It’s good to remember that we went from watching second rehearsals to first run-throughs today. To varying degrees the automatic qualifiers treated it as they’re meant to – as a technical exercise in trying out different camera angles – rather than giving it their all. Therefore, fast and firm staging judgements made on the basis of today’s practising may feel premature by next Saturday.
We started with a case in point: Il Volo going through the motions for Italy. I don’t have any problems with the Classical Rome backdrop, and I like the way the lights pulse, especially in the build-up to the chorus. They’ve also kept the nice Sanremo rotation between the three boys – all in suits but no ties – for the second pre-chorus. Sure, Piero didn’t really engage with the cameras, but there wasn’t anything here that couldn’t readily be fixed once an A-game is required.
Austria have decided to keep things simple and credible for their shaggy-haired entrants. It’s pretty much as in the national final for The Makemakes, except for a much darker stage at the beginning. There’s a nice overhead, fiery LED-floor shot for the instrumental break, and on the last run-through we even had flames licking out of the piano, and a small curtain of fire from the ceiling. Lead singer Dodo had no problems with his vocals.
Spain have got a bit of everything in their three minutes, which was the object of laughter at first, but makes sense given the lack of development in the song itself. Edurne starts off in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit, cradling her bearded dancer like she’s Mary Magdalene. When done with that, she comes forward and has him hold her long cloak, which is eventually ripped off to reveal a slitted gold dress with Grecian shoes. What follows is a Strictly Come Dancing routine which the judges would castigate for too many lifts. Some of the fussiness did affect her vocal, but it also kept the interest.
Germany’s Ann Sophie is going down a more sophisticated route, in a black jumpsuit in front of a set of flashlights and a James Bond backdrop. I’m not sure she needs to spend quite so long with her back to the audience and camera at the start, craning her neck around. She’s a strong vocalist and expressive performer, but there’s a certain aloofness about her presence, which may unfairly hamper her televote.
The United Kingdom have chucked a few gimmicks at ‘Still In Love With You’ though the whole thing still screamed of the bargain basement. There’s clearly been some effort with the staging: an Art Deco backdrop that goes from black and gold to neon, stairs for the introduction, some neon tubing that lights up at various points. (Though the equipment Bianca was required to carry on her back to bring this off made her look like a ghostbuster.) Four charleston dancers did their best, but just like the song, the overall effect was amateurish.
France’s Lisa Angell, clad in indigo, won lots of plaudits today for a nice backdrop and some solid vocals. The eurovision.tv excerpt came from the powerful final minute when she’s joined on stage by four drummer boys in beige. What that clip didn’t show you was the rather long two minutes that leads up to this climax. ‘N’oubliez Pas’ remains a dated song lacking any real hook.
Finally, Australia’s Guy Sebastian, dressed in hipster garb, took the concept of a rehearsal most literally: going through the steps with his four backing dancers; only occasionally showcasing his excellent vocals; and trying out various camera angles. There are some squat streetlights on stage, the backdrop goes from golden sunrise to red-and-green streetscape, and there are some delightful little formation moves to reiterate all the hooks that ‘Tonight Again’ provides. There were lots of pyros for the final run-through.
Tomorrow sees two dress rehearsals for the first semi-final, one at 3pmCET, and then the crucial run-through that the national juries vote on at 9pmCET. I will tweet during the first one, posting a brief article afterwards, and will also tweet the jury rehearsal. Stay tuned and keep the debate going below.