Eurovision 2016: May 4 rehearsals

Latvia’s Justs decided to ditch his favourite brown leather jacket in favour of a black one for Stockholm. The staging for ‘Heartbeat’ is simple and effective. A grey stage with pulse effects that are busier during the quieter part of the song, turns to red at the second chorus. They were trying out different camera angles, though sticking with the most effective one, from the back during the bridge, which comes towards him then swirls. Justs’ tendency to oversing doesn’t feel like such an issue in the big arena.

I was less impressed by the Polish staging, which lacked a concept. Why not play with colour for ‘The Color of Your Life’? Instead, the stage is a generic dark blue with red and white spotlights. Three violinists, a cellist and pianist play behind Michal, who is in fine voice. He tried a silver jacket for the first run-through, then ditched it for the black vest underneath. Personally, I’d stick with the jacket.

Dearie me, Switzerland. There’s a hidden dry ice rucksack that makes Rykka smoke for the first 30 seconds, a waterfall backdrop, and that’s about it for the first two minutes. Barefoot, with unflattering blue perm, black vest top and pleated transparent long skirt, Rykka starts with a walk forward, but then remains rooted to the spot, bending her knees intermittently like she needs the toilet. We got a pyro curtain for the final run-through, as if any viewers will care by this point.

On the other hand, Israel offered a lesson in how to introduce a pyro curtain – by first building up an intimate emotional connection with their performer. This is X Factor winner’s staging: a dark blue, starry stage, backdrop and floor with a simple spotlight on Hovi in black. There are tasteful close-ups that fade in and out. Hovi’s joined by two unobtrusive acrobats in a spinning hula-hoop, which sets up a nice shot through the wheel from the back of the stage. The vocals were on point to round off an exemplary rehearsal. It was the finished product.

Keeping it simple worked for Israel; Belarus are rather less successful with the kitchen sink approach. There’s so much going on with the holograms that the singing becomes secondary – until you realise that Ivan isn’t hitting all the notes. We start with a video projection of a naked Ivan with a wolf, which dissipates as the real Ivan appears in pale linen suit and lined face. Only he disappears again whilst projections of him playing various instruments feature on the backdrop. There are more wolves on the backdrop, and the real Ivan moves around with a knowing smile on his face, still biffing occasional notes.

Serbia are telling the domestic violence story behind ‘Goodbye (Shelter)’. Sanja stands on a floor of grey swords with four women in white behind her. At the end of the first chorus a male contemporary dancer rushes the stage, and menaces Sanja, before doing the same to her backing singers. They join together to protect themselves, before joining Sanja for a Molitva-style finish. This is the solid package it’s always been.

By this point it felt like we were alternating good and bad rehearsals, as Ireland fell into the latter category. The stage goes from dark red to dark blue to dark red, which is bizarre for a song called ‘Sunlight’. Nicky, fronting his band in a suede and leather jacket, pulls the same wide-legged poses we’ve seen in Kiev and London. His vocal is exposed during the verses, before able support joins him for the chorus. He used the catwalk and satellite stage for the finale. This entry really needs to up its game in the remaining rehearsals.

FYROM have a blue stage, which turns to fiery, gold-framed backdrop during the chorus. There are four backing singers, a drummer, and Kaliopi centre stage, doing her usual thing, including the signature scream at the end. There’s a long, specific audience shot which may or may not be about the subject – the singer’s mother. This is getting the regional and diaspora points it was always going to receive, but probably not much more.

Lithuania’s Donny Montell is also doing his usual thing, strutting around alone on stage, with the occasional Michael Jackson-style sidestep. It’s yet another dark blue stage with a cosmic backdrop and floor, which explodes at appropriate moments. As in the national final, Donny has a trampoline for a somersault finale.

Like Russia, Australia are front-runners with a technological concept. During the second verse, Dami uses her hands to manipulate augmented reality (it looks like a computer screen) between her and us. She’s sitting atop a blue sparkly plinth in a big sequinned gown at this point, and is brought off it for the finale. She liberally freestyles away from the studio version of ‘Sound of Silence’, which isn’t a bad idea for a rather repetitive number. Sometimes it’s successful, though not all the notes were hit. On the plus side, this is staging with ambition – it’s like a Sia appearance on X Factor. But it needs more polish.

Do keep giving us your thoughts below.

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11 comments to Eurovision 2016: May 4 rehearsals

  • Cathal

    According to Nicky one of his backing singers ( who is male thankfully) hasn’t arrived yet as his dad is ill. He should help boost Nicky’s vocal.

  • Tim B

    Lots of people I’ve been speaking to are dismissing Dami Im’s chances of doing well, saying that she has no connection to the audience, she isn’t likeable or voteable etc. Daniel, do you think she’s coming across well enough to the audience on the TV feed? [I should probably add that these people are sat at home and not in the press centre]

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, I felt Dami connected well with the camera when given the opportunity, especially for a few long swirly close-ups after she’d come off the plinth. I will add that she wasn’t wearing much make-up, which might have helped in this respect.

  • Alpie

    is there a huge expectation from ukraine?

  • Donald

    Catch up done, nothing really bounced out on listening to all songs, with exception of Spain video and “the feet”. Doubt if singer can pull it off though which is unusual for Spain.

    Definitely a year to focus on rehearsals and advice on Sofabet.

    Have Spain put in a rehearsal effort yet?

  • Lake

    Israel and Australia shortening everywhere due to rehearsals.

    And Australia jumped up to #13 on Swedish iTunes for some reason.

  • John

    I feel like Randy in ‘Scream’ when everyone is forgetting The Rules.

    I’m sure one of them is Not To Get Carried Away During Rehearsals, when the fan bubble treats a bad rehearsal as a petit mort and a good one as a sure qualifier.

    A turkey is still a still a turkey, and diaspora won’t vote for a song they can’t get behind. The Polish entry is, especially set beside Israel, poor.

    Greece are being helped by their staging but certainly have an uphill battle with one of the most repetitive songs in recent memory. Will their loyalties be divided by the catchier Cypriot entry?

    All the rehearsals have convinced me of so far is that Israel do not in fact have a dull song and look set to qualify, and Iceland has been improved by dynamic TVcamera (it was never gonna look good on static gig cameras).

    People should trust their instincts and watch out for the fan bubble group think.

    • Exactly. And more importantly, besides the ‘fan bubble’ there also seems to be a slight ‘betting bubble’. I always try to see things into perspective…into context.

      Yes, Israel must be the top rehearsal from the past three days. But I’m skeptical if it can do a full ‘Common Linnets’, by ending TOP 3. For now Israel has more or less cemented a placing on the left hand side of the scoreboard. But not TOP 3.

      Australia is a different thing. That entry has more or less cemented a possible TOP 5 placing in the final. It was a favorite before rehearsals. And that’s still the case. So also here there’s no ‘Common Linnets’. Moreover, like Russia…Australia looks perfect…..perhaps too perfect.

      The winner this year needs to bring about sincere and authentic emotions. I don’t have that yet with Dami Im.

      Therefore I’m looking forward to France and Belgium. And I’m surprised the market didn’t respond to Sweden. What works in Sweden’s favor is the fact that in the end their total package will look as polished as in MF. So obviously for such an entry you won’t see remarks like “WOW! That rehearsal is incredible”. Hence why we need to put ourselves in the shoes of televoters and juries much better. They won’t see all these rehearsal improvements. For them Sweden will look fresh and pure.

  • Chris Bellis

    John, dead right, but what if, like me you are a fan? If I trusted my instincts I’d go for Zoe, but that’s not the one to bet on methinks. I find the Russian song dated and far inferior to most of what Sergey has done in the past, but it will have the staging and performance right. It will appeal to a wide audience on the night, even if he does fall off his wall again. Possibly Australia, but I’ve seen many examples of less than perfect pitch, and Daniel confirms that above. This isn’t an easy year.

  • johnkef

    Thanks Ukraine!!! I don’t think that it’s gonna win, definite Top4-5 though, but i’m sure it’s damaging Russia’s chances of winning.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      I’ve yet to catch up with the rehearsals, but I imagine like with the experience of Aminata’s success from last year, Jamala’s national final performance provided all the evidence needed of what kind of spectacle would be transplanted to the Eurovision stage.

      I think the early “downbeat dirge” pigeon-hole stuck, blinding many to how insanely watchable that performance was / is. (I even, briefly, took to choreographing a dance to it, before moving on to Laura’s number!)

      I think maybe the reason I cottoned on early was that I work as a performer. Come to think of it, most of my best bets have delivered on that basis, and all of my worst bets have been when I’ve ignored that element.

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