It’s the first day of Eurovision 2018 rehearsals live from the Lisbon rabbit hutch that is this year’s press centre. One could say it’s cosy.
Anyway, a barefoot Aisel starts the show for Azerbaijan dressed in a white negligee. The staging is blue and white (I reckon we’ll get a lot of that this year) with Aisel running up various white ramps. Some of the camera angles are unflattering and I’m reminded of Safura’s awkward satellite stage sprint from 2010. A male singer/dancer enters the stage at the start of the second verse with three other backing singers joining for the second chorus. Live ‘star’ graphic overlays are employed at this point.
What is evident from this concept is that the Azeri cannonball is looking weak.
What can you say about Iceland that hasn’t already been said? Ari Ólafsson’s Our Choice is the perfect choice for number-2 in the running order. More blue and white staging which eventually shifts to orange/red for the climax(?). Unfortunately, Ari’s boyish charm fails to improve what is this semi-final’s worst song. Iceberg ahoy!
Eugent Bushpepa can always be relied upon for his crisp John Farnham-like vocal ability and affable on-screen charm. Mall serves up the first bit of warmth in this semi with the red/purple lighting hues which contrast nicely against the mainly blue/white openers. There’s a sincere and credible air about Albania this year and they are among friends in this semi. If Albania’s envelope comes out next week, there will be more than one big name fall from this half of the semi.
If you’ve watched the film The Ring, then the opening of Belgium will bring back memories. A Matter of Time starts with a corpse-like Sennek in silhouette with only her red eyes lit. It’s typical of Sennek’s performances to date with little attention given to the camera. The number of aimless long shots and flashing lights go against the stylish intimate concept Hans Pannecoucke should have developed. As a performance, it’s utterly charmless. To her credit, her vocal is better than at the pre-parties.
After a light lunch Mikolas Joseph brought the day’s first solid concept. The theme is pink and blue lighting with the break-dancers performing in front of two light boxes. The first run through was messy, but Czech Republic improved with every subsequent rehearsal. Mikolas knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to bark out orders at the stage hands. Henric von Zweigbergk will be inviting Mikolas back for detention!
The camerawork is fast and there’s a useful split screen effect later in the song. The choreography feels bit limp in places and Mikolas does have a habit of singing to the floor. It’s early days, but the Czech package should come together nicely by next week’s live semi-final. Mikolas had to take a precautionary trip to hospital following today’s rehearsal after injuring his back.
Lithuania’s Ieva remains in national final form but with cinematic overlays of random idilic family and friend scenes. It’s a tad nauseating to the hardened gamblers among us, yet it gives Lithuania a solid USP and a fighting chance of qualification with the underwhelming Belgium earlier in the running order. The overlays are tad distracting at times, so the delegation needs to find a way of softening their impact. The song ends with Ieva on a bridge joined by her husband. This is the money shot.
The market needed to see what Israel had to offer and predictably expectations were not met… or at least in the press centre. The staging features two cabinets of maneki-neko, or lucky cats to the layman, flanking a kimono-clad Netta. It’s a strange juxtaposition given chickens are the prominent animal in the lyrics. The dancers are in black surf-type all-in-one suits and aren’t as prominent as in the official video. Bizarrely, I think this is a problem, as the the production seems to lack energy and appears rather disjointed. As mentioned in our preview article, the looper machine intro is a confusing distraction and is superfluous to the routine. The final run through featured Co2 jets.
Golden Boy brought Israel’s best result in recent years. At the moment the Golden Boy concept is miles ahead of Toy in terms of simple, easy to understand fun.
Gone is the kitchen sink: Belarus have thrown the rose garden at this. Alekseev starts with rose in hand, which is then passed to a steady-cam operator. The rose then turns into an lady-in-red performing interpretive dance who then fires a rose – by use of a bow – right back into Alekseev’s hand complete with tomato ketchup blood from the canteen. Yuk! Why not just catch it and hold it against his heart? At the end of the middle-eight, petal overlay graphics shoot from Alekseev’s chest. The ending sees Alekseev turnaround to reveal a gory looking rose tattoo on his back. More yuk! With wholesale changes likely, it’s worth staying neutral until second rehearsal. However, things are far from rosy in Belarus.
What’s new with Estonia? Well not much actually apart from some different graphics projected onto her dress. Elina still appears too cold and distant, failing to connect with viewers at home. Moreover, the dress graphics lack a theme; it’s just a kaleidoscope of random effects like some Windows Media Player visuals.
Now it was Bulgaria’s turn to justify its suspiciously low odds on the markets. Common framework was an apt description for Equinox when first mooted by the PR team, as they certainly don’t look like a cohesive group. The staging is dark. Too dark. And the group look too harsh on stage. The Americans aren’t as strong as one would expect and Zhana looks like she’s miming. Back to Zhana, she continues to wear that white wig along with a futuristic dress. The whole presentation is harsh and far from vote motivating. Interesting times for Bulgaria given how open this semi-final is.