Impressions from the 1st Semifinal Rehearsals, Part II

May 2.

Malta. Glen sounds good, at least Malta has that going for them. I hope he wears something other than black on the night, because right now he’s getting lost. There are a lot of triangles in the LED background, and it does him no favors. The song is dated anyway, and the backdrop just makes it seem like an unintentional throwback to Eurovision circa 1998. I appreciate that his backup singers are carrying on Moldovan sax guy’s white Ray-Ban tradition.

San Marino. They’ve opted for straightforward staging, placing Senit front and center. Traditional, stage-style lighting and lots of dry ice. The guitarists seem out of place until she interacts with them in the bridge. Sharing the stage is a nice touch–a lot of divas in her place wouldn’t do that. Senit is a polished singer and can carry off the performance, but I still don’t think the song is strong enough to stand out in a crowd.

Croatia. Oh no. No no no no no no. They’ve kept the cheap-looking DJ prop from the NF, but worse, there’s nothing on the record player and they can’t seem to keep the DJ behind the turntable. No, he has to keep moving downstage to help Daria with costume changes, and it’s as uncomfortable as can be. There’s no choreography to speak of, and the additional 4 backup singers onstage can’t seem to hide the fact that Daria is pitchy. The package comes across as stupid, not funny. FAIL.

Iceland. Nice use of available LED and stage lighting. The gears in the background transport us to the early 1900s, which is appropriate for the song but upon further reflection maybe not such a smart move as it underscores how old-fashioned the song is. The harmonies sound muddy, but hopefully that’s something can be ironed out with better levels and more off-camera rehearsal.

Hungary. Looks like folks’ concerns about the difficulty of the song and Kati’s ability to sing it live are well-founded. The team’s energy level is low and she’s trying to be careful with the vocal. That’s okay at this point, but being unable to hit the octave jumps is not okay. I like Kati’s ice blue dress, but the costumes on the dancers and backup singers are terrible. There’s nothing in the staging to suggest that they’re doing anything to highlight the language change, so it’s just hanging out there. In fact, the staging brings pretty much nothing new to the song. Hmmm…

Portugal. Basically, they kept the same, very appropriate, staging from the NF. Another good use of backdrop with the colors of the Portuguese flag and abstract images that could be newsprint, human silhouettes, and/or flowers. Vocals hardly matter here. It’s all about the sound of the masses, and the masses aren’t in tune. They’ve done as a good job as is possible.

Lithuania. The new dress is a good move, but Evelina needs some Spanx if she wants to carry it off. Simple starscape background a la Chiara 2009. Unfortunately, the song is very cabaret, and the guy onstage playing grand piano isn’t helping to change that impression. If she really wants to use sign language, please just put an interpreter on stage.

Azerbaijan.  The Azeris know what they are doing, and this one is coming together nicely. The team is using the stage well, Eldar and Nigar have the necessary chemistry.  The backup singers are doing the heavy lifting for Nigar, which is a clear effort to minimize her weaknesses as a singer.  However, no amount of effort can hide the fact that Eldar is a more talented performer and more believable in this song.

Greece.  B-boys, a mix of street and traditional dance, Ionic columns, and visual depiction of the fumes inhaled by the Oracle at Delphi.   They really have done a fantastic job at showcasing Greek tradition while maximizing the drama of the song.  In this Semifinal, this is by far the best transformation since the national finals. Excellent job, boys.

So overall, where does that leave us?   Today’s impressions alter the playing field more than what we saw yesterday.  Greece comes up big, so does Azerbaijan.  I now think Greece is a qualifier, and Azerbaijan Top 10.  Croatia is in big trouble, maybe Iceland too. Hungary will may still get through on the strength of their song, maybe, but Top 5 now looks out of reach. Portugal is effective enough to rally the “vote for the worst” vote unless all the camp votes go to Armenia, who performs earlier in the evening.