Here are my thoughts on the initial full dress rehearsal of the first semi-final. Do remember that this is NOT the rehearsal that the juries vote on. That comes later this evening, and I’ll be tweeting my impressions live.
Nonetheless it’s good to get a quickfire, direct comparison between the acts to see how they’re shaping up against each other. I’ve jotted down my impressions as the show progressed, so the descriptions are brief.
Aram is still in his Dr Who outfit but without the gloves this afternoon. ‘Not Alone’ does take a while to get going, but when it does the effect is epic, aided by a spectacular light show. Musical diversity is one of Eurovision’s best features, and there’s hardly a greater one in Latvia’s ‘Cake to Bake’. This was as expected, and the band were all smiles.
Estonia’s Tanja is in her less minimal first rehearsal outfit. The pros and cons of ‘Amazing’ are as they were: there’s plenty of artistry in the dancing, but it somehow makes the song a little less involving. Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen is incredibly experienced, and that shows this afternoon with the merest few shakes in the first verse before a strong performance of ‘Undo’. I thought the light prism opened a few seconds earlier than in previous rehearsals, and the whole thing is incredibly polished.
Iceland’s Pollaponk boys give it their all, and their performance is much as it has been all week, except a little more breathy which doesn’t make any tangible difference to ‘No Prejudice’. Still, they benefit from a decent-sized break that follows. That’s not so useful for Albania who are first back. Hersi does her best though I recommend she doesn’t start the song with so much finger-pointing. ‘One Night’s Anger’ is still not holding attention for the three minutes.
I don’t mind Russia’s see-saw in itself, but the moment the twins start using it, their vocals wobble. Otherwise, this is a professional enough if gimmicky effort. The switch to the golden fireworks in the backdrop for the “rising sun” climax looks lovely. Azerbaijan’s Dilara has reportedly had a few throat problems and she’s not quite up to her previously very high standards today. The stage is almost a little too red for the climax, and we lose sight of the trapeze artist. Having said which, this is still very classy and sailing through.
I haven’t always been that impressed by Ukraine’s ‘Tick-Tock’ during rehearsals, but this was the most impressive run-through yet. Mariya’s vocals and performance have come on in leaps and bounds, and with the camera angles looking more polished, it’s becoming very compelling. Belgium’s Axel stands there and sings about his ‘Mother’ in the same way he always has. Ten out of ten for consistency here.
Cristina is another one to vocally improve in this rehearsal. The camera angles are coming together well, including the hair rip which is highly theatrical. The Moldovans are doing their best to sell ‘Wild Soul’. We know what we’re getting from San Marino’s Valentina Monetta. ‘Maybe’ still feels very dated but she is doing her best with it. There is a break after her performance.
Portugal’s Suzy may not be helped by being on after the break, but the male presenters tee her up by talking about how hot she is, which isn’t so bad. She obliges by wearing a revealing red bodice. One problem with ‘Quero Ser Tua’ is a weak start that it takes a while to recover from. The Netherlands’ ‘Calm After the Storm’ exudes quality and remains utter jury-bait. Waylon and Ilse know what they’re doing in every camera shot.
Montenegro is another improver. Sergej’s vocals haven’t always been brilliant over the last week, but he was at his best here, and as a result the ice skater doesn’t seem like such a distraction. Hungary’s ‘Running’ remains a really strong closer. Andras’ vocals were very solid, and the dancers were without masks – which pleased me.
First reprises: I agreed with the choices of all the clips shown except Hungary, where we get the end of the first chorus and the beginning of the second verse. During the second reprise, we got a brief shot of each act leaving the stage, X Factor results show style. There was no interview with any act before the phone lines closed. All in all, this remains a very competitive semi. Let us know your thoughts below.