Impressions from the 2nd Semifinal Rehearsals, Part I

May 3.

Bosnia & Herzegovina. At this point it looks like they’re in fine tuning mode. The staging is unchanged from their run on the talk show circuit, the lead and backup vocals are a well-oiled machine, and the blocking is set. Both Dino and the horn player have dialed down the crazy, but maybe a little too much now? The performance feels static through the first verse and only kicks into gear when Dino takes the mike off the stand. The red curtain backdrop is simple but effective. This is working for me.

Austria. A lot of the lighting scheme is similar to Lithuania, except for the diamonds. Not sure how being showered in gemstones relates to soldiers making the light shine through… except it’s Eurovision and, after all, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Nadine’s little black dress is flattering, but with the dark background and her signature bob, all we wind up seeing is her face and neck. The gospel harmonies are working nicely, and Nadine can belt. I think this is going to soar, I just hope that the awful draw isn’t her undoing.

The Netherlands. It’s the first rehearsal, I’m going to keep reminding myself of that. 3JS is bringing a straightforward concert staging, not doing much at all with the background. In the early impressions, they looked a bit lost in that big venue. Lead singer Jan Dulles sounded pretty bad in this rehearsal, and the backing singers weren’t good either. I hope Team Netherlands works it out — this song deserves better.

Belgium. They’re going for a live version of their video. That works as far as using choreography and camerawork to showcase 6 very talented singers in perfect harmony. Vocally, their biggest challenge is listening to the monitors and dialing down the backup harmonies with each new soloist. The baritone and soprano, in particular, are lost when it is their turn on lead vocal. However, my main criticism is the lighting. The lighting support does nothing to complement the excellent vocal transitions they’ve got going in the song (such as the Matrix key change moment–you could do so much more with that with good lighting).  I’m not feeling RoxorLoop’s yellow shirt and bow tie.

Slovakia. Ugh, train wreck. The backing singers are out of tune but I’m not putting all this on the backing singers, the TWiiNS are out of tune too. <rant> HOW HARD IS IT TO SING 3 NOTES OVER AND OVER AGAIN?!?  After following the likes of Belgium it’s simply embarrassing when an act cannot sing 3 notes.  Yes, it is harder than it sounds, because as a vocalist you get bored. But you know what? I’m bored too.  Every vocalist at this level should be able to sing a repetitive song and make it sound fresh and interesting.  No excuses. </rant> Chrysanthemums in the backdrop–if only they had included Slovak hockey players at least that would have been something to latch onto. You need to be more than just a pretty face in this game.

Ukraine. After Slovakia, the door should be open for the Ukraine. And I give them points for going back to the drawing board to reimagine the concept and think carefully about the images they want to use in their presentation. The sand artist is amazing. It’s going to play beautifully in the arena, and I hope the camerawork is able to show to the folks at home what she’s doing without distracting from the song. Mika’s in good voice too.

Moldova. After a lot of heaviness and mediocrity, Moldova’s colorful staging and high energy performance feels like a breath of fresh air. They’re wacky, but Zdub si Zdub knows how to create memorable images. The Fang den Hut hats, the girl on a unicycle, the dolls on the LED, it’s all very creative and surprisingly effective. I really enjoy this.

Sweden. This one is obviously of great interest to us and a lot of folks. Team Sweden had to scale down the dancers from MF in order to include backing vocalists and meet the 6 person onstage limit. Eric has kept 3 dancers and added 2 female vocalists that double as stagehands when needed. The choreography and staging is largely unchanged and holds up fine. The backing vocals do suffer from the limited headcount, they’re thin. In this early rehearsal, Eric was saving his voice in the chorus, but I wonder if they wanted to get a read on the backing vocalists. If it was me, I would seriously consider taking away one of the dancers and adding a singer. Also, there is a lot of strobe light going on here — too much in my opinion. Otherwise, Eric retains his considerable charisma. He wasn’t in great voice here, but I’m fairly confident he will be able to carry the song when it matters.

Cyprus. This is a great example of how a simple, well-edited concept can really shine at Eurovision. The best integration of LED and stage presentation we have seen so far. A much better use of the zero-gravity boots that Sakis used in 2009. Christos is a confident singer and team Cyprus is successfully capturing the intensity of the recorded track. Whatever happens, this is a great achievement and they should feel very proud of their work. Bravo.

What changes? On the way up, once I understood what was going on with the sand artist, I was blown away by Ukraine. Likely qualifier. And whenever I watch these in sequence, Moldova is a question mark for me. With this staging, that question mark has grown really, really big. Moldova has a good history of qualifying, and their placement in this semi-final is going to wonders for goodwill. It could be “Hora do Moldova” all over again. Thumbs up for Cyprus as well–I put them on the qualifying bubble now. On the way down, my distant hopes for Netherlands are just about gone at this point. Otherwise, no news. Bosnia is still very much in the hunt. Austria has done just about all they can and maybe it’s enough. Belgium and Slovakia won’t make the cut. Sweden is still tinkering, no need to panic at this point.