Eurovision 2015: May 15 rehearsals

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.

19 comments to Eurovision 2015: May 15 rehearsals

  • Hi Daniel, I noticed in that video of Russia’s first rehearsal TV feed that’s floating around, Polina barely looks at the camera at all. Is this typical of the rest of her run-throughs that you’ve seen? In contrast, I remember Dina Garipova gave excellent camera in 2013 even though the rest of her staging was poor.

    Also, I don’t believe any pyros have yet been employed for any of the songs. Do you know if these start coming in at the Monday afternoon jury rehearsals?

    • Daniel

      Excellent question Tim. There’s been precious few: Israel and Malta have showcased pyros so far. The Maltese ones lost a little impact against a golden backdrop. Of course, anyone can save the pyros for the moments that matter.

  • Montell

    After I saw today’s videos my non qualifiers prediction is:
    Moldova
    Serbia
    Finland
    Hungary
    Netherlands
    Macedonia

  • Now we’ve seen the 2nd rehearsals we’ve got a pretty good idea of what the show will look like. So here is how I see it
    Moldova – NQ, poor vocals, no jury love, poor draw.
    Armenia – Bit of a mess and noisy, hard to connect with it, poor draw but has friends, borderline 60% Q chance.
    Belgium – Slow, boring but “cool and modern”. Cool and modern isn’t eurovision. Bad draw, no friends, will need televoters to still be awake after the 1st minute. Staging looks just weird. 39% Q chance
    Netherlands – Song with no structure, sounds dated and poor. No friends and staging isn’t helping. 10% Q
    Finland – its punk, but I like punk and don’t like this. Don’t assume punk fans will vote for it, just because its punk. Staging is boring, nobody will understand what the song is about. If it wasn’t for the fact the band have special needs, this would finish guaranteed dead last. 10% Q chance
    Greece – It’s Greece, of course it qualifies :). If Conchita was 70s Bond themes, this is 80s Roger Moore Bond themed. Its vocally excellent, sailing through. 100% Q, will finish top 10 in the final
    Estonia – Will qualify, spotlight effect works well. 100% Q chance
    FYR Macedonia – I loved the studio rework of this, but it just doesn’t sound that good and the weird dancing doesn’t help. Originally I thought “maybe top 10” and now I think “will be lucky to scrape into the final”. 60% Q chance (would work so much better with him on his own and no cheesy dancing)
    Serbia – Difficult to see this getting much jury love, stage show is weird. Needs to be fun, just isn’t. Despite the fan wank (EV ;)) this looks borderline. 40% Q chance
    Hungary – Will do well with jury’s and will be enough anti-war viewers to give it some televote support. Hungary not short of friends and going to the final. 80% Q chance
    Belarus – much improved interaction between uzari and maimuna, but the song is kind of boring. The video was fun and full of energy, this isn’t. Song isn’t great and seems to last more than 3 minutes, might struggle. 30% Q chance
    Russia – Best staging yet. Sailing through, 100% Q
    Denmark – Boy band pop song that I switch off every time I hear it. Denmark have no friends at all here, remember 3 years ago? Will be overshadowed by Russia and fail. 25% Q chance
    Albania – Song is good, the performance isn’t. Got enough friends, juries will like it and with a late draw to push it through. 80% Q chance
    Romania – Still don’t like the wardrobe, but Romania always Q and have friends in this semi. Late draw, powerful effective ballad with good staging. Sailing through 90% Q chance
    Georgia – Has friends, pimp draw, stands out as not a soppy ballad. Strong performance, will be the only warrior to qualify 85% Q chance (also Nina hottest performer of the night)

    • Hi Dash, I agree Serbia looks borderline, I’m not loving the staging… I think the loving collection of Eurovision tropes we saw at the NF would have served it better (the duo of bronzed benders ripping off her tarpaulin of tears). Now it looks a mess (even though it’s supposed to, it still doesn’t work, at least in the current form) and dated – the whole marching-around-with-flags thing is very Invincible via Naj svet zakrici:

  • Ron H.

    I just watched the full 2nd rehearsal of Norway. White clothes, no probs on stage and a (very boring) uni-color background. Only one possible conclusion: they will also use “augmented reality” in order to create the atmosphere of their videoclip. Watch out for this one!

    The technique should be available in this years ESC, since Romania has already been allowed to use video projection for Paula’s vanishing act last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN2h6__yJGQ

    To get a better idea of the possibilities:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QDB7CDD5aA

    Or for a good example on stage watch Emmaly Brown in the Voice of Holland last season (keep in mind she was Trijntjes pupil!) :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-QBDdZBMQo

    Just learned Trijntje gave an interview on Dutch radio earlier this week in which she was asked wether the ongoing rumours about the use of animation were correct or not. She asked the interviewer where he had heard that and responded she knew nothing, but did not deny it.

    • Ron

      There have been no reports of anyone seeing “augmented reality” footage via the camera feeds. Surely if this was happening, it would be part of the rehearsals by this stage.

      • Ron H.

        The point with augmented reality is that the animations are real time mixed with the camera feeds before they go on screen. No need to show them before the shows if you want to keep it as a surprise.
        But then again, I’m only making an educated guess on the basis of information of the Dutch team that they will bring something completely new to Eurovision which looks rather as a video clip than a stage performance and continuous rumours about animation.
        Monday or Tuesday we will be sure, but just don’t tell me I didn’t warn you if the Cruella dress turns out to be the logical choice when Trijntje is surrounded by Dalmatians 🙂

        • Boki

          Ukraine had something like that in mind in 2013 but was not allowed because it could give unfair advantage for the entry.

        • Ron

          But they would need to test the augmented reality animations with the real life footage to make sure the dalmatians weren’t overlapping with Trijntje’s frock. That’s what rehearsals are for – think about all the fiddling around with Sweden’s projection mapping. If a major technological feature hasn’t been seen by the second rehearsals, it’s obviously not part of the show.

          • Ron H

            You’re absolutely right Ron, but this testing could be done in the directors room far from our sight. Anyhow, I quess I’ll have to wait till next week to know. If Betfair would however open a market on ‘Have Norway and/or The Netherlands chosen to sing in the middle of nowhere or will one or both of those countries introduce video animation?’ I know where I would put my money as we speak about teams with large production budgets, a reputation to maintain, and highly advanced technological skills.

    • Ron H….what do you think Norway may be keeping back then if your hunch about “augmented reality” is accurate?? I mean, those images from the dinner party video would hardly fit with the white clothes apparel? Maybe we are in for a few surprises next week??

  • Chris

    Based on the rehearsals, this is my call:

    Qualifiers: Greece, Estonia, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania, Georgia, Armenia

    Borderline: Belarus, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark

    Non-Qualfiers: Moldova, Finland, Macedonia

  • Here’s my list of qualifier, and as you can see I’m already heavily in “ranking-mood” :-):

    01. 100% Q-chance, RUSSIA:
    The most perfect total package of this semi final. Could win this semi-final. Polina looks angelic, is a charismatic professional. Staging less cheesy as Russia 2013.
    02. 100% Q-chance, ESTONIA:
    An entry that should be seen on screen. Stig looks a bit uninterested, but Elina is quite fierce on screen. Staging-wise this looks very stylish. And the song still is contemporary.
    03. 100% Q-chance, ROMANIA:
    This is a wonderful ballad sang by a rather charismatic band. I do “get” the staging, and obviously it’s a song about troubled kids. Could do quite well in the grand final.
    04. 100% Q-chance, GEORGIA:
    Games of Thrones meets Eurovision. Lovely staged. And this is a prime example on how to stage a one-person-show, unless Albania. The new G:son-mix really works.
    05. 095% Q-chance, GREECE:
    Lovely staged and the Greek now how to get the most out of a dated ballad that builds up too slow towards a climatic Bond-esque feel. Unless “Rise Like A Phoenix”.
    06. 080% Q-chance, DENMARK:
    I don’t get the backlash on this Danish entry. I think it could do very well once in the final. It’s a bit One Direction meets Everly Brothers. Charismatic pop-entry with 1960’s vibe.
    07. 075% Q-chance, BELGIUM:
    It’s very contemporary and new age that could result in enough jury votes. Loic adds some of his own alternative dance routine, but it’ll be a smile that really helps.
    08. 065% Q-chance, HUNGARY:
    Between Armenia and Hungary, I now think Hungary has the most appeal. It’s purely a song for televoters and juries, and less for audiences in the hall. Slight goosebumps.
    09. 060% Q-chance, THE NETHERLANDS:
    While not as good as 2013 and 2014, I do think it’s instant enough, especially for Eastern-European countries. Instant camerawork, reminiscent of Sweden this year.
    10. 050% Q-chance, ARMENIA:
    Has indeed diaspora televotes from France, Netherlands, Belgium, Georgia and Russia. But they could be stripped away by some juries. Nice enough, but dreadful song.
    ——————————————————
    11. 050% Q-chance, FINLAND:
    I could see this go through. But for every gimmick in the contest there still needs to be a memorable enough song or “sound”. Hence why I think Finland could fail.
    12. 045% Q-chance, BELARUS:
    I could exchange this with another country from the bottom half of the TOP 10, as I think it’s the least cheesiest Belarussian entry in years. 10th place just maybe?
    13. 040% Q-chance, ALBANIA:
    The song has been too complicated for Eurovision I think. It reminds me a bit of San Marino 2011. Personally I like it, but it falls a bit flat as compared to Netherlands.
    14. 030% Q-chance, F.Y.R.O.MACEDONIA:
    Lovely entry when hearing it on mp3, but staging-wise it looses out from that other lovely entry Romania. Vocally it’s also not impressive enough for juries to appeal to I think.
    15. 010% Q-chance, SERBIA:
    Fanwank-entry, that leaves me completely cold. A weird messy bit of Eurovision 1990’s pop, with a lot of unnecessary stage props. The bridge into the Eurodance is bad.
    16. 000% Q-chance, MOLDOVA:
    Cheap, vulgar entry which takes the worst Justin Bieber influences and mixes it with clients from the YMCA-gym. Great opener for the show though.

    • Chris

      Nice write up. I mistakenly left out Romania – they’re also a surefire qualifier for me. Apart from you overrating Denmark and the Netherland and underrating Serbia – I pretty much agree with your comments. I actually think that Serbia’s show is very entertaining, there is a clear USP which makes the song stand out between Macedonia and Hungary and the message is conveyed very well through the performance. It will undoubtedly also got a lot of televotes.

      • I think Serbia just doesn’t come through as a polished total package. To me….it simply looks “weird” when the slightly obese singer dances that agressively. The backings/dancers pulling off their sheets doesn’t help either. And the problems all start with the rather “weird” structured song. It starts of like a Balkan-ballad and then after 2 mins it kicks into tacky Eurodance mode.

        Netherlands for me at least feels like a better polished total package. A rather average but still catchy and slightly better structured pop song is being enhanced by good close-up camerawork on a pretty face and good belting vocals.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think Netherlands isn’t a certain qualifier, but at this stage I would completely rule out Serbia as qualifier.

        Denmark? I think it should be valued for certain qualification in the bottom 5 of the TOP 10. The song is instant, slightly trendy when compared to One Direction and it all looks like a cute polished total package that young kids would vote for.

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