We opted for the taxi again this morning. By we, I mean the escinsight crew I’m staying with in Kyiv. It was a white knuckle ride through a deserted Kyiv city centre hurtling past various landmarks and Eurovision selfie points. Mini buses aren’t designed to go that fast over cobbled streets. I’m not sure if we qualified for the next stage or not, but we were all nearly reunited with our breakfast.
Serbia kick off the day’s proceedings with a similar, watery/bubbly staging concept as Ira Losco last year. Tijana is also joined by an interpretative dancer for the middle eight. It wasn’t a perfect vocal performance from Tijana, but like Demy yesterday, she did have to get up at 5am to prepare. I think today was all about trying things out, and by the final run through, Serbia did start to show promise, albeit limited to sneaking through to the final and holding around 16th-20th. Dress rehearsal will be key here, because In Too Deep does sound very borderline.
Nathan Trent starts sat on the end of mirrored, waning crescent moon dressed in white with Nadav Guedj’s silver lamé, winged trainers. The backdrop morphs between pink clouds, a stormy sky before ending with stars. Nathan isn’t vocally perfect, but throws everything into the visual performance of Running on Air. It’s a bit too stage school for my liking and Nathan appears somewhat self-absorbed in his presentation, rather than playing it smiley and natural like Gianluca Bezzina, which is what I think people are mistakenly comparing this song to. Austria definitely affecting Serbia’s qualification chances.
Jana tries to channels Jamie Lee Curtis in the famous, True Lies slut-dropping striptease scene. As highlighted at the various pre-concert events, Jana lacks the natural rhythm and charisma for an upbeat song, so rather than invoking her inner Jamie Lee Curtis, she’s instead projecting a slightly tipsy Janice from accounts at the office party. During the “I’ll bring the fire and feel the heat” line, Jana squats down, opens her thighs and and basically says “here’s my growler”. Sex doesn’t sell at Eurovision, so if sexy is to remain a fundamental part of the presentation, FYRoM need to tighten up the erratic nature of Jana’s moves and minimise the brief ‘bitch face’ glimpses to camera. On the positive, the staging is actually better than expected with a cityscape backdrop and satellite screens showing scenes from the official video. This is surely too amateur to qualify?
Away from Jana’s red-light district window performance to the more reassuring, Celine Dion-esque delivery of Claudia Faniello. Breathlessly is dated, but Claudia is sincere and authentic in the way she performs the song for Malta. The staging is blue and the camera angles are intimate and complimentary. A slow-motion video of Claudia is displayed on the backdrop. I feel there should be a curtain of sparks during the climax – maybe they’ll add this for the jury final given Malta are operating on a reduced budget this year.
Romania quickly cured the post Lunch malaise with a dizzying display of colours and butterflies on the backdrop. Two mirrored cannons are wheeled in during the middle eight and Alex rides onboard with the chamber between his legs. Alex got overly excited during the final run through; nearly running over Illinca and falling off in the process. We think they will employ pyros at some point. The difficulty for Romania is that Yodel It won’t delight the juries in the same way that Playing With Fire did in 2010, when Paula & Ovi finished third on the jury split. Even so, this will perform incredibly well on the televote and is a dangerous prospect in this Contest.
Netherlands‘ staging wasn’t as blatantly sympathy inducing as rumoured. The trio perform in black, sparkly outfits against a funeral pamphlet backdrop. By that I mean the backdrop shows various imagery one might find in a undertaker’s brochure or the sort of generic stock image used for the front of an order of service. I have never been a fan of this song, but it is performed brilliantly by the girls – they are the strong point. The juries will rank this fairly highly, so it will depend on the national commentators to motivate any potential televote support. I’m not as keen as some on the top-10 prospects, but it could get close, I guess.
Origo is the cult fan favourite this year, but Joci lacked the essential camera connection to propel Hungary on to the sure qualifier list. It’s a dark, brooding song, so I guess a certain about of darkness and disconnect is fine, but I think non-diaspora voters will need more persuading, especially when it comes to the lengthy rapping section. Otherwise, the staging is competent in its national final guise, apart from dove motifs on the backdrop and the violinist performing from the satellite stage. Fire jets were around the perimeter of the stage during the dance segment.
And as we progress to the latter part of this half, Denmark ask all sorts of questions of the Dutch package; Anja matches OG3NE’s vocal proficiency and nails them on chart-ability, visual impact and star quality. It gets a bit shouty towards the end, but her conviction and no-holds-barred delivery of Where I Am has won over this former critic. The staging is more golden than at DMGP and features swirling LEDs during the middle eight when Anja kneels down and emotes like her heart is about to be ripped from her chest. Strong top-10 potential here!
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Brendan is catching the first balloon out of here. Brendan stands on top of a basket platform with a red and white hot air balloon above him. The connotation with the balloon, Brendan’s voice and helium will no doubt do the rounds on Twitter during the live semi-final. The staging is mostly red and the greatest criticism of Ireland here is the lack of progression in the lighting and staging narrative. As ever the vocals aren’t perfect, so this Daniel Radcliffe lookalike will be needing an expecto perfectum charm before next week’s semi.