Always a keen tourist, I covered about half a mile with Rob from EntertainmentOdds yesterday evening looking for the nearest Subway. “It’s just down here,” said Rob. Trusting as ever – and eager for a decent sandwich after our ‘salad and protein’ buffet – we plodded from one end of the mall to the other. Considering sending out a distress signal, Rob asked a local using his best arm gestures while repeating Subway at varying volumes.
Thankfully we found Subway on the bottom floor way before the search party were dispatched. Spicy Italian here I come.
Gabriela Gunčíková, or Gabriela Phwoarčíková as she is known in some quarters, was up first today. Wearing the previously reported white dress, Gabriela is centre stage with purple/pink geometric patterns behind her. It’s a nice effect, but appears rather overpowering and negates the intimacy I Stand demands. During the climax the staging transitions to the floral effects seen in the official video. Gabriela then unclips her hair for the full on Disney Princess wind machine finale. There were significant improvements for the Czech Republic with each of the three run throughs, but in my opinion, the staging needs more white-light impact during the big moments.
“Finally some rock,” cheered Jon Ola Sand from the arena. Minus One are in cages which looks a direct rip from Outtrigger’s Melfest 2014 staging, albeit minus the Hannibal Lecter mask. The cages were quite off putting at first, but by the final run through the lighting and camera angles started to work. The big talking point will no doubt be the pre-recorded wolf footage interspersed throughout Cyprus‘ song. I’m surprised it hasn’t been used before, but barring a few tweaks, Alter Ego could look very polished come next week’s semi-final. Francois Micheletto could do with some war paint to focus more attention on his eyes.
Austria looks like a like a group of small children had dined out on blue Smarties and host of other E-number-laden treats and projectile vomited all over the stage. It’s a 3-minute sugar-trip in Willy Wonka’s garden, but even the Umpa Lumpa’s song had more charm than this dated kitsch.
Jüri Pootsmann wears an unflattering, double-breasted blue suit against a playing card themed backdrop of black, gold and red. Estonia haven’t got a great staging record and this concept is set to continue the trend. The confidence shown in Amsterdam is history and even his shimmying looks like a nervous tick. Halfway through, Jüri pulls a card from his pocket and performs a sleight of hand trick before flicking the card away. This pedestrian 3-minutes is struggling to make the cut based on the other entries seen today and Estonia need a bigger ace up their sleeve to ensure qualification.
I was hoping Samra would deliver today, but her first run through was perhaps the worst performance since Christina Metaxa gulped her way through Firefly. The gold staging and armography is everything one would have hoped for in this song: it’s classy and slick but is somewhat undone by Samra’s tendency to snatch at notes. Azerbaijan’s final rehearsal was like a New Year’s Eve firework display, so it seems the delegation are doing ‘everything in their power’ to produce a Miracle.
Montenegro is a conceptless mess of dark, black and red staging, blue strobing lights and the addition of a girl who stares angrily at the camera. There’s a moment near the end when the girl turns her back to the camera – most televoters will have turned their backs on this 30-seconds in.
Iceland bring the second interpretation of last year’s winning projection concept, and on paper, it should have been an easier-to-understand 3-minutes than Russia’s big-budget emotionless extravagance. Someone in Iceland clearly read our song review, as Greta has two passages where she sings straight down the camera lens. In this age of high-technology, it’s so easy to overlook the basics of connecting with a TV audience. Greta still found herself in the wrong position now and again, but overall, the Icelandic qualification is looking more secure.
I am reliably informed that the guy who designed Nina Kraljić’s dress is also responsible for Bosnia & Herzegovina’s staging, and specifically the sheets of foil draped around Ana Rucner and Dalal like roadside crash victims suffering from shock. The leaked barbed-wire concept is present too with Dean and Dalal gesturing at each other through the divide. Dean overacts every part of this, but that’s the least worst part of this confusing assault on the senses. I haven’t backed or laid B&H for qualification, as it is one of many below-par rehearsals in this semi.
Ira Losco’s first run through of Walk on Water lacked the miraculous high-tech motion capture projection we were promised. Ira is first introduced on the big screens in CGI, but ends up looking like one of those squidgy stress ball faces. Ira eventually appears wearing a brown gown, which is meant to display watery projections. At the moment it looks like an unfortunate choice of attire and is eventually cast aside by the Scorpion dancer. Malta’s staging is similar to Tinkara’s whirlpool from 2014, but there are golden, fiery elements too. Molly Pettersson-Hammer hits the high notes for Ira and the vocal package is one of the most impressive in this semi.
Due to the automatic qualifiers’ rehearsal footage being shown during the semi-finals, it was Frans’ turn to perform for Sweden. During the first run through Frans’ backdrop wasn’t working, but this was quickly sorted. If I Were Sorry is in Melodifestivalen form apart from a satellite stage expedition at the end. The camera work still needs refining during this part as it loses momentum and intimacy.
That’s it for today. Much like yesterday, most of the songs disappointed. A quick update: Malta are considering dropping the projection concept, so second rehearsal might be totally different.