The days are getting longer in Vienna, indoors as well as outdoors. Today witnessed the second rehearsals for all of the first semi-final, and impressions will necessarily be a little more fleeting given the quicker pace of proceedings.
I really enjoy Moldova’s ‘I Want Your Love’ but then I am (a) British (b) male (c) danced to this kind of Y2K R&B in my student days. I don’t think the slightly sleazy stage show is going to impress female jurors, just as Poland failed to last year. Eduard is relying on the kindness of friends to qualify here.
Armenia looks the pillar of respectability in comparison, the purple-and-grey clad sextet all secure in their individual vocals against some gorgeous wall and floor graphics. The last minute does become less aurally appealing, but tries to compensate for it with a few excellent overhead shots.
I’ve always felt that Belgium’s Loic Nottet had to be playful and Justin Timberlake-y so we could all feel the ‘Rhythm Inside’. Instead he’s gone down a far more serious, introverted route, and added more arty tics to his performance today. Some of it just doesn’t work at all, such as the second verse where Loic lies on the floor. Vocally there are no problems; visually it’s all rather alienating.
Trijntje Oosterhuis is no longer alienating us with a hideous dress, and is in a far more suitable plunging black ballgown with leather jacket. There was no sign of the supposed “augmented reality” staging, so everything else was much as before. But its MOR blandness does at least feel like a return to normality after avant-garde Belgium. Meanwhile, Finland is as it was on Monday and always has been.
Greece’s Maria Elena is looking down the camera and acting out ‘One Last Breath’ like she’s er, on her last breath. The staging is as simple and effective as before (with still no pyros for the Bond theme finale), and she’s selling this straightforward ballad very effectively.
I liked the Estonian concept at the first rehearsal, though it clearly needed practice. Today it was coming together very well. Stig has upped his connection to the camera – he needed to as the weaker link in this respect; Elina is giving an Oscar-winning performance from her reveal, shooting him looks of hurt as she walks forward to join him. They look at each other – or to camera – from that point onwards, until he leaves the stage for her final moments. The direction is comprised solely of close-ups, and a long shot of her alone near the end would be helpful.
FYROM are sticking with the boyband choreography which knocks ‘Autumn Leaves’ sideways. Daniel and his backings have clearly been practising, as the moves were slicker today, but the whole concept still feels incongruous and distracting. There’s a choreography problem for Serbia too, which is that the tongue-in-cheek final-minute moves make ‘Beauty Never Lies’ look amateurish. That’s clearly the idea, but I don’t think it’s one jurors are going to appreciate, despite Bojana’s decent vocal efforts.
In stark contrast, Hungary are keeping it sober and simple, which is the best way when you have something as saccharine as ‘Wars For Nothing’. Boggie looks great on camera, and the choreography is minimal and appropriate. Belarus have learnt some lessons from the first rehearsal: Maimuna is smiling at the camera from the beginning, Uzari is more committed to interacting with her, and there was generally more drive in their performance.
It wasn’t plain sailing for Russia’s Polina, as there were some problems with her earpiece and occasional quiet moments at the start of the song. But there was a very strong final run-through to remind us just how much to respect ‘A Million Voices’. On the other hand, I swear the only thing to change during the Danish session was the different jackets that the lead singer was wearing. Stick with the suit, Philip.
Albania’s first rehearsal was one of the very weakest we witnessed, but we saw improvement today. The stage is less busy early on, the backing vocalists are now in black, and Elhaida was getting better with a song that she doesn’t seem totally happy with. ‘I’m Alive’ asks a lot of her, and she showed more conviction with it, even if it still looks like hard work.
Romania is coming across better because it offers a hummable melody and a lead singer utterly committed to the song. There were a few minor tweaks in the graphics, and it’s interesting to wonder how many viewers will work out the message being put across in ‘De la Capat’. Georgia’s Nina finished the day off as fierce and compelling as before in her ‘Warrior’ role, though she wasn’t on stage long.
The best place to watch the full three minutes of each song are at esckaz.com. Let us know your thoughts on the day’s events below.