Welcome to a sunny Kyiv where the press centre security carry batons and guns, and where the perimeter fence is patrolled by police with angry looking Alsatians and mirrors to check for concealed car bombs.
Kicking off this semi-final, Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson retains the Melfest backstage entrance and the CGI neon landscape backdrop. We were missing sound in the press centre, but visually it’s the perfect show opener. The aloof and cold nature of five guys strutting, posing and pouting at the camera is the achilles heel of this package. There is a moment when all five of them have their backs to the camera for around 10-seconds. That shot needs to change. Without the Melfest playback assistance, Robin does sound a little exposed which could be interesting come next Monday’s jury rehearsal.
Any faith people had in Tamara will have been eroded after this rehearsal. The staging for Georgia features deep red plasma clouds with the odd white flourish to complement the Georgian flag. Dry ice is deployed to start and ends with a ring of fire jets during the climax. Tamara was in good voice, but looks sooooooooo lonely on that stage. Given she has a gospel climax, it’s surprising her backing singers didn’t walk on halfway through to develop the visual narrative. During the second run through, Tamara was sporting a red voile cape. This isn’t the sort of visual package striving to qualify from slot two.
Having suffered the Georgian scream fest, Lindita gave us four run throughs of World for Albania. She seemed to be going through the motions, if not, her lack of camera engagement was a major concern. The staging switches between a submerged water world with ships and roman numeral chronograph faces. The concept lacks any sort of continuity or story telling ability and we’re told Lindita hates it. This is as meh as meh can be.
Isaiah’s staging prop was a rotating platform that relies on sharp camera angles. He switches between standing still and walking as the platform turns. It creates a slightly more pedestrian version of Sweden’s treadmills in places. Australia’s backdrop features Isaiah, in what looks like an MTV video promo-cum-fashion photoshoot. It’s a work in progress, yet the obvious issue here is Isaiah’s inability to emote – his face is dead. The vocal mix has been adjusted near the end with a few downward scales, but it still loses way too much energy as it plods through final 20-seconds. A pyro curtain of sparks was added for the final run through.
Somewhere behind the stage there’s a padded cell reserved for Blanche; she looks on the verge of a meltdown. Her nerves were obvious and the watching press winced with every shaky note. The staging is based on her performance on The Voice Belgique with a constellation and orb design on the backdrop. There were no dancers. Blanche performed a bit of armography, but it was so half arsed it looked like she’s wafting a fart. Belgium are cruising towards non-qualification. Top-10, top-5, top-4, top-3 and outright bets are settled. The 3.5 non-qualification odds available at Bet365 & Unibet were a gift earlier. I would still be tempted to take anything around 2.85-3.0.
Oh Slavko, what have you done? Expectations were low, but we expected way more than that. Slavko starts in a body stocking and blue skirt, which is tossed aside to reveal silver sequined trousers once the beat kicks in. The staging is full-on gay disco with pink/purple and yellow graphics and a writhing Slavko. As if it couldn’t get much tackier, Slavko repeats his ‘hairy-copter’ routine. I’m going to be bold here… non-qualification for Montenegro. 😂
Happy happy Finland now. Blackbird was well below the vocal standard of the national final. Leena may have been suffering a few technical gremlins, so maybe we’ll wait until second rehearsal before judging it properly. The staging is a facsimile of UMK and the view here is that they needed much more lighting contrast during the refrain, instead of just relying on the switch to red after the middle eight. There’s enough here for Finland to qualify based on how poor the previous two songs are. Dry ice sets a nice mood during the final run through.
Someone call an exorcist. Skeletons starts with Dihaj gyrating on a box before throwing herself against the blackboard mini-set. Zoom out and there’s suddenly a man on a ladder wearing a horse’s head. What was in the cappuccino I just drank? Then Dihaj writes ‘thorns’ on the blackboard, climbs the ladder to grab horseman’s leg before her blackboard set is dismantled. Find me a narrative, please! The vocals are messy, the sound levels aren’t perfect and the overall impression is… WTF were you thinking, Azerbaijan?
Ending on Portugal now, and as highlighted in our podcasts, Salvador was replaced by his sister, Luisa, for today’s rehearsal. Salvador will only take part in the jury rehearsals and live shows. The staging features an enchanted forest which gradually brightens during the last 15-seconds with glowing sprites rising from the forest floor. It’ll be difficult to gauge Portugal until Salvador turns up, but it’s expected to be a jury favourite.
That’s it for today. Quite a flat performances, so I think the semi winner will come from the second half.