Amsterdam’s Eurovision in Concert event took place on Saturday with a bumper crop of this year’s hopefuls. Having covered many of the artists who participated in the previous week’s London gig, the focus here will be on those seen live for the first time. The YouTube channels of esckaz and Wiwibloggs provide ample footage.
I’ve seen acts feted at these events only to fall flat on the Eurovision stage, and others ignored here only to come alive when it matters. As one example of the latter, The Common Linnets endured problems with the sound mix in 2014, and remained under the radar even though performing on home turf.
There’s no denying that one of the biggest receptions on Saturday was given to Hungary’s Joci Papai. He did bring his national final (and presumably Eurovision) stage show with him, but it was also recognition of the passion and artistry he puts into ‘Origo’. I’m of the opinion that this is too good to stay out of the final.
Another very popular act were Belarus’s Naviband – the feelgood ‘Historyja Majho Zyccia’ is performed with infectious energy. I’m less certain it’s qualifying from the same semi-final. This kind of fun, foreign-language folk number has tended to score poorly with juries in the past (Finland 2010 being an example that springs to mind).
The Amsterdam event was notable was for being my first chance to assess Armenia and Azerbaijan live. I’ll admit to favouritism: I’ve always preferred Armenia’s chances to score well because I think the package has identity, and is interestingly out-of-the-box rather than just pretending to be – not to mention its headstart from diaspora points.
Maybe it’s just confirmation bias, but I thought Artsvik was more vocally assured and comfortable here than Dihaj. To be fair, both hold the promise of interesting stage shows come Kiev, and it may be best to wait for a more definitive answer when rehearsals properly begin.
In between the London and Amsterdam concerts had come another gig in Tel Aviv which was streamed live last Wednesday. At that event there were sound issues throughout. Particularly affected were the Irish and Israeli participants, who both had earpiece problems and were offkey.
They were much better here in Amsterdam, though with room for further improvement. I’m more positive on Brendan Murray’s high voice and Westlife-style song than most. I think it’s a coherent package with an obvious big moment that should play fine to an Eurovision audience.
The same could be said for Israel’s Imri Ziv with a very different song. He’ll presumably have to manage the more difficult job of some moves alongside the vocals (having understandably focused on the latter last Saturday), but the ‘Golden Boy’ dancers will be helping him out in Kiev.
Positive stage shows are all relative of course, but San Marino’s ‘Spirit of the Night’ came across much better than a song as bad as this has any right to. That’s because Valentina and Jimmie are vocally secure and bounce off each other effectively. They shouldn’t qualify, but I’m no longer saying couldn’t so loudly.
Albania has an uphill struggle in the first half of the first semi. There’s plenty counting against ‘World’, but Lindita’s vocals aren’t one of them, because she was very impressive here. The other big female ballad in that part of the draw is Georgia’s ‘Keep The Faith’, and Tako also has a good set of pipes.
The crowd obviously lapped up the Netherlands’ O’G3NE with ‘Lights and Shadows’. The way the song allows them to show off their harmonies puts them in with a chance of scoring well enough with juries to qualify. My estimation of Cyprus’s qualifying chances also went up after watching Hovig look more comfortable performing ‘Gravity’ live here than he had when miming at the Greek final.
Switzerland’s Timebelle have their fans, as the first OGAE votes indicate, but ‘Apollo’ as a song risks being too bland and anonymous when set against others, just as happened with the same country’s 2015 entry.
Serbia’s Tijana Bogicevic was better here than in Tel Aviv, but ‘In Too Deep’ needs an interesting stage show to lift it in Kiev. Right now if it were an entry from a nation lacking in Eurovision allies – like Switzerland, in fact – I’d be calling it a non-qualifier already. It says something that ‘Rain of Revolution’ is considered that already despite hailing from Lithuania, which also has some diaspora and regional support.
I should comment on France and FYROM, who mainly mimed in London. We heard a little more from both this time, as they sang over some playback. Alma is showing more and more personality on stage, which is promising for France, but FYROM’s Jana looks like she needs more time to grow in confidence.
Otherwise, once again the standout performer was Italy’s Francesco Gabbani, though an honourable mention goes to Romania’s ‘Yodel It’. Musically naff it may be, but the pair are so damn likeable on stage, all is forgiven. Meanwhile, Montenegro’s Slavko whipped his braid and the crowd into a frenzy. Please let us know your latest thoughts below.