The Eurovision rehearsal season kicked off with military precision today: a far cry from last year’s delayed start in Baku.
We were all based at the cavernous Slagthuset venue just a stone’s throw away from Malmö central station. Unfortunately, the organisers didn’t think to locate any screens in the main hall, so 100-plus members of the accredited press had to cram into a dingy cinema and battle for the available power sockets.
With four of the highly favoured entries on show, who would leave the day happiest?
Austria’s Natalia Kelly was the day’s first victim and the 18 year old looked distinctly uneasy during the first performance of Shine, where she was joined on stage by five backing singers, each of whom were obscured by a line of glowing pendants. These eventually raise before the bridge, at which point the backing singers move forward to join Natalia.
Vocally, Natalia Kelly was acceptable, but she lacked the star quality to convince me of her qualification capabilities. She did miss the big note during the first recital, but nailed it during the subsequent performances once she’d loosened up. It was at this point that Natalia’s smiles and subtle gestures became more natural. Nevertheless, Austria appeared somewhat flat on screen where obvious opportunities have been squandered to emphasise the Shine moments within the stage lighting.
Natalia’s inexperience may be charming at national-final level, but on the Eurovision stage it all works to convince me of Austria’s impending doom. The vultures are definitely circling!
Estonia starts in classy monochrome, which eventually transforms into full colour as soon as the main arrangement builds. Birgit wears a long white flowing dress concealing her recently announced baby-bump. Though, during the first performance, the baby very nearly gets a bump of its own with Birgit almost taking a tumble.
Birgit’s performs Et Uus Saaks Alguse from the satellite stage with three male backing singers complementing her vocals from the main stage.
The first two rehearsals were visually flat, but by the third run through, the long camera shots were vastly improved. The main improvement came just before the big note where Birgit raises her arm; the camera now delicately tracks and zooms in to effectively mimic the gesture – thus producing the perfect money-shot.
The Estonian delegation sampled a number of backdrops featuring kaleidoscopic patterns, but it was the final configuration where they appeared the most effective. This can be seen on the official rehearsal video.
Compared to Austria, Estonia is in a different league and presents a real dilemma in terms of qualification. The markets appear to be undecided, whereas with Austria, they were quickly backed into evens for the non-qualification (thanks to Rob and I).
Slovenia’s Hannah Mancini, joined by three dancers, brought a much needed lift to the morning with the first up-tempo number of the day.
The first performance was quite frankly disappointing, but Hannah’s vocal chords soon warmed up. Hopefully she doesn’t require that level of practice when it comes to the jury rehearsal.
It may appear that Hannah is going solo; however, I was reliably informed of two secret singers deployed to assist her during some of the trickier elements of the choreography. The American is more than capable of belting out the big notes, but as we’ve learnt over the years with these upbeat songs, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The choreography is reminiscent of David Lindgren’s 2013 Melodifestivalen performance, with an impressive display of armography to open the song. With shiva-esque interludes, the routine continued to impress and by the time the final run through arrived, the camerawork was capturing the energetic, street-dance essence to far greater effect. Clearly impressed, the technical host awarded Hannah ‘douze point’ for navigating the stage in her tall stilettos.
Straight into Love is an entry I don’t recommend getting involved with at this point. It’s far too borderline, yet it displays plenty of promise going into the second round of rehearsals.
Croatia’s answer to Il Divo took to the stage before lunch and proceeded to set the standard while singing in front of an idyllic starry constellation with aurora borealis cloud effects.
The six members of Klapa S Mora were all presented in traditional dress and not only looked the part, they sounded the part. Having highlighted their potential during our first podcast, why oh why were they still so underrated in the markets?
Mizerja has a thoroughly authentic and charming sound. What’s not to like? Not only will this genre compete strongly for Balkan votes, the patriotic overtones might stir one or two Bloc nations into awarding a respectable points haul.
Denmark’s Only Teardrops was a facsimile of the Danish Melodi Grand Prix performance, which somewhat nullified the impact of Emmelie’s flawless performance. One could also suggest that the choreography seemed rather mechanical and hollow. There was arguably an underwhelming feeling among those honest enough to admit it!
Throughout the entire rehearsal slot, Emmelie seemed confused by which camera to look at. One might have assumed they’d follow the same camera plan used at DMGP. For what have should been a routine undertaking, they certainly made a right hash of it.
The only time Denmark remotely lived up to its market-leader status was during the final recital when the pyrotechnics were introduced. During the key change, ticker-tape was released over the stage and fan standing area. This was complemented by a highly effective sparks shower, which lifted my growing pessimism.
Denmark didn’t feel like a winner today, though it’s sure to perform extremely well!
Dina wouldn’t be the first Russian female found to be hiding a set of balls, but in this case, Garipova is surrounded on stage by large glowing balloons.
During the early part of the Russian slot, Dina looked exceedingly nervous with her hands visibly shaking. She soon settled down for the second attempt and gave us more mature, assured recital.
Dina is assisted by four backing singers and they really do complement the ensemble. The two males are holding a pair of balls throughout the performance, but in what could be seen as the most inappropriate staging ever, the balls are offered up for Dina to fondle. After which, they are unceremoniously ditched into the crowd. During the recitals, one of the balls is dropped, which brought howls of laughter and a succession of innuendos.
Dina was wearing an old-fashioned beige dress, which unfortunately blended into the effective background of glowing orbs. I would be happier so see a much stronger contrast, but the other dress they displayed for the cameras was a dreary grey. I guess that’ll have to do!
There are old-fashioned overtones to What If and it’s dangerous to assume universal support in a highly contested female-ballad market. It is a Western leaning composition, but is it assessable or memorable enough? Either way, it’s sure the rank highly on the jury tally and with Russia’s tight grip on the televote, a very high finish is on the cards.
Where Russia was simple and effortless, Ukraine was overproduced, and overall, a disappointment of giant proportions.
Zlata was expected to journey through a mystical forest in what was billed as a fairytale presentation. After one false start and four run-throughs, the Ukrainian fairytale has fast become a horrific nightmare.
The Ukraine is addicted to gimmicks. Like a nicotine urge, the addiction is only satisfied once a sufficient number of bells and whistles have been attached to the song.
Zlata is brought to the stage in the heavy arms of the 2.4 metre giant, Igor Vovkovinskiy and clumsily plonked onto a stone podium. In all of the rehearsals, the colossal giant failed to land his feet in time with the pre-recorded boom sound-effects. What’s more, once he’d dispatched Zlata onto the platform, her hair was left covering her face – not an attractive look for our fairytale princess.
That aside, the whole package looked desperate and amateurish like it had been choreographed for a high school production. It’s a great shame, as Zlata’s powerful vocal is undermined by farcical theatrics.
Rob from entertainmentodds.com suggested this is what the term car crash is reserved for. I added that train wreck was a more suitable analogy, as there are usually more casualties!
There is much improvement required from the Ukrainian delegation to land Gravity anywhere near the top-10 positions!
Anouk did exactly what she told everyone she would do. The Netherlands representative just stood on the spot and belted out her song. No gimmicks. No frills. Just silky smooth, note perfect vocals that will attract a huge points total from the juries.
The staging could be bit too simple for the majority of TV viewers, especially considering the Netherland’s traditional lack of support. I understand and applaud the simplicity, but it concerns me that the Netherlands could be taking things a little too easy!
Who were your winners and losers today? Don’t forget, you can keep track of the day’s events by viewing our live blog and chat room.