Eurovision 2014: May 2 rehearsals

Things need to start coming together by the end of these second practices. There’s only one run-through in the full dress rehearsal between this and the jury performance. It’s a case of tick-tock for delegations and performers.

We start the first semi with a visually arresting show from Armenia. The lights pulse with the music of ‘Not Alone’ and the camera angles are coming together. Aram’s looks and Doctor Who-style outfit have polarised opinion, but there’s no doubting his passion and commitment to the performance, and I think that’s the most pertinent thing of all.

Joran and his merry band are all smiles for Latvia’s ‘Cake To Bake’. It’s hopelessly amateurish in this competitive semi-final and has a mountain to climb given its draw and the jury element. This was a more promising rehearsal for Estonia’s Tanja, with improved camera angles meaning the stage doesn’t swallow her up so much, and we get more involved in her fine performance. Unlike Latvia, there is probably enough quality on display to overcome an unhelpful slot in the running order.

Sweden’s Sanna and her hidden backing singers are producing fine vocals for ‘Undo’. I find the staging a little too static and dark, however. The spotlights surround Sanna for far too long, a tactic used on British X Factor to distance an act from their audience. It’s a much colder affair than the last Scandi ballad to wow televoters – Iceland’s Yohanna. Talking of Iceland, Pollaponk provide plenty of colour in contrast. They have their routine down pat for ‘No Prejudice’ so they’re tweaking and improving the minor stuff: now in suits, they shout out the word ‘Love’ just in case we don’t know what they’re spelling out with their arms at the climax.

Albania’s Hersi had an improved beige dress and lighting today. She still sounds good too, but the song rather sucks out what energy the Icelandic boys have given the show. It feels like it’ll be the first moment of the night when you consider putting the kettle on or looking for other distractions. At least the Russian stage show reignites the interest even if it’s one of Fokas Evangelinos’s lesser efforts. There is plenty to mock – from the tied ponytails to the rising sun – but it just about hangs together, and by the final run-through the vocals are strong.

Azerbaijan currently feels like the pinnacle at this part of the show. Dilara and her trapeze artist are in similar red dresses. The backdrops, camera angles and vocals are all on-point. There’s really nothing to fault for how ‘Start A Fire’ is being presented. Ukraine’s running man still looks a little ragged in comparison, as are Mariya’s vocals. But the camera angles are starting to come together for ‘Tick-Tock’ and you rule out a strong Ukrainian performance on the scoreboard at your peril.

Whatever your opinion of the song, Belgium’s Axel really connects with the camera for ‘Mother’. The staging hasn’t and won’t change – neither will your opinion on this marmite entry. Moldova is failing to impress me much. Cristina’s vocals were raspy today (they weren’t great for the first rehearsal), and although there’s nothing particularly wrong with the dramatic Roman-themed staging, this song is relying on Moldova’s plentiful allies in this semi.

The staging and performance of San Marino’s Valentina Monetta is rather musical theatre, with her sparkly plinth and hamming to the camera. We also get to see some old-fashioned arm movements from the backing singers. I still think this is too dated to have enough of an impact on the scoreboard. I rather fear for Portugal’s Suzy with slightly different reservations. ‘Quero Ser Tua’ is just what the audience needs at this stage – a bit of light-hearted fun – but the delivery just isn’t convincing enough right now.

That definitely can’t be said for the Netherlands, whose staging was a revelation within about ten seconds of the first rehearsal. The wonderful, intense atmosphere created then has been reinforced by a sepia effect on the camera shots, which longingly swirl around the two engaging performers in close-up. It looks and sounds great.

Montenegro is a disappointment in comparison. For the instrumental moments, the focus is on the ice skater, and when Sergej is in shot, he’s failing to show the camera enough love. It’s also being shown up by the highly professional Hungarian staging that comes after it. There is progression and interest at every point of Hungary’s ‘Running’. My only quibble is I wish they’d leave the masks off the dancers as it’s better to put a face to the protagonists. Otherwise, Andras and the story are highly compelling.

Do let us know how you feel this semi is progressing below.

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28 comments to Eurovision 2014: May 2 rehearsals

  • Justin

    I have to admit that my faith in Armenia winning is still ebbing slowly. I wanted Aram on his knees, or around instruments or just moving or something more than lights. Its looking a little short at current prices to win the Contest.

    I just had a look back at the Yohanna performance from 2009. I can see what you mean. Its much more of an ‘arms-open’, softer and sympathetic presentation than Undo. I do hope poor Sanna doesn’t read the betting sites as she really doesn’t get a very flattering press. I actually think she performs Undo very well vocally; though I don’t think its a challenger for this Eastern-leaning semi final and the lay price for top-3 is quite tempting.

    Lots of press room praise for Netherlands today and its been backed to qualify. Do you think Netherlands will qualify now Daniel? Do you think that this soft-Country style will be picking up points East of Hungary?

    Keep up the excellent work!

  • Daniel

    Hi Justin, I’m not sure the Netherlands is picking up that many points from the deep east, but at the moment I’m assuming high points everywhere else. Since getting here I’ve been backing it to qualify from ten seconds in during the first rehearsal, although it’s much shorter now.

  • Nope. In all plain honesty, I don’t see the “Deep-East” voting for this. But then again, that was already the case with Anouk’s “Birds” last year. It got 76 points in the semi final (6th) and then 114 in the final (9th). But important Eastern support was absent.

    Still, I’m not sure which entry is more accessible: Anouk’s “Birds” or Common Linnets’ “Calm After The Storm”. “Birds” in essence has more melody, but on the while it was quite a complicated dark entry (about suicide no less).

    “Calm After The Storm” I find even better staged than “Birds” last year. Emotionally captivating and it brings about some goosebumps. Due to almost Oscar-worthy cinematography.

    I’d say minimum 45 points from following countries in semi 1: Latvia, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark, Iceland & Belgium. Another 17 points from Hungary, Portugal, Spain & France together. So it’s safe to say it’ll qualify.

  • dicksbits

    I’m pretty cynical – I think the ex-soviets will back each other and get them all through first. Therefore I think Moldova will go through (as I think has been acknowledged) and Estonia, ahead of The Netherlands. If The Netherlands go through, it will be in 10th spot, at Montenegro’s expense.

  • George

    Just watched Molly on Graham Norton. She was clearly very nervous which affected her vocals, especially at the beginning. Bare in mind it was only her second performance of the song however (filmed even before Eurovision in Concert). Lighting very effective, gave a winners vibe as with Only Teardrops last year. Backing vocals much better.

    The staging will make or break this song so I look forward to Sunday with caution. Is it a winner? With a good draw possibly.

    • I’ve heard the term “ice queen” quite some time now. Especially applied to Sanna’s song. But in all honesty, I think the term does more justice for Molly. I saw her performance during Graham Norton ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYqFMrS09ic ), and I was underwhelmed.

      It’s a good song, yes. But the actual song doesn’t belong to Molly’s vocal range. Actually, when she tries to sing the high notes…..they aren’t produced at all! In all honesty, I think Ilse DeLange from The Common Linnets could sing this better ánd with more warmth (Actually, Norway and UK are Ilse’s favourite entries).

      Then…I still think she lacks charisma on stage. She looks too “angry” at times. And this kind of “Love Shine A Light”-like anthem needs warmth and especially some smiles. Perhaps Molly tries to hard.

      Let’s see what she will do in a few hours on stage. Based on her latest live performances I’d say no placing on the left side of the scoreboard. I’m really praying for the UK this year, and for Molly.

      Because for the UK it’s also time to be in the TOP 10 again. If not, then the entire UK-tabloid press is spitting on “Europe”, “Eurovision” and everything else except the criticism I’m writing here.

      • At this point, I’m honestly really taken aback that some people can even conceive Children of the Universe being out of the top ten or even on the right hand side of the scoreboard. I cannot understand what it is you must be looking for in a winner.

        I know I’m British, but I know when we have a song that absolutely will not win. I know Molly has always been a developing work in progress, but I’ve never found anything average about it and I’ve always seen the potential as I saw it in Roberto Bellarosa…. Maybe after so many victories in recent years coming from polished, ready-to-go packages, we’re spoilt?

        • Avitas

          NRK’s 4 episode preview show concluded yesterday. Panel consisting of 6 industry experts and previous ESC contenders/song writers. Each gave 1-12 to each of the songs. Germany and UK number 26… I’m shocked. These people could typically be the jury. Their main concern was COTU going everywhere. Each time they felt COTU had something going the song changed direction . Though it’s on my top 5 this year I kinda see their point. I don’t dare to put my money on the UK.

  • Sander

    If the ‘4 out of last 6 qualify’ still works, I think it’s obvious that the Netherlands will qualify because Portugal will get butchered by the juries and San Marino will not get enough televote support. Moldova will get plenty of ex-soviet support and only missed out in 2008. So Montenegro could just have enough to go through and Hungary will obviously qualify. But then I’m worried about either Belgium or Estonia because there are only 6 spots left and I think 5 of them will go to Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Sweden. The number 3 starting position will hurt Estonia so I think Belgium might be the lucky final qualifier. If Montenegro fails to qualify I think Estonia will because of their usual support. The chances of the Netherlands qualifying are getting bigger I think. If their performance is as good as some have described it will feel like a good quality entry after Portugal and possibly hase more wider appeal compared to the non-english Montenegrin entry.
    I don’t agree with Gert that 17 points would come from Hungary, Portugal, Spain and France. I thin France would vote a lot for countries like Armenia and the genre of the dutch song is not that popular in countries like Spain and Portugal I think, though I think Scandinavia will reward the Common Linnets.

  • eurovicious

    Aarzemnieki have had a feud and are barely speaking to each other. Their performance at the Fan Cafe tonight (which was cancelled at the last minute, then did go ahead after all) fell apart, they had to restart twice because Joran forgot the words, and the interview with them was like getting blood from a stone. There was a huge sense of unease the moment they came on stage, you could tell things weren’t right. They were the opposite of their usual carefree, enthusiastic selves.

  • chewy wesker

    Absolutely impressed with Andras kallay-saunders performance, really believe this is coming together the best out of all the serious contenders. Aram mp3 has much the same type staging as Sanna Nelisen, the beams of light around him. I like how they have styled him I think the leather fingerless gloves give him an hip urban look, which is right for such a song as “not alone” however there’s something not right about how this is looking for Armenia, but I can’t put my finger on it. I’m starting to rule Aram out as a contender for the win, if I’m right it means it’s a wide open contest this year and the scoreboard could go very close indeed. Molly was looking great on Graham Norton tonight and did indeed look like a manic pixie dream girl, and is certainly in with good chance, but cotu isn’t a good enough song imo, I can’t see the uk taking it with Molly, but do now feel a top ten is very possible for her. The ukraine are trying their best with this hampsterwheel but a little OTT for me, azerbaijan are keeping the staging simple, but it’s not as impressive as the staging for “hometown glory” and doesn’t have a love story played out for viewers. I think it will go to hungary this year it really is starting to have the whole package for me, it’s not OTT yet it has more interest that any song that’s been played out on that giant stage.

    • Absolutely agree with most of this, Hungary could indeed be ‘Running’ away with the trophy in seven days time. I feel very much like it’s a song that will gain traction on iTunes between the semi and final, with the pimp slot and dramatic staging both working in its favour. However I’m also expecting an extremely slick and good-to-go rehearsal from Denmark tomorrow. They have home broadcaster advantage and we saw from their NF that their staging is already top-notch. The only thing is that they’ll need to translate the performance from a T-shaped tetris block stage to the diamond eurovision stage, but I’m sure they’ve already figured out how to do that. I would very much like to see Basim’s crew and Molly make use of the catwalk, as it’s feeling criminally underused at the moment, and it works great for Andras.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Hi chewy, I remember an enthusiastic conversation you and ev were having about Hungary from a while ago, which I joined in on…

      http://sofabet.com/2014/03/12/eurovision-2014-how-will-sweden-do-with-undo/comment-page-1/#comment-36356

      I did indeed lump on Hungary EW, but my enthusiasm dimmed for the entry, as I began to become swayed by the talk (which included my own!) about how the eastern European countries wouldn’t vote for it because of the colour of the singer, Andras.

      Maybe, I’m not Molly-dependent, after all!

      Was interested to read the gender split of the juries’ make-up the other day. For some reason I was surprised at the number of women on the juries. They will go absolutely crazy for both Andras and the song and stage themes. It’s an unprecedented package.

      Here’s a thought. Not only will the female jury members rate this number 1; so will the male jury members. Guys like to impress women, yes? The women are talking about the societal importance of the song – after watching the performance, some may be crying (for a variety of reasons). How will the men respond? In what way can they put a comforting arm around the female jury members?

      Yep.

      Is there a market on which country will top the jury vote?
      .

      • eurovicious

        I’m so over the “Eastern Europe is racist” argument, as if Western Europe isn’t. Andras will not be punished for that.

        • If I can be a bit pedantic here, I think the argument is actually that Eastern Europe is more openly racist than Western Europe.

          This has actually been playing on my mind recently when it comes to Hungary and so I decided to ask my Polish housemate what she thought. I basically asked her if people in Poland and the surrounding countries would vote for a cute black guy.

          She said maybe, things are changing all the time, and some Polish kids are getting into American black music these days – but if she brought a black guy into her parent’s house, her mother would be very taken aback and would find it difficult to be hospitable. She also thinks it would be very difficult for a black person to get a job in Poland.

          I know this is just one person’s opinion, but it certainly sounds far removed from the UK’s political climate – so with respect to you EV, I have to disagree.

  • markdowd

    Hungary was stunning yesterday, I agree….the masks are a bit scary though and if I were an eight year old watching with my folks I’d e behind the sofa, wishing for a “Cake to Bake!” I backed this one each way six weeks ago and am feeling quietly confident. Feel this year that with only 37 countries voting that 240 pts may be enough to win it with no clear front runner, so a song that gets steady 6 and 7 pts across the board could still emerge winner. Think Armenia still alienates too many people. Sweden vocally spot on but somehow “inert and frozen.”

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      “Inert and frozen.”

      Yes! That’s exactly the phrase that’s been on the tip of my tongue for weeks about it. Well expressed 🙂

      Another thing that’s been bothering me about Sanna (on a sub-conscious level) actually did, eventually, clearly express itself in my mind.

      She’s too tall!

      She’s looks like a giant on stage. I’ve just checked her height details to find she’s nearly 6 foot tall. She looks it.

      I think I’ve read that she has been trying to win Melodifestivalen for over a decade and has been a serial loser at it (until this year, of course).

      I’m not surprised.

      Manic Pixie Dreams Girls…and when has a pixie ever been represented as a 6 footer?!

  • livereport

    Dear All,
    My first comments but I’ve become a big fan of the site and now feel compelled to add my two pence worth. As someone who is inexperienced at the betting side of Eurovision but has been a huge follower of the contest for more years than I care to remember I have read all the comments with great interest. I have found it difficult to divorce my favourite songs from who I will put my money on (a common theme I’m sure) but at this stage these are the conclusions that I have come to.

    Whilst I agree it’s an open contest, for the win I think it’s only open between at most 4 songs.
    – UK
    – Denmark
    – Hungary
    – Armenia

    I just can’t see how any of the others have the combined package to be strong enough to win. For example, Sweden (the song), Azeri (the song), Ukraine (Song/ singer), Austria (Song/ Staging/ Singer).

    I accept that there are still some question marks over all 4 possible winners that I have identified that might mean that they could fail to make Top 4 (and that some of the others that I have dismissed might finish higher- Azeri, I think will be Top 4).

    Armenia has certainly grown on me but not enough to convince me that it will win. He’s an ok singer and it’s an interesting (different) song but I’m unconvinced that it’s the type of song that will get people across Europe picking up the phone. When I’ve reviewed the methodology that the juries must use I see him being outscored in the quality of performance/ vocal bit plus possibly in the staging. For me, Top 4 overall but only Top 6 in both Jury/ Televote which I don’t think is enough to win.

    Denmark is a good song. It’s very likeable, he’s a decent singing and judging by the national final it will be very well staged but…. but… there’s something nagging away that tells me it’s not a winner. I expect it to do well with Televote but less so with Juries. Top 4 at best I think.

    Hungary is well staged, sung and is different type of song for Eurovision. It’s got many of the ingredients needed to win but I’m not convinced that Eurovision is ready to this type of song . I know this next bit sounds contrary but it’s not that different to blow people’s minds (Lordi) nor is it that good (Loreen) that it’s differentness doesn’t matter or actually helps. Top 8 for sure but no better than second for me.

    Last possible option is the UK. I have to be careful here because I love Eurovision and I’d my country to do well. I convinced myself in 2011 that we’d win (I think with better performances we would have managed Top 5) but being older and wiser now and I can see why the win was a non-starter. I don’t buy the voting bias to extent that others do. If your song is clearly the best it wins (taking into account all the variables) and so this is why the next bit of this is so difficult for me. Years of disappointment have taught me to keep my hopes under control… and yet… the UK entry is best song (imo)…. by a good distance but we have those pesky variables will she sign well, what will the staging be like…. at this point it’s just too difficult. If (and it’s a big if) they get the two elements above right she wins and wins pretty easily but if not she could easily be 7/8/9, no worse I feel.

    From a betting point of view the time to back the UK was 6 weeks ago or at worst now because if it goes well tomorrow her odds are going to plummet.

    I’m not expert or professional so I think I will only be dipping my toe in the water.

    Exciting though….

  • Donal

    Liverport, for a fellow who is dipping his toes that was quiet brilliant. I can think of nothing to add to the above comments because they are spot on. I think people are waking up to the notion that Armenia have it in the bag.

  • dicksbits

    It was quite clear last night on graham norton show on BBC1 that molly was very nervous. this is not a good sign for a 4/5th favourite.

    • That show was filmed quite a few weeks ago. It was only Molly’s second public performance of the song. Since then she’s performed in Amsterdam and London. Video from those events show she’s become a much more confident performer.

  • chewy wesker

    Six foot tall! Why that’s supermodel hight. There’s no doubt that Sanna is very beautiful, I actually like her look more now that she’s in that little black dress of hers, what fantastic pins she has.(that’s cockney rhyming slang for nice legs) but she is still more yummy mummy hot cougar than manic pixie. I think if sweden did win this year it would be a little unfair, as there is nothing much to either Sannas’ song or the staging. Tim is right, No country has really used the massive cube style stage to it’s optimum.(apart from hungary) As the competition gets more and more closer, i’m becoming more ruthless and ruling more songs out, if they are not picking up momentum lifting the bar that is. I’m less worried about the racism issue in europe now, I feel Andras has a lot of alpha male status, preselection by females, leader of men, protector of love ones with compassion and sensitivity that can counter balance this argument. I’m looking forward to seeing how molly and basim use the stage, and when finally the draw is made. It’s starting to build nicely, and i’m ready to move with more of my money.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Well, supermodel height is not girl-next-door proportions. Have a look at the FHM lists and see how many supermodels make it above the likes of Mila Kunis and that one off Corrie.

      But yeah, chewy, it’s not that much of a criticism of mine to deride a ‘yummy mummy hot cougar’ for not being a ‘manic pixie’. Good point.

      I’m still worried by the racism angle, myself, but yes, as a song, singer, staging package it is as awesome as ever. The competition hasn’t really stepped up. I’m still not completely feeling it for either Ukraine or Azer.

    • three countries appear to have momentum with the bookies with a week to go…..Ukraine, Austria and Hungary. I am going with Andras.

    • Sanna’s interesting. She’s only 29 but has the look and demeanour of someone much older and more mature. She doesn’t have the vibrancy of youth and so the song seems like the anthem for an older woman (30s or 40s) whose long-term relationship has fallen apart, rather than “waaa, my boyfriend dumped me”. I can see the song appealing to women in that older demographic and situation, but will it appeal to others?

      As for Hungary. Some female viewers might actually be put off by the idea of a male coming along to help the damsel in distress. It will depend on what your personal views are. I’d guess that women in more liberal countries (e.g. in Scandinavia) would be more likely to feel this way. But the song and the performance are generally brilliant, so I think this would only be the tipping point for someone who didn’t like the song much anyway.

  • Managed to get myself well into the green on both Denmark and Hungary just now, so as long as I at least break even should either of them win, I’ll live.

  • Sander

    Do any of you guys have a favorite in mind that will bomb? Each year there are surprise qualifiers and non-qualifiers or songs that go through but bomb in the final unexpectedly. 2011 shocked me the most with Armenia, Turkey and Norway out and Estonia bombing in the final and saved by the juries in the semi or Ukraine saved by the juries in 2012 :S In an open year like this it looks like 2011 so I truly believe some songs could be way overrated. Any thoughts?

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