“Sing it away!” Finland’s Sandjha started proceedings in a powder blue catsuit to a purple backdrop. She was holding back on the vocals, and the focus was on interacting with her backing singers. They walk onto the stage from the back for the first chorus, and split into two groups either side of the lead singer. Sandjha uses the catwalk to the smaller satellite stage during the bridge, but turns back no sooner than she’s there. This early practice didn’t change any minds on its qualification prospects.
There was no sound in the press centre for the first Greek rehearsals, so we could only judge visuals. Those were very much “Greece at Eurovision #101”, which is a compliment from these quarters. Think ‘Opa!’ with the band in white, some homoerotic touches between the new young dancer and the older rapper, and a ‘My Number One’ moment at the bridge. A fiery backdrop soon changes into an evolving set of golden compass patterns. There was plenty to keep the eye interested.
Moldova also came up with some development in the form of a cosmonaut who joins Lidia after the first chorus of ‘Falling Stars’. He removes the helmet to reveal himself as one of Aliona Moon’s backing dancers, before breaking into some moves that help explain his kneepads. Lidia has some backing support, but the vocal still isn’t powerful enough for a 90s eurodance number.
Hungary’s Freddie clearly felt he’d been enough of a ‘Pioneer’ with the national final staging, as that was replicated here minus the glow sticks. Three backing dancers sway as Freedie smoulders into the camera on a red scorched-earth floor with a red storm backdrop. The vocals were fine, but beyond a few short walks, there wasn’t anything else that visually developed in the three minutes – it finished much as it began – but we’ve been promised some changes before the next rehearsal.
For Croatia, a gasp went around the press centre on the first sighting of Nina Kraljic’s dress. A grey mesh tent with a toilet roll neckline, it is most distracting for the first verse, before Nina’s joined by four backing singers who rip it off during the first chorus. Nina was wearing civvies underneath, and continued with her armography as seen at the London Eurovision concert. The vocals started off very uneven, but had improved by the final run-through. A blue ocean backdrop added gold overtones near the climax.
There are some changes to The Netherlands’ ‘Slow Down’. They’ve lengthened the ticking clock intro, referenced by the staging in the gold LED floor. Douwe Bob in a dark suit starts off next to the piano player before quickly moving centre stage. During the guitar solo bridge, he uses the catwalk to the satellite stage, and then there’s a break in the song where we’ve been informed Douwe will get the audience to sing the chorus, before joining in himself. There were teething troubles with camera angles here but no problem with the vocals.
Armenia’s entry divides pundits, and today’s first rehearsal only exacerbated that divide. For its fans hoping for something different from the staging, they got it. Notably, Iveta is joined by six holograms for the instrumental second chorus, and there are lots of Oscar Zia-style close-ups and cutaways. For those less enamoured by it, who amongst other things worry about it appearing aggressive, Iveta is striking sexy poses in a short-cut black leotard with cape (Mei Finegold springs to mind). Iveta’s vocals are strong on the whole for a demanding song.
Disappointingly, San Marino failed to camp up their staging for ‘I Didn’t Know’. Serhat is joined by five backing singers / dancers who come off their plinth and gyrate around him in various ways, to a blue and red disco backdrop with some hologram dancers.
Russia started off with Sergey Lazarev falling off his projection wall. Later run-throughs were slicker. Sergey starts by imitating an eagle as a wing shows on his wall, rather like Iceland’s Greta. He’s then joined by four formation dancers, also clad in black, before his next task is some Ani Lorak movements. After this he proceeds to climb the wall like Dimitry Koldun, with new platforms emerging to save him, as in the video. He eventually ascends the wall after a swirling moment, to finish atop for the finale, with a mysterious woman emerging to hold a diminishing sun.
It’s like a boot camp routine or Krypton Factor brought to the Eurovision arena. My main gripe is that it contains no relevance to the song and no emotional connection, which we saw with Mans’ stick boy, or Farid’s alter ego and lady in red.
Do give us your continued thoughts below, and I’ll be back tomorrow, when the rest of the first semi acts have their initial rehearsals.