A Look at the First Rehearsals of the First Semi, Part One

Watching the rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest is sort of like peeking at the Christmas presents your parents have stashed in their closet. Fortunately, the official Eurovision YouTube channel itself features the rehearsal videos, making it the cool step dad who gives you your Christmas presents early.

My first impression of the set in Baku is favorable. The backdrop screens look pretty cool, with angular shapes that hearken to the architecture of the Crystal Hall. The edge of the stage is also lit with LED screens, although it’s hard to get a sense of how that’s going to look from the rehearsal videos I’ve seen so far.

It’s also hard to get a good sense of “Euro Neuro” since it looks like Rambo Amadeus and his crew were having issues with their sound and their props. He looked kind of peeved throughout. As far as the staging, the Trojan horse and the banners play up the political nature of the song, but it all looks kind of cheap. We’ll see what kind of impact it has when they nail down their performance, but I’m not thinking it’s going to add up to much in the end.

The staging for Greta and Jónsi resembles the video, with ice-covered mountains on the screens. It’s all very dramatic, but strangely enough, it sort of reminds me of a melodramatic version of Euroband’s “This Is My Life.” Oh, and who is that I see as a back-up singer for Iceland? Why, Pétur Örn Guðmundsson, of course! I am going to be so psyched when he actually gets the chance to represent Iceland.

I do not understand the staging of Anmary’s “Beautiful Song.” The backdrop images are bright and colorful, but don’t exactly play up the “I’m gonna be famous” lyrics. The back-up singers sort of meander around, which I guess is sort of reminiscent of the official video, but it sort of feels like movement to give the impression of energy. Anmary sounds great, though, so the song has that going for it.

Remember how we say Greece always seems to pull it off come the big show? Well, having just watched Eleftheria Eleftheriou’s “Aphrodisiac” rehearsal, let’s just say Greece almost always pulls it off. The choreography is spastic and manic, which I guess makes sense since the lyrics have the word “maniac” in them. This is a train wreck in the making, especially if Eleftheria doesn’t stay in tune. I really, genuinely believe that Greece is not going to make it out of the Semis.

The opening lighting for Rona Nishlui’s “Suus” is lovely and effective. The stark staging is appropriate for the song, although the headband of balls is less so. It’s very powerful and professional, which only makes Eleftheria look even more amateurish. However, I think the jury is still out that Rona can land the big notes. She sells it well, but a few off notes could spell disaster.

Mandinga follows that up with “Zaleilah.” The Eurovision footage featured a lot of photos and backstage footage, so I switched over to ESC Daily’s footage to get a better idea. The staging is reminiscent of the Romanian national final, only with lots of bright, fun graphics on the backdrop screens. I get the impression that Mandinga are saving a little bit of energy and are just working on the blocking right now.

Sinplus go for a regular old rock concert staging for “Unbreakable,” which is unremarkable. Like Mandinga, Sinplus are holding back a bit and just getting a feel for the stage. (Here’s the ESC Daily video.)

Back to amateur hour with Iris and “Would You.” They replaced the twee with trees. And tapioca bubbles.

More backstage footage crammed into the video for Pernilla’s “När Jag Blundar,” but the only exciting part of her rehearsal is she is apparently going to have a really long train that will flutter in the wind from the wind machine. It all looks very lovely, just like the song, but I’m not expecting it to have much of an impact. Jen’s theory is that an older, more female demographic watches the First Semi, which would help Pernilla a great deal (and hurt Trackshittaz, for that matter). This will be a good test of that theory.