This is the last day at the Slagthuset venue at Malmö Central. Tomorrow we move to a building next door to the arena, which does shorten the commute by about 10 minutes. That’s welcome news after today’s white-knuckle return journey across the Øresund Bridge.
These Øresund trains are impressive kit, especially when they hit their 180km top speed passing over the picturesque Øresund straight. Nevertheless, Daniel Gould and I were far from appreciative of the passing scenery today as the evidently faulty carrage began bouncing up and down as it hurtled towards Denmark.
Gavin: “It’s not meant to do that, is it?”
Daniel: *Worried face*
Gavin: “Can you swim?”
Daniel: “Yes, but I’d rather it didn’t come to that.”
Eventually the driver reassessed his hast to reach Copenhagen and thankfully backed off the gas. Do the Øresund trains come with lifejackets?
Anyway, onto today’s musical events…
Greece’s Alcohol is Free didn’t bring the rush to the bar we all expected, although it was hardly surprising considering it was 10am in Malmö. If by some miracle Eurovision was being held in the UK, I’m sure the bar would’ve been drunk dry by 10:05.
As Alcohol is Free begins, the Koza Mostra boys surround Agathon Iakovidis, making a series of slow motion moves to a shimmering grey backdrop. As the intro ends, the stage bursts into life and the impressive lead singer, Ilias Kozas dominates many of the camera shots during what is a lively and thoroughly engaging presentation.
The guys do attempt a satellite stage excursion and it’s this feature I have a problem with, as it spits the group and isolates Agathon. During later performances, the camera angles seem to lessen the impact of the satellite stage expedition.
There are some neat touches that include the band’s instruments glowing during the bridge. At the end of the song, Agathon finishes the song by coolly saying, “Yamas,” which is Greek for good health.
The Greek entry is still a work in progress, though today’s effort was encouraging.
Israel’s Moran Mazor picks up the baton and resumes the ceaseless stream of female ballad entries. There is a tendency to write Israel off given their guttural language and apparent unpopularity in certain European states. However, Mazor hits the spot straight out of the blocks.
Unfortunately, Mazor retains the unflattering black dress that appears rather unforgiving on the various sweeping camera angles.
It has been said many times on this site that Rak Bishvilo is the female version of Milim, and the staging follows the same path: dark blue with dramatic white beams to stress the big moments.
Mazor is ably assisted by two backing singers and a pianist. The whole ensemble exudes far more class and sophistication than Iceland. Plus, even though Mazor only delivers one big note, it’s a highly effective note when compared to Eyphor’s vocal gymnastics yesterday.
It’s turning out to be a straight fight between Mazor and Eyphor. With a gun to my head, I would tend to favour Israel, though with little value in the market, I’m more inclined to wait for in-play action.
At the Armenian national final, Gor Sujyan lacked stage craft and looked destined to fail in Malmö.
There is very little that can be added to the insipid, pedestrian Lonely Planet, but one positive to extract from today’s rehearsal was Gor’s new found confidence in front of the camera. He makes some convincing gestures and conveys genuine passion for the song. That said his Dorians band mates are either manic depressives or suffering jetlag.
To my ears, Lonely Planet sounds like a charity hit, and with Gor’s passing resemblance to the late King of Pop, it’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s nauseating We are the World.
The stage is equally unimaginative. However, during the final rehearsal, the performance is given some vitamins. Unfortunately, the addition of spark fountains and fire jets does’t seem to follow the song’s narrative. Imagine how out of place it would appear if the Dorians lead guitarist were to smash his instrument against one of the amps – the pyros were about as relevant!
One has to reflect that this is Armenia. In 2011, Emmy failed to qualify by just a single point with a less jury-friendly song. So as much as it pains me to suggest it, Armenia’s name should be in one of the 10 envelopes next week.
Hungary’s ByeAlex brings a touch of Andrius Pojarvis to this semi-final. We were expecting big things from this underground fan favourite, but Alex Marta, accompanied by a guitarist and a female backing singer really fails to deliver in every conceivable way.
Their non-existent presentation techniques are a stark contrast to the vibrant stage graphics behind them, and at one point, Alex even checks his watch. I’m not making this up! In another recital, Alex even finds time for a mid-song tête-à-tête with the guitarist.
Kedvesem is a difficult three minutes for non-Hungarian speakers, so the lack of energy and charisma makes it worse. It’s as if the trio are performing at a wake!
As if things couldn’t get worse, the escXtra team commenced a group clap to inject some life into the press centre tedium.
To stay on top of events in Malmo, one has to write their thoughts up during the four recitals or face a busy evening back at the hotel.
I spent the entire 30 minutes gripped to watching the four recitals of Norway and discussing the performances with others around me.
Norway was effectively a carbon copy of the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix final. The dress, the vocals, the staging and Margaret’s alluring camera gestures were all the same.
After the first performance, the press centre quickly divided into two camps: those critical and those full of praise. I have to admit to being split down the middle, as the first performance was a tad rusty to my ears. By the final recital, I Feed You my Love was arguably more impressive than during the Norwegian final.
It’s a bit nip-and-tuck with Georgia, but the 3.25 on Norway to win semi-final 2 was a real steal for those who managed to jump on today!
Albania’s Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko brought raw, rock energy to the stage. During the first run through, Bledar falls silent during the open verse, but delivers thereafter and vocally, the presentation is a vast improvement on their Festivali i Këngës performance.
The stage is a bright mix of red, orange and yellow with much the same presentation as their national final. The timpani drums are effective and well placed at the centre of the stage. Yet, it is Bledar’s guitar solo that steals the show; possibly resulting in support from the likes of Finland’s metal-heads.
During the final rehearsal the show opens with dry ice, fire canons and air jets. On the build-up to each chorus, the angled Gylenhammar fire canons are also deployed. As if that wasn’t’ enough to cement Bledar’s rock-god status, a shower of sparks is emitted from the end of his guitar during his dazzling solo.
Sophie and Nodi delivered a fine first rehearsal for Georgia. The presentation was identical to that seen by a lucky few in a YouTube video that was quickly removed last month.
Nodi is in a black suit and in my opinion, he looks far too dark against the black/deep blue backdrop in comparison to Sophie’s long, brilliant white dress.
During the final run-through, the stage was coated in dry ice and air jets and fire canons were deployed for the big money-shot moment, at which point the much anticipated golden shower of sparks kicked into life to help prolong the Georgian climax.
Performing with a strange, oxidised steal backdrop, Switzerland’s Takasa did not exude the confidence or deliver the polished performance we expected. You & Me was delivered in a rather amateur fashion and they look more like a group of band geeks at a church fete than Eurovision artists. Incidentally, the lady on the bass drum does look remarkably like Hazel the McWitch from the 70s/80s TV show, Rentaghost.
The vocals were pretty dreadful too and their Salvation Army USP has been snatched away by the EBU. Their other USP, the 95 year old double bass player, appears far too decrepit to make a significant contribution. So what’s left? An early flight back to Zurich sounds about accurate.
With Norway and Georgia out of the way, Romania was the only act keeping us at the press centre.
Cezar, with his extravagant black sequinned outfit seems to be parodying Ming the Merciless or Rona Nishlu depending on how you view it. If there was a world record for large shoulder pads and collars, Cezar must have just claimed it. His outfit could be the haut couture of deepest, darkest Transylvania, but on the Eurovision stage, it pushed It’s my Life ever closer to the novelty genre tag.
The stage is deep red and the magical Cezar is surrounded by red pendants. There is also a large red sheet that spreads over the stage and dancers soon emerge from beneath, seemingly under his Dracula-like mind control.
As the performance continues, Cezar raises Wicked-style in the same manner as Moldova’s Aliona moon. During this time, the dancers manipulate the sheet to raise a female dancer close enough for Cezar to touch.
From an artistic angle Romania’s presentation is brilliantly unique and creative. However, from a TV viewer’s perspective, it’s potentially horrifying and a little creepy.
Romania are not as highly represented as one might think and under the new voting rules, this Marmite entry could very well be punished.
What are you thoughts on the day’s events?