Eurovision 2013: May 8 Rehearsals

I was looking forward to today’s set of rehearsals, and I wasn’t disappointed. Latvia offer the ideal opener. PeR have fun on stage in their glittery outfits, asking the (so far cardboard) audience to scream and make some noise. They slow-motion march down the catwalk during the bridge and there was even some crowd-surfing in the final run-through, thanks to the support of a burly group from the production team.

The fact that one half of PeR is beatboxing isn’t made clear enough, but that would be my only criticism of the way ‘Here We Go’ comes across. Otherwise, the best possible job is being made of selling the song. Whether that’s enough to qualify is another matter.

San Marino was highly anticipated given Ralph Siegel’s track record. What we got was based on the official video and surprisingly muted. Valentina sits on the floor looking into a glowing ball, whilst two backing dancers lie almost hidden behind her. Each are wearing dark shawls over red dresses. Valentina stands, ditches the ball, and her two assistants remove her shawl for the gear change before removing their own. Cue swirling of arms and the red fabric attached.

Valentina’s vocals were good, but she needs to be careful not to over-emote – she’s not as impressive when she does. The stage is also rather dark, moving from a heavy blue to a heavy red to match what’s being worn. The fanboys watching lapped it all up, but this didn’t feel like it was going places with a neutral audience coming to it for the first time. I remain open-minded on the question of qualification.

The problem with Macedonia is the incompatibility between its different elements. At least the two backing singers, who assist both Esma and Lozano, help create a greater sense of continuity. Whilst it became more polished during the various run-throughs, when Esma is left to sing completely alone the whole thing still falls to pieces.

Azerbaijan offered the talking point of the day. Staging guru Fokas Evangelinos has come up with a greatest hits of recent Eurovision gimmicks (many his own), adding an extra twist. Farid starts atop a glass box with someone in it, Ani Lorak-style; at some point we get Russia 2006’s rose petals swirling around inside it; Farid’s love interest has a red train on her dress longer than Carola’s that same year. The twist? Whilst guy-in-box mirrors the movements of Farid on top (the actual mirrors of Cyprus 2005 were clearly not enough), he stands upside down.

The only thing that’s missing is a Greek stapler topped by a conveyor belt, but it’s already a kitchen sink production. All the while, the camera loves Farid and the vocals sound excellent. The song is as immediate as it’s aways been and the watching press couldn’t take their eyes off each run-through. Opinion was split on what the staging did for the chances of ‘Hold Me’ based on whether you joined the ‘overkill’ or ‘memorable’ line. 

It’s lucky that Finland’s Krista Siegfrids, following it with ‘Marry Me’, is able to hold her own. It’s pretty much as we’ve seen it performed in London and Amsterdam, with a sparkly Las Vegas-themed backdrop. Krista is not short on confidence, camera angles improved with each run-through and the lesbian kiss was included every time. Whether you love or hate this, today didn’t change opinions one way or another, being what was expected. 

There weren’t too many surprises with Malta either, though ‘Tomorrow’ brings a nice change of pace. Gianluca starts with his band all spread out, walks around telling Jeremy’s story amiably, then uses the catwalk before they all gather together on a park bench for the song’s climax. Vocals were fine, he’s charming and they should be happy enough with this first rehearsal.

Bulgaria bring something very different to the stage. I know some Sofabet commenters have backed it at reasonable prices to qualify (full disclosure: I have too), so first off I should assure you ‘Samo Shampioni’ was as I hoped it would be.

They have gone the full ethno – you might as well given the song – with three backing singers in traditional costume and a young bagpipe player who whips out a tribal mask at the end. Elitsa and Stoyan bring a huge amount of energy to the stage, topped off by a nice skip down the catwalk to finish. Clever little touches like luminous drumsticks indicate they’ve done this before, and it’s going down well with those who like this kind of thing.

As is Iceland’s Eythor, who sang well on an effectively simple stage and sensibly switched to a black jacket – I hope because someone told him he looked like a cruiseship waiter in the white one. There’s a big note he nails and some earnest faces at the camera. He’s not quite Ott Lepland, but that’s what he’s going for. ‘Eg a Lif’ is a rather familiar-sounding composition, but there’s nothing wrong in the way it’s being put across here.

Overall, it was a strong set of rehearsals, especially from Azerbaijan onwards, and my sense that this is a tough semi was only reinforced. What about you? Do watch the videos and give us your own thoughts.

29 comments to Eurovision 2013: May 8 Rehearsals

  • eurovicious

    Fokas? Now there’s a name.

    Agree with the consensus today. Some rehearsal blogs are complaining bitterly about Bulgaria but it’s all-too-obviously borne out of their personal dislike of the song. I’m glad the piper only brings the mask out towards the end, it’s cool but obscuring faces isn’t a good idea.

    Eythor and co sound strong, and Tim and I had the same immediate reaction on San Marino: sounds good, looks bad. PeR are fun and competent, actually far more so than any Latvian entrant in years, but it’s not qualifying.

    Not sure about the Maltese “lyric video” – it seems to say “if you can’t follow the lyrics, here they are on screen”. Performance and staging otherwise look fine and I love Gianluca’s fashion.

    (Incidentally, Gianluca’s sister Dorothy Bezzina, who is on stage with him, is a veteran of the Maltese national selection and gave us this gem in 2009:

  • Ben Cook

    I’ve plonked each-way bets on Azerbaijan (40/1) and Finland (80/1). Just crazily long odds on both of those, especially Azerbaijan!

    Done the same on Georgia and Germany. I still see Denmark as most likely winner but not going to bother with such short odds.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, do you have an idea why Bulgaria is drifting? I have just added little more to qualify at evens but I’m concerned about the bagpipe guy since it’s the same crazy one from Amsterdam. Rob seems to like him, what’s your opinion?

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, I would have preferred to see the middle-aged gent from that national final on the bagpipes but I don’t think it makes much difference.

      My guess is that Bulgaria has been drifting and may continue to do so because it’s not what many western ears like to hear. I understand some bloggers were very down on it today, possibly for that reason. It was perfectly polished once we got to the later run-throughs.

  • Is that to win the whole thing or just the semi?

  • Random


    I have no interest in betting, but I would like to share my thoughts with you all on Semi 2!

    Norway and Georgia are safe qualifiers… not top positions, but will still qualify anyway.

    Armenia is trash… definetely won’t qualify. besides, not many neighbours are with them here (Ruling out Azerbaijan here)

    Azerbaijan in my opinion is a contender for top place due to strong vocals and excellent staging. I can also see Malta doing quite well, its an extremely likeable song and easy to follow. Although Azerbaijan and Malta have dreadful singing positions, I think they will both make it (and exchange high points between them)

    Latvia, Hungary and Albania have no chance… terrible songs. Hungary’ s boring, Albania is just noise, and don’ t get me started on Latvia!!

    Romania can surprise us all, but I think that it will crash out like Bulgaria 2009. But, Cezar sings in the last position, which could boost his televote support.

    San Marino have a great song, but I’m not sure about them qualifying due to 0 voting power.

    Bulgaria and Macedonia are also Borderline qualifiers, but despite being disliked by the general public, they can pull it off, especially Bulgaria.

    I think that Finland will either qualify comfortably, or crash out.. Its just what happens to these songs in Eurovision… On a personal level, I would love to see it qualify. Israel is also in the same position, but I can see them qualifying rather than not.

    I personally can’ t stand Greece, its just too stupid and senseless…. Although they have a great qualifying record, I think juries will kick them out.

    Switzerland is too unpredictable, but as things stand, it may just squeak through at 10th place.. they perform well live.

    Iceland will be loved by the juries, so I think their qualifying chances are quite high…

    So, these are my thoughts… What do you all think? Thanks

  • Random 2

    I agree on Greece. It finally happened to Sweden 2010. Turkey (!) 2011. It’s bound to happen to Greece as well. And this would be the year. The song is awful. Juries will lay it.
    Every year passing with Greece maintaining it’s track record will increase the odds that they’re one day gonna fail.

  • Chris Bellis

    I’d just say by the sound of it Bulgaria is nailing it, and the same team got 5th place a few years ago, with an arguably less commercial song. Odds look good to me, and I’ve put my money where my mouth is (not too much though!)

  • I have a risk-free (refunded if I lose) £50 bet from Sportingbet. I am considering three options for it.
    Bulgaria top 10 @ 9.5
    Iceland top 10 @ 13.0
    Germany to win @ 34.0
    Would appreciate what you guys think. 🙂

    • chewy wesker

      Germany 33/1 for the win out of the three you’ve selected. Iceland and Bulgaria I don’t think will reach final, but if they did and one had to get a top ten maybe Iceland would have the edge over Bulgaria. Finland and Estonia I personally think have a better chance of top ten spot, from an outside value perspective. Good luck with it anyway Ben, what ever you decide.

  • john kef

    Hi guys, i see that you all believe in Bulgaria. I come from Greece and you can say that i have an idea of how balkan music looks like and Bulgaria it’s not what you would call balkan or traditional music. It’s trash and kitch and if you believe that the neighbours are going to vote for it, i have to disappoint you but they won’t. It’s difficult for a western ear to understand it but it’s also noise for an eastern ear. i have already bet 50 euros not qualify @ 2.00 and i’m gonna put some more. Greece traditionally gives Bulgaria some good points 6-12 but this year i can’t say that it’s gonna happen. I think that the song has slight chances to get through only if western countries believe that it’s an interesting ethno song and vote for it.

    • DashBerlin

      interesting point of view on Blugaria john, have you liked Bulgarias past Eurovision entries?
      Personally, I feel this is a tough semi and I put it right on the borderline without many clear traditional voting allies

      • john kef

        Yes i ‘ve liked more than half of the Bulgarian entries so far and i believe that especially in 2011 it was unfair for them that didn’t qualify. The problem this year is that we have few good songs that are atleast one level above the others and we have a bunch of 20-25 songs that nobody is gonna remember in 2-3 years time. Statistically speaking, i believe the 10th song in each semi needs at least 35-40 points ( i would say 38-42) to be sure for qualification and i can’t see Bulgaria taking those votes. i believe they gonna get somewhere between 20-30 points max.

    • In 2007 the range of countries that voted for this pairing was interesting. Especially Germany (4 points), France(8) and Spain(10) – their fellow SF’s cut nice too – i think they’ll qualify 7 to 10. 10/11 is fair

      • DashBerlin

        I’m not sure what to think about that 2007 semi, UK gave Bulgaria 6, can’t see that would happen this year, so maybe it speaks more of what else was on offer to vote for as I wouldn’t consider Spain or France particularly likely to vote for Bulgaria for any other reason

      • john kef

        Spain and Germany has a big Bulgarian diaspora. That’s the case. With the new rules it’s getting more difficult for them to get that points

    • Thanks for the in-region comments, john kef! I must confess I don’t really understand Water’s (same artist) success in the region in 2007, though, given your assessment. Can really the same music style go from being hugely popular to being “kitsch” and “trash”, just because the song in question is weaker?

    • eurovicious

      A Greek friend of mine passionately hated OPA! in 2010 because he felt it was kitsch, peddling stereotypes, didn’t represent the country etc. And (West) Germans constantly dismiss schlager and volksmusik as trash, especially in its most commercialised forms, but it’s hugely successful. (Austrians and East Germans are far more open to it.) My point being: young, western-oriented Europeans who speak English and who’ve grown up in societies under the thrall of Anglo-American cultural imperialism often have a strong negative perception of their own country’s traditional music, especially in modernised and commercial forms, because they associated it with lower socioeconomic groups. While Polly Genova is awesome and should have qualified, Na Inat was a Western rock song and thus merely representative of modern Bulgaria’s successful adoption/emulation of Western music.

      I believe what Elitsa and Stoyan do is take folk elements but incorporate them into their own modern style. They aim not to reproduce but to create something new and progressive – they’ve created their own characteric sound. As such, I’m not concerned about perceived authenticity/credibility or how closely their music represents either a) traditional unadulterated Bulgarian folk or b) what people in Bulgaria actually listen to. It’s simply the song, the overall package and the performance that count.

  • Water was far more Bulgarian hardcore than Samo Shampioni is and this years entry is heavy on culture (again) which always goes down well. (The Irish should take heed of that) Not saying Bulgaria are a certainly or anything, but it has a 55% chance of making it imo.

  • john kef

    Water was more authentic and something different. Bulgaria faces a streak of disqualifications and they ‘ve desided to go with what worked for them some years ago, only that the song is less original, lucks enthusiasm and it’s repetitive and boring. It reminds me of Jedward. The first time it was something different with a lot of energy and entusiasm. The second time it was just a mess with the guys running around like crazy doing stuff we have already seen.

  • zoomraker

    Bulgaria is my favorite song, futuristic ethno shamanic space sex pop.

    Sung by an incredibly sexy woman who prances around the stage like a wild pony.

  • hansenus

    Good evening, great article again Daniel.
    Any news in the Klitschko thing?

    Have you seen this video?

    Do you think it is fake? Could Ukraine be preparing a total 2 different shows: one for tv viewers and one for malmo attendants?

    • Daniel

      Hi hansenus, my answer to your two questions:
      1) No news on Klitschko. They were asking the press today if they wanted to meet giant number one, so it would be a little harsh to substitute him now, but you never know.
      2) I think it’s fake. Looks impossible to achieve, and if it’s difficult, you don’t wait to rehearse it.

    • Boki

      That video could be what they wanted to do – kind of concept. There was a statement from SVT that they declined some staging requests like waterfall (Georgia who else) and hologram (could be Ukraine).
      Said that, the directing guy from Ukraine said something about technological tricks that will be used (and never seen on esc etc.) and we didn’t see anything yet. Still a surprise to come?

  • hansenus

    Thanks a lot Daniel. Have fun tomorrow. I guess you will be able to be in the stage for the first time.
    I planned to go to Malmo also to watch first semifinal and jury final of semifinal 2. Had the tickets for the shows already indeed.
    But finally found out a problem of Schengen visa for my girlfriend because of the 90 in 180 days rule. So well… i decided to skip it.
    Pitty… GL!

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