national final. I preferred the staging there, with the guitarist and drummer offering some distraction rather than just the three backing singers here. This can only get better.
Romania needs work too. A chroma-key image of Paula (thanks Gav, for the technical term) starts at the end of the runway, then she magically appears next to Ovi. There’s a lot of strange hand gesturing, and Ovi pops his head through a piano shaped like a doughnut a few times. I can only think that special effects will be added at some point, because otherwise it looks very silly. There’s no problem with the vocals, just the kitsch.
Once again, you can check out the brief footage of each song from eurovision.tv. Tomorrow is a rest day here before we return with second rehearsals from all of semi one on Friday. Keep the comments and questions coming below.