Germany started proceedings with a facsimile of the national final performance, which is to say they’ve turned a haunting song into the visual equivalent of watching paint dry. The U.K. have come up with a more engaging stage of blue and purple lights, featured both in the backdrop and the plinths with the two drummers. Joe and Jake work the cameras, interact well with each other, and sound good. As is usually the case, the BBC also throw some pyros at the finale.
Italy’s staging rather divided opinion. The positive spin was that the collection of flowers, balloons and rubber ducks was lovely. Francesca is standing on a narrow raised platform that looks like an island on a watery LED floor. There are animated white etchings that appear on the screen, as she sings beautifully and emotively. The less charitable felt that the staging cheapened a very classy song. I was somewhere in the middle, finding the overall effect cute. The visual concept was at least coherent, and carried out with conviction.
Moving onto the second rehearsals for the second semi, and not too many changes to report. Latvia were experimenting with a few minor details, but seemed happy to keep the effective pulsing bass line. Justs gives a copycat sound performance in every run-through. Poland was slightly improved today, with Michal in a red velvet jacket, but the staging does feel as dated as the song, title on the backdrop and all.
Switzerland’s Rykka straightened her blue hair, and was in better voice today – she only missed a handful of notes each run-through. It’s still doomed. Israel are providing a much better lesson in Eurovision staging, though Hovi Star lost himself too much in the climax on two out of three occasions. Better to do this in rehearsals than when it matters.
Belarus is visually enjoyable, and is telling a story of some kind, but the holograms are more convincing than Ivan’s vocals and stage presence. That’s not the case for Serbia’s Sanja, in a black-fringed dress, and very much the focus of ‘Goodbye (Shelter)’. The way her backing troupe are in a darker light is one of the many things they’ve got right, and this is sailing comfortably into the final.
Ireland have kept their dark, uninspiring stage, and Nicky has a slightly haunted look at the moment, even when trying a new shot interacting with the camera. Meanwhile, Kaliopi has put on a handmaiden outfit in different shades of grey, and it’s not helping FYROM’s ‘Dona’ feel any more contemporary. Lithuania’s Donny Montell tried out three different jackets, and only the white one suited him. He’s slightly lost, alone on the big stage, and the somersault didn’t do Alex Sparrow any favours in 2011. But the floor effects and angles came together for the final run-through.
Australia’s routine is getting tighter, once the crew remembered to bring Dami off her sparkly plinth on time. She’s still freestyling liberally away from the studio melody of ‘Sound of Silence’ which works well 85-90% of the time. Slovenia’s routine has also improved, though it started from a lower bar. ManuElla looked more confident on stage, as did her acrobat. Bulgaria remains a missed opportunity. Poli is carrying the dance routine and the the vocals, and it feels like both slightly suffer in the process. I can’t believe her backing singers only join her on stage for the last ten seconds.
Denmark is still exceedingly vanilla if competent. The three members of Lighthouse X look a little bit old to be doing the boyband thing, and don’t interact with each other enough until the catwalk finale. What comes after blows it out of the water. The three minutes of Ukraine’s ‘1944’ remain spellbinding, guided at every point by Jamala’s emotional performance. Norway offers something different enough afterwards. Agnete’s still better in the higher register, but her dancer is in a less distracting black bodystocking.
Georgia’s ‘Midnight Gold’ is a very pleasant surprise. It’s credible and well staged. Given a great slot in the running order, and a few voting allies, I’m seeing this as a probable qualifier right now. Albania’s Eneda is in a gold mermaid dress to match the gold stage, but ‘Fairytale’ is the most forgettable thing in this part of the draw. Belgium’s Laura brings some Junior Eurovision style fun to the stage, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. There’s a youthful enthusiasm to the whole routine. Laura’s in silver, with her entourage in white. It’s the ideal closer.
Tomorrow the automatic qualifiers have their second rehearsals, and the ‘Big 5’ should be drawing their first or second half straws. Please keep the conversation going below.