The most anticipated day of rehearsals is here starting with San Marino and Croatia, but also featuring the potential challenger to Italy; Bulgaria’s Beautiful Mess. The work experience kids were in charge of rehearsals today, hence why we missed a lot of run throughs.
San Marino’s staging features simple, flashing colour blocks of purple, red, blue and yellow. Jimmie and Valentina are in black along with three backing singers. This has the feel of a dance floor rendezvous with Valentina sporting a handbag, which really should be planted centre stage and danced around – opportunity missed! Lots of energy here following Ireland, but the performance does lose sizzle prior to the first key change. Maybe pyros will lift this for the jury rehearsal? Some brighter transitions during the latter stages would also help.
Another helping of cheese now with Jacques Houdek for Croatia who performs against a green vista and sunflower backdrop with three backing singers and two string players. It starts with Jacques delivering a closeup spoken intro to camera; his heavy makeup gives him a passing resemblance Italy’s Sergio Silvestre. The split personality is achieved by the cameras panning in to reveal Jacques from alternating directions. It’s a classy production, but the main concern for qualification backers is the overpowering stench of cheese, which the juries are known to punish. A curtain of sparks is deployed for the climax.
JOWST felt rather flat with Grab The Moment losing the sharpness of the Melodi Grand Prix final. Joakim lacked charisma at first but warmed up for the final run through. Norway’s overlay graphics deployed at MGP have been adapted, but it looks more like distortion and detracts from the overall package.
Switzerland were up just before the lunch break. Romania’s(!) Miruna is stood on top of a yellow, spiral-staircase platform for most of the song and wears a matching, big yellow gypsy wedding dress against a pastel pink backdrop. It looks and sounds bland. Miruna over-sings the climax and struggles to nail the new vocal variations. This is struggling, though we only got to see one rehearsal in the press room.
Navi Band didn’t follow the suggestion here to replicate Hora Din Moldova’s staging. Instead, the Belarus duo are planted on a hovercraft contraption as the backdrop whizzes past various landmarks. Because the staging is so off putting, this feels like an extremely long three minutes. Their chemistry is good and the vocals are solid, but with 24-points from Russia cut from Belarus‘ tally, qualification remains a tall order.
Over to Bulgaria who have replicated the on-screen scribbles used by Italy in Stockholm. Kristian is in his customary black outfit performing against a concrete and animated chalk-drawn backdrop. The staging looks cold and stark; and even though Kristian can emote well, stage designer, Baptiste, has got him performing incongruous arm gestures to match the scribbles. Gone are the days, it seems, when dramatic lighting, dry ice and intimate closeups were the most effective way of staging a ballad. Another open goal missed and Portugal promoted as the lead ballad this year in my book.
What to say about Lithuania… the betting table have all agreed burn our promo CDs of Fusedmarc’s Rain of Revulsion.
Anyway, on to the serious business of Estonia and Israel…
Koit and Laura perform similar steps as at the Eesti Laul final, but this is much slicker in delivery and presentation. There are one or two timing issues with Koit looking lost in Kyiv. Vocals are good and even Laura looks less awkward. Koit switched his light beige suit jacket for a leather bomber for the remaining run throughs – I would opt to keep the full suit. There is still a sense that these two secretly hate each other, which is probably why they’re about 5-metres apart for most of the song; however, this should be enough to see Estonia through to the final and maybe sneak a top-10 in the final given then improvements.
Imri was last up for Israel in what still feels very Tooji in influence. The staging is predominantly black and red with images of Imri appearing to break into pieces during the refrain. This would ring alarm bells if it were on X-Factor UK. Another potential red flag for the jury rehearsal is Imri’s tendency to drift off key. Fire cannons are deployed during the chorus and again for the post-middle-eight to song close along with jets of sparks. The pyros elevate this to being a more certain qualifier, but that could alter if Imri’s vocals let him down next week.
On the whole, it was a low key day with only Estonia and Croatia standing out; Bulgaria just need to add warmth. However, this makes Italy’s odds-on outright price entirely justified.