May 4, 2017 Rehearsal Recap

Good evening, chickies, it’s Semifinal time! We have now seen two rounds of rehearsals for almost everyone competing in Tuesday’s first Semi.

Here are your Eurovision words for the day:

  • Diaphanous
  • Lumbering behemoth of ego
  • And the color: white

Sweden opens the show. As expected, Robin has preserved his Melodifestivalen staging, except the dancers are now mic’d and providing the backing vocal. The sound and set is not quite as slick as the Swedish national staging, but it’s fine and has allowed Robin to remain largely free of unwanted fan attention during rehearsals. We just wish he didn’t look so freaking vacant.

Georgia has opted for a red and black staging. Tamara begins her performance in a see-through red cape, which she ditches as the song builds. It’s a simple staging that relies heavily on Tamara’s big vocal. We have been indifferent to “Keep the Faith” thus far, but we can see this qualifying if Tamara can deliver on the night. Side note: we neglected to mention in our original review of “Keep the Faith” that Anri Jokhadze co-wrote it. It’s always nice to have Anri around Eurovision.

As good a track record as Australia has with their songs, they really are terrible at staging. Isaiah’s concept focuses on him, with massive sensitive Isaiah images on the video screen. Unfortunately you’ll be seeing a lot of that sort of thing this year. It turns out that enormous faces on projection screens are this year’s mullet dress. Anyhow, Isaiah is standing on this plinth that moves kind of like a flat circular treadmill, so he can walk in place. His Semifinal draw is bad luck in this respect, as Sweden’s staging uses treadmills to much better effect. Oh, and they throw in that au courant 2011 innovation, the pyro curtain. Australia’s stock has fallen.

In the belt-fest that is Semifinal One, Albania distinguishes itself from Georgia because Lindita’s see-though cape is white, not red. The backdrop echoes her steampunk-inspired music video. It’s just… a lot. Albania is more vulnerable to pitchiness than Georgia, which is not great news for them.

Poor Belgium. Despite all the adoration from fans (which we never shared, and we’re kind of smug about that), “City Lights” was always going to be a challenge to stage. What is panning out is pretty much worst-case scenario. Blanche has taken a beating from the fans during rehearsals. She’s not been finding the camera and her vocals haven’t been good enough. Folks on the ground have been reporting that her confidence is low. And the staging has lost all the charm of the admittedly cool music video with the big glow ball. Qualification is by no means assured for what was many thought would be a top five finisher.

Montenegro. Montenegro. Whoo boy, where to begin? Disco entries often struggle, and we see no evidence that this will disrupt the trend. Slavko is pitchy, and for the life of us, we don’t understand why he insisted on hiding his backing singers. Wouldn’t you want to have as many people on stage as possible to ramp up the party atmosphere? Maybe he’s afraid he’ll take someone’s eye out when he whips his ponytail around.

Finland has preserved their staging from UMK. Since the national finals “Blackbird” has largely flown under the radar with fans. In part that’s because the song is a downer. But what folks don’t know (or have forgotten) is that this song is better live than on the recording. It’s professional, lovely, and emotional. Mark our words, it will be rewarded.

Bless Azerbaijan, always going high concept. Dihaj is enclosed in a chalkboard room, and she writes on the walls. When her backing singers appear, she writes on their backs. Azerbaijan has thoughtfully supplied us with choreography you can do at home. Dihaj is in great voice. To wit, we can’t understand most of what she’s saying, but we don’t care. There’s also the small detail of the dude on a ladder wearing the horse’s head. We got a live one, folks!

Portugal has given their staging a little oomph for Eurovision without losing their song’s intimacy. We haven’t seen Salvador in rehearsals due to health issues that are keeping him from Kyiv until the dress rehearsal. His sister, who wrote the song, has been pinch-hitting for now. It all looks lovely and promising, and we have high hopes.

Greece is the anti-Australia. There’s a lot of razzle dazzle that tries to distract us from the mediocrity of the song. Shirtless dancers, rising plinth, holographic underwater effects. None of it helps Demy find her high notes though.

Poland has gone for a rudimentary staging, which is appropriate given the rudimentary song craft. Kasha is wearing a white dress with a lot of see through material (surprise surprise). There’s a violinist on stage and there is liberal use of the wind machine. Kasha sounds fine, but the song is just a snoozer, with the worst, most cliché rhymes out there. Still, whenever anyone from Poland is in good voice, ignore them at your peril.

Moldova is giving the good people of Eurovision what they want: a catchy tune, playful dance-along choreography, and epic sax. Sunstroke Project knows exactly who they are and what they’re good at. It helps that they look like they are having the time of their lives up there. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Sign us up for more!

Hey look, another white cape! At least Iceland’s cape is conceptually justified. When it is under lit, it looks like paper. We get it. Svala is a seasoned performer and looking fab in white with a plunging neckline. And she has a moment at the end with lasers. We just wish the song was better.

Czech Republic—blessed with a jury-friendly song and prime placement in the first Semi—was one we had earmarked as a potential surprise qualifier. Yeah. Not gonna happen. The backdrop echoes the lovely music video, which under other circumstances might have worked. Unfortunately, the Czech delegation has done nothing else to help themselves. Martina is decked out in an unflattering gold lame pantsuit that wears her more than she wears it. Worse, it detracts from the minimalist Dove-Real Beauty concept that made the music video work (and, again, is being broadcast behind her). The final nail in the coffin: Martina starts off the song seated, sapping energy from what was already a low-energy ballad.

Cyprus is attempting the most difficult choreography in this Semi, simulating the heaviness of gravity. It requires core strength and balance. Hovig and his dancers have had some challenges with the movement, but they been using their rehearsal time to master it. The performance is coming along, and we think will play nicely on the night.

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