Eurovision 2012: Semi 1 First Dress Rehearsal

The initial dress rehearsal is the first chance to see the show as it will be. It can therefore be an eye-opening experience. No more the repeated run-throughs for each act and the leisurely time between each one which marks the practice period up till now. In fact, the dress rehearsal flies by like a speeding bullet. Below are my impressions. Do bear in mind that this rehearsal doesn’t count towards anything, unlike tonight’s second attempt, from midnight-2am local time, which is what the juries watch and judge.

Can I reiterate that as well as tweeting anything of particular significance as it happens in the jury rehearsal tonight, I have decided to give my general impressions straight after it finishes in the comments section to this article rather than leave you waiting till the next day.

Anyway, let’s get cracking…

The feed in the press centre was too quiet for the first four songs, which makes them harder to evaluate. However, it was easy to tell that Montenegro is still a shambles. Rambo spent the first minute sorting out his guitar strap, and the rest wasn’t much better. Next up, even with the poor sound on the TV feed you could tell Iceland’s Jonsi was too low in the mix, and he gave the game away by fiddling with his volume dial. Once this had been sorted, the final minute brought a welcome change in gear with the two coming together, but ‘Never Forget’ feels a little static before then.

Greece’s choreography and vocals were improved today and the whole thing is making more sense. Eleftheria with an oyster or fire detail on her short dress matches the backdrop and is flashing rather a lot of knicker, which I think is a mistake. Latvia’s Anmary is in a more flattering blue dress than before, and her backing vocalists have also changed outfits for the better. This is as it was: a fun, casual song that has a mountain to climb. I wasn’t a fan of the Rona Nishliu’s look for Albania, with her dreadlocked hair forming a necklace and a dress featuring a futuristically scooped neckline with a high back. It made her appear rather alien. She was on fine form vocally but visually it was a scary three minutes.

I’ve been a little disappointed with the way they’ve decided to stage ‘Zaleilah’ during earlier rehearsals but within ten seconds this clearly blows everything before it out of the water. The toned down presentation actually makes it look more sensible, it still makes you want to dance and Elena is in great form. This seems likely to be at least top three in this semi.

It’s followed by another strong performance in the shape of Switzerland’s Sinplus. There’s good movement around the stage, excellent vocals and a backdrop that suits the song. This is my preferred rock performance among the rehearsals and the band have to be hopeful as regards qualification.

We get Belgium and Finland up next. Iris is in a nice simple white dress and vocally gets stronger as the song progresses. I just wish the backdrop was a bit more dynamic, because there’s a danger of losing the viewer’s interest before Iris really starts engaging the camera, but this is still in the mix. Finland’s Pernilla looks better in her green dress now that she’s taken her jumper off. This doesn’t change from rehearsal to rehearsal.

Israel remain in good form on stage, sounding strong and looking like they are having fun. It all depends whether there is enough of a market for this kind of thing; I hope there is. The irony of San Marino is that Valentina Monetta is an excellent vocalist, and she upstages plenty of her better-fancied rivals here. The staging is still laughable though, not to mention the song.

I thought this was one of Ivi’s better rehearsals for Cyprus, but then again, I’ve not been impressed with her previously. It’s a shame that the outfits and backdrops are all in the same colour as the routine gets a little lost on stage. Familiarity with Denmark’s ‘Should’ve Known Better’ is not helping my assessment of its chances. I felt a little bored by it just now even though it’s a song I like that is performed well. The Russian grannies are as they were, with plenty of attention for the short, cute one again. This is another one I found myself switching off from.

This was much better from Hungary’s Compact Disco, with the lead singer in very good form vocally. I had rather written this off a few days ago, but that’s premature based on this. The same can be said for Austria’s Trackshittaz, who give the semi a kick up its popo. The routine is much tighter than before, with all the light effects working well and coming across much more effectively. I think this is going to do much better in the televote than many people imagine.

Moldova’s ‘Lautar’ is a lot of fun on the screens. Telegenic Pasha is in a yellow top with boots and ethnic-style brown trousers. He’s selling it well, the camera angles come together nicely, and I think this is going to the final.

That impression was also helped today by a very weak Jedward rehearsal. They looked ridiculous in their power ranger outfits, and I don’t mean ridiculous in a fun, Jedward-style way. The spiky hair had gone and with it their powers to entertain. The vocals were weak, the water feature just doesn’t come across very effectively on screen, and the whole performance was very ragged. Jedward jumped into the fountain at the end, but that looked rather desperate given the three minutes that had preceded it. If it looks and sounds like this tonight, I don’t think the juries will be impressed.

A closing thought: the opening of the envelopes to reveal tomorrow night’s qualifiers will be the first time that fans’ expectations meet with Eurovision reality this week. This goes some way to explain why more often than not there are ‘shock’ results. The shock to fans is that viewers around Europe and national juries have different tastes to them. Which shouldn’t be a shock at all.

Bear this in mind over Eurovision week, where you can expect the unexpected to occur at some points. All the assumptions that have been built up from long before rehearsals started count for little. Even during rehearsals, punters and fans who have invested in certain entries – financially and/or emotionally – can be guilty of seeing what they want to see. As someone who keeps an eagle eye on the contest for months beforehand, and carries large financial liabilities into it, that goes for me too.

But in a semi-final where qualification odds are very short on those seemingly certain to go through, whilst the borderline cases are dependent on the whims of the juries which are generally much harder to predict, one way to find value is in the potential for disconnect between fans’ assumptions and what will turn out to be Eurovision reality.

Anyway, don’t forget to check back in the comments section tonight for my thoughts on the all-important jury rehearsal, when it really counts.

19 comments to Eurovision 2012: Semi 1 First Dress Rehearsal

  • Johnny Roastbeef

    Does little grannie look into the camera? Can’t be easy for a tv-showbiz newbie like her to remember all camera switches.. :S

  • Nick D

    I need a reality check regarding Moldova, the reports are so uniformly favourable that I’m starting to get overexcited about it. Someone talk me down off the ledge, please! 🙂

    • Daniel

      Hi Nick, here you go: it’s not as good as ‘Hora din Moldova’. Does that help? Maybe not!

    • Ron

      Well Ireland got far louder applause in the arena than Moldova on the live stream I was listening to Nick, so I’m not sure I’m buying into the Pasha hype at the moment : it has all the hallmarks of something that will qualify and then sink without trace in the final.

  • Gavin

    I’ve bet Romania already at 33s, I think the son is catchy, typical sort of upbeat eurovision song with loads of different instruments.

    My biggest worry, correct me if I’m wrong is Romania’s record in the eurovision, I don’t think it is anything special. Also the draw will play a big part but obviously that is just luck. I had about 4 countries in mind last year who I thought could win but as soon as the draw was made I lumped on Azerbaijan because of their good draw and all the other favoured countries were drawn very badly.

  • Daniel

    JURY REHEARSAL UPDATE: Most countries brought their A-game when it mattered. One exception was Cyprus. Ivi was vocally shaky and looked uncomfortable in parts.

    Otherwise, nothing too worrying if your money is already down. The Russian grannies were very off-key to begin with, and Denmark’s Soluna Samay started nervously too though improved throughout.

    Jedward’s performance was much improved on what we saw for the first rehearsal.

    • Boki

      Hi Dan, thanks for all the tweets also. One general question: how do you rate jury scores if someone starts, as you put it, nervously and than improves (like Denmark and Greece tonight)?

      • Daniel

        I don’t think it makes much difference, Boki. Eleftheria had literally one bad note at the very start and that was it. Soluna was in very good voice by the end of her song.

        Last year, Slovenia’s Maja Keuc missed a whole line in the jury dress rehearsal for her semi and she still comfortably won the jury poll.

        The moral of that is: one musn’t read too much into every minor moment.

    • David

      How did Albania look/sound?

      Thanks for the tweets, btw!

      • Daniel

        Albania sounded very strong indeed. By the time of the jury rehearsal I had got over the outfit, though for first-time viewers she will look like a Doctor Who villain.

  • Tim B

    Thanks Daniel, I found your tweets most helpful this evening! I had small bets on Iceland to be top 3, Hungary to qualify and a lay on Finland to qualify.

    Glad to hear Romania has some pyros and more enthusiasm too. I’m sure they can win the semi now!

  • Henry VIII

    Thanks for the tweets and the update here Dan.

  • Boki

    Denmark drifted to 1.14 @Ladbrokes, strange…

  • Tim B

    Daniel, please can you tell me if the backing members of Mandinga were wearing all white or different costumes for each member?

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, they were all in white. Elena has more orange chiffon material on top of her black corset/leotard thingie. There was no Minnie Mouse-style detail on it this time

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