The first half of the second semi-final isn’t the most thrilling part of this year’s contest. Today it served up a series of largely competent rather than exciting initial run-throughs.
Starting things off, Lithuania was a ray of sunshine – literally in its purple and orange backdrop. The summery feel was carried over into Monika and Vaidas’s outfits, and their chemistry-laden performance. They join hands early on, kiss as before, skip around different parts of the stage, whilst the paired backing singers perform some co-ordinated moves. Cheesy? Yes. But really, really feelgood too.
Ireland offers the polar opposite: an earnest performance without any cheese in sight of its sun-drenched forest backdrop. Molly at the piano has two backing singers, a drummer and two others on strings; they’re all in black. ‘Playing With Numbers’ was otherwise as in the national final, an authentically delivered ballad that lacks in melody but makes up for it in the tone of Molly’s voice.
Anita and Michele of San Marino are up next with ‘Chain of Lights’. There’s nothing wrong with the staging – a candlelit globe – and there’s a nice shot when the pair turn to face the camera at the back of the stage. Anita is the stronger performer, though Michele has plenty of help from one particular backing singer in the second half. But the song remains a strange mish-mash of dated Eurovision tropes thrown together in a disjointed way.
Balkan Eurovision royalty Zeljko Joksimovic penned the Montenegrin entry ‘Adio’ for Knez, and it’s as if he’s overseen the choreography too. Five backing singers, one with violin, wander around with the lead singer at various points, perform some co-ordinated turns and gestures. To be fair, I really like the swirling camera work and movements for the instrumental break. Knez has wisely toned down the lothario look, and my main criticism is the colour-scheme which is overpoweringly blue or red at different stages, and usually too dark.
Malta’s Amber is the second ‘Warrior’ to go it alone on stage this week. However, she doesn’t bring the attitude (or backing vocalists) that Georgia’s Nina does. The performance and ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’-inspired backdrop have clearly been well thought through. Too much so: it feels a little lacking in spontaneity or any USP. Amber’s vocals usually held up well – though not all the time – and there was a terrible bum note on the final run-through.
Norway’s ‘A Monster Like Me’ was much anticipated, which might explain why it felt like an anti-climax. The problem came with overly plain staging, matched by their white outfits. There was no backdrop, no dry ice, nothing to furnish this gothic tale. The explosion of white light for the big moment wasn’t followed immediately by the camera swirl that heightened it in the national final. Let me make clear: these are issues that can be fixed in later rehearsals, and I didn’t have any problem with Morland or Debrah’s vocals.
Leonor is in black rubber and a cape, whilst her backing singers are in what I assume are traditional hats. That’s the most interesting thing I can find to say about the Portuguese rehearsal, and I fear televoters will feel exactly the same way.
The Czech Republic finished off what is a rather morbid run of songs. I found the stage a rather uninspiring dark blue for this too, before gold is introduced for the climax. Vaclav and Marta spend the first half apart before they come together, at which point Marta attempts to throw off her shoes in anger, though it looks a little clumsy and comic. There’s no doubting their vocal abilities or chemistry – when given the chance to show it later on.
We start with Israel tomorrow, which definitely feels like a necessary return to something fun in this running order. Please keep your comments coming below.