After an early start, we finally reached the end of a marathon first day of Eurovision rehearsals. A lot can be said for timekeeping and organisation – Baku failed on both accounts this morning when the start of the rehearsals clashed with a cycle race in the city. Nevertheless, we forgive the organisers after an early splattering of promise.
First off was Rambo Amadeus and as we had all hoped, he was accompanied by a donkey, albeit a wooden one; suitably named his Trojan donkey. We expected little and we certainly got what we anticipated – a 45-minute warm up act ready for Iceland.
After their selection, there were a few changes and features I hoped they would include to maximise their impact on the Eurovision audience. Firstly, I wanted Greta & Jonsi to perform their song in English. Done! Secondly, I felt the stage design should capture the essence of Iceland with dramatic lighting and visuals in cool blue/white. Done! Lastly, their bearded fella had to go or get a shave. Done! My fee will be in the post soon! Having undergone a slight metamorphosis, Iceland have emerged as a serious contender for a placed finish and nailed on top-10 challenger. Unbelievably, Boylesport are still offering evens for a top-10 finish!
Today’s disappointment was Greece’s less than convincing performance. The vocals of Eleftheria Eleftheriou were passable, but far from perfect. This was compounded further with what seemed to be a lack of direction in the choreography department and the addition of the ever controversial ‘secret singer’ ploy. Moreover, the stage graphics didn’t possess the precision and belonging of Romania’s performance.
Latvia was a surprise package. Brilliantly performed, but as we’ve always known, 15 years out-of-date. Latvia are desperately short of friends, so the odds are stacked against Anmary being awarded a place in the final.
Albania is the marmite entry of semi-final 1 – you either love it, or you hate it. People were given voices to make beautiful sounds. Rona spends one minute defying that philosophy, making noises consistent with King Herod’s Biblical slaughter of baby boys. Pain is etched all over her face, which is hardly the typical ‘flirting with the camera’ technique we’ve all come to expect. Juries will certainly appreciate it, but to what extent?
Romania were the only other hotly anticipated act of the day. Zaleilah leads the YouTube hit count and their infectious summer hit continues to attract attention. Their tried and tested presentation remains and whilst some question the freshness of the routine, no one can deny the popularity this song will continue to draw. The stage visuals are straight from the Jedward book of ‘how to blow your opponents away.’ One wonders what Jedward will have up their sleeves tomorrow.
Switzerland have never been my favourite act. I struggled to cope with their lead singer’s pronunciation, whilst also feeling that the song failed to match even the poorest of Killer’s B-sides. I have been proved wrong and I have absolutely no problem with that. Brothers Gabriel and Ivan probably overwork the stage, and at times, seem a tad cliché and naive in their gesturing. Nevertheless, we have witnessed a monumental improvement in Unbreakable to the point where qualification is a possibility. One could even go as far as predicting some jury support!
Belgium is all soft and warm like a thousand fluffy bunnies. The pink/purple hues to the stage draw comparisons to Portugal’s ballad in 2010, which was equally warm and fluffy – but with a few more belly tickles. Shoot me somebody! So, erm, yes, I was impressed with Belgium. Iris is just 17 and that youthful insecurity is portrayed in her performance. Girls do not normally vote for other girls, but Iris’ thought provoking song will remind viewers of their first dance, kiss or fluffy pussy. Ahem!
It is shaping up as a Belgium verses Finland tussle prior to the half time whistle. Finland, billed as the purist’s entry appeared to disappoint. After watching När jag blunder, I would be hard pushed to pinpoint a magical moment or identify with any aspect of the song. The purist’s will devotedly salute own-language performances and rave about the inclusion of a cellist. What matters in these circumstances is a strong visual appeal and the delightfully termed ‘money-shot.’ Pernilla’s performance fails to deliver either of these necessities.
Don’t forget, there are still a further nine songs in this semi-final to come.
We’ll have another live blog and chat room open again tomorrow from 6:30am GMT.