A change of position for us today: the hosts have opened up another room with a proper TV screen. We are now commenting on performances in HD.
Georgia kick of proceedings today with their take on Croatia 2013. Vocally it’s fine, but this is your typical toilet break song. One or two of the 5-piece group aren’t particularly telegenic or vote-motivating. In fact they all look as if they were kicked out of bed way too early for this morning’s rehearsal.
It’s amazing how many Nazi references there are this year with Gromee seemingly dressed like Allo Allo’s Herr Flick. That aside, this is a fun and competent 3-minute crowd-pleaser following the lowkey Georgia. The staging is visually striking with deep blue and pink hues. Lukas Meijer’s vocals are much stronger than at the national final and pre-party concerts, so Poland are cementing their place in the final.
Malta loves to blow money on staging, and in this case they’ve gone the whole hog. Christabelle starts inside of a box with four LED walls with internal and external scenes. The visuals are confusing and lack any sort of relevance to the song. For instance, when singing about ‘sticks and stones’ Christabelle manipulates an on-screen overlay of the Earth while channeling the evil half of Shakespear’s Sister. It’s always dangerous to bet against Malta when they’re throwing this much money around, so it’s a ‘no bet’ here unless they edge closer to even money.
I do like a bit of rock, but I’m not into growl-rock, so Hungary is well beyond my comfort threshold. How many of Europe’s rockers will be sat around the TV on the a Thursday night watching Eurovision? Not many, in my opinion. Admittedly, there’s a strong USP. The final run through had every form of pyro possible, so there’s little doubt AWS will standout.
There’s an interesting contrast with the serene Latvia following noisy Hungary. Will jurors who find Hungary too jarring be more prone to reward a stylish Latvia? That’s one theory floating around the Eurovision betting table. Funny Girl probably won’t stir an enthusiastic response from the televote, but Laura’s fine vocal should be capable of overcoming Latvia’s regional vote deficit in this semi.
The last of the big names in this semi-final now and a performance that continues to leave me cold. Benjamin Ingrosso delivers an exact carbon-copy of his Melfest performance, albeit with a subtle costume change. Sweden drifted during the first run-through, which sort of highlights how people feel about this package. It’s flat and it lacks heart. Moreover, Benjamin isn’t as vocally crisp without the Melfest backing track trickery.
If there is ever to be a male winner of the Barbara Dex award, then Vanja is in with a shout. He wears what looks like a futuristic, light blue asymmetric bubble-wrap suit that probably featured in an old episode of Star Trek. It isn’t bubble-wrap, but it creates that effect under the lights. As the song progresses, the stage lights turn orange, so you have this awkward moment when his suit is totally the wrong colour. Vanja’s greatest weakness is his lack of gravitas when compared to former purveyors of this genre. It’s difficult to see Montenegro making the cut with this, but given the state of semi 2, it’s another no bet.
Just to ensure they stand out during the semi-final, Slovenia have opted to fake a technical glitch with the music cutting out before the second chorus. During this Lea invites the audience the sing along with her [in Slovenian] before the backing track cuts back in. A huge negative is the strobe lighting during the refrain; it’s far too bright and distracting watching from our new HD TV position. The last chorus is performed in Portuguese, which isn’t particularly helpful given Portugal don’t vote in this semi.
Thankfully we’ve reached the end of semi-final 2 with Ukraine’s Mélovin performing Under the Ladder. This son of Dracula rises from a piano coffin to start the song before descending a staircase to the stage during the second verse. He makes his way back up the staircase for the middle-eight to play the piano, at which point the first five rungs of the staircase set fire. The performance feels laboured and lacks the energy present during the national final. For that reason, I don’t think Ukraine will be contenders for the top-10 this year.
Having got to the end of this half, I find myself wanting to watch Moldova or Norway again, which sort of confirms who are the main players in semi 2.