Gabriela Guncikova got today’s rehearsals underway in bridal white, with a background of purple / blue triangles from the video. She walks forward at the start of ‘I Stand’, and keeps it simple from there on in, merely loosening her hair at the big moment, and allowing it to flutter in the wind machine. On the plus side, the Czech act looked and sounded amazing; but a face like that needs more close-ups, and the backdrop was occasionally overpowering too.
The Cypriots have some hard rock staging for the poodle rock ‘Alter Ego’. The band are caged before the guitarists come out for a face-off. There’s strobe lighting and quick camera cutaways, some of them pre-recorded footage showing a CGI wolf. Plenty of high-concept ideas were being tried out, which makes it a work in progress. The vocals weren’t always perfect, but the backing singer helps with the higher notes.
Austria’s Zoe has ditched her treadmill, otherwise ‘Loin D’Ici’ is much like the national final. After an initial walk forwards along a pink brick road, she stands and summons flowers and rainbows in the backdrop, wearing a peach gown. Her vocals are not always completely on point, but she’s a charming performer. However, the overall effect is a little static despite the wind machine’s best efforts in the final minute.
Estonia’s Juri was also alone on stage, in a double-breasted blue suit and spectacles, to a playing card themed backdrop. It’s incorporated into the performance when he produces an Ace of Hearts halfway through, pretends to throw it away, only for it to appear in his hand again. It didn’t feel like Juri was at his best today, and it all hangs on his young shoulders.
This year’s early rehearsal vocal car crash was provided by Azerbaijan’s Samra in her first run-through. The backing mix came to her rescue in later tries – there are two female backing singers among the four dancing around her – but she still looks like a rabbit in the headlights. There’s nothing wrong with the black and gold visuals, and the last run-through contained enough pyros for a New Year’s celebration, including a long curtain of fire. The good news is that ‘Miracle’ can only get better from this point.
Montenegro have added a female backing singer who stands on the b-stage in front of the band. The staging is very dark with quick cutaways (yes, again) and some frenetic camerawork. The overall effect is dizzying.
The camera angles started coming together for Iceland’s Greta Salome. She’s in a fringed leather catsuit, and copying her national final performance, although there are two substantive moments when she focuses on the camera rather than the projection wall, which is an improvement. The only step backwards is an overly long moment when she’s not in shot at all, despite the wall suggesting she should be.
There’s quite a lot going on in the Bosnian staging. The females start in bacofoil capes which they quickly remove to match Deen in black. Deen and Dalal start on either side of a barbed wire fence, before they finally join, at which point Ana Rucner with cello strides purposefully stage right, as Jala raps. The black and gold colour scheme works well, and there’s not much wrong with the vocals.
There’s even more going on in Malta’s ‘Walk on Water’. Ira’s face is initially projected onto her backing dancer’s top, before she’s revealed wearing a big brown coat, that’s supposed to show 360-degree projections. Except it doesn’t do so effectively, and she drags herself around the stage aimlessly as water swirls in the LED floor below her. The coat is removed to reveal a little black dress, and the dancer throws all sorts of shapes. Like the song, it’s a hundred ideas in search of a coherent concept.
Finally, Frans delivered a facsimile of his Melodifestivalen performance, except he walks to the satellite stage during the bridge. No minds were changed during the course of this rehearsal. The day’s performances as a whole felt slightly underwhelming after a reasonable start, and second rehearsals will be useful to see who is stepping up a gear as we approach the period that really matters. Do keep your thoughts coming below.