Like others, Slovenia are guilty this year of not running with the concept of their song title. The backdrop is a fragmented mixture of ‘Blue and Red’ that you don’t really notice, until eyes and lips appear on pale hues for the chorus. Instead, the main talking point is a topless acrobat who joins the ManuElla too late, and has to get an angled pole swinging to fly around on it like a model airplane. The lead singer is in white, and keeps her eyes closed for the yodel sections. Much more work is needed.
Bulgaria’s concept was also slightly disappointing: light-up arrow pads that attempt to enhance a knock-kneed manoeuvre from Poli during the chorus. The choreography is a lot of effort for little reward – it makes her breathy at times too. Dancers shown on the backdrop attempt to make Poli look less lonely on stage, and she’s joined by her five backing singers for the finale. There’s room for plenty of improvement, but time for it too.
Denmark gave us a facsimile of their national final performance, apart from their use of the satellite stage at the climax. The vocals are exposed in the verses, before hidden backing helps them out on the chorus. A plain, dark blue stage completes a very vanilla package, and even the pyros on the last run-through were rather half-hearted.
Ukraine gave us the best rehearsal so far: a finished product with every detail beautifully thought through. Elegantly dressed in black, Jamala starts in a square laser tunnel she slowly walks out of. The backdrop and floor features either blue and yellow arabesques, or sinister red cracks. Sanna-style uplights create a sense of intimacy, enhanced by Jamala nailing every camera angle – and note. At the big scream, she looks to the heavens, and a blue and yellow tree emerges directly behind her in the backdrop. It won’t be to everyone’s taste on Saturday night, but it’s spellbinding for those interested.
Norway’s Agnete has changed the national final staging (but not her outfit), so that she’s on a separate smaller plinth to her backing dancer. She soon moves off it to a suitably dark blue stage with dry ice and CO2 jets. The dancer in a white leotard isn’t really adding much, and Agnete isn’t so comfortable when in the lower register for the verses. But she’s good with the big notes, and there’s some effective sweeping camera shots to match these moments.
It felt like Georgia put themselves in the qualification mix with some effective mirrored split screen effects. The vocals are good, the band twiddle away contentedly, the effects ramp up for the manic part, and it comes across as credible if still alternative by Eurovision standards. Albania on the other hand, offered nothing of interest for ‘Fairytale’. Eneda’s vocals are fine, but beyond a blue to gold stage, and three backing singers, there’s little more to add about the staging.
Belgium’s Laura ends second semi proceedings with plenty of choreography lifted from the video to ‘What’s The Pressure?’ There’s a neat disc backdrop in national colours, and plenty of effective development throughout – notably the clever way Laura uses the satellite stage first before being joined by her four backing dancers. There’s a hidden backing singer helping Laura carry the song vocally. Right now, this feels like it’s doing what it needs to qualify.
Tomorrow sees all of the first heat give their second rehearsals, plus Spain and France in a 12-hour day. Gird your loins, and carry on the conversation below.