We’re up to 34°C today in Israel as rehearsals hot up for the more decisive second semi-final. Will we see our winner today?
Srbuk is on a predominately black and red stage with breaking glass and chain motifs. There’s a diva-ish look on her face, and rather than appearing empowered, she projects a feeling of anger and aggression. The whole package is ringing all sorts of X-Factor alarm bells, which is dangerous from slot 1. Armenia has a classy ballad, but I sense it won’t delight the televoters.
Ireland is set in a 1950s American diner with a pop-art backdrop. I feel they’ve really missed a trick here in not starting the song via some sort of jukebox interaction or having a bar boy serving her an ice cream soda. There’s a distinctly amateurish look around the presentation and Sarah fails to add the required personality needed to bring televoters on board. Moreover, Leonara arguably has a much better song and performance with a similarly ditzy style.
Latvia is presented in ultra widescreen which doesn’t allow for good framing options when it comes to showing the stage and audience. The concept has a dreamy backyard jam session feel. It’s pleasant but utterly forgettable and seems to go on for ever and ever and EVER! Once again, I’m not sure what’s here for televoters to latch on to.
Time for one of this year’s supposed contenders in the form of Luca Hånni of Switzerland. The production is typically Sacha Jean-Bapstist with the early fast cuts and off-centre camera framing. The backdrop is predominantly red with black and white distortion accents. Luca is joined by two dancing couples and interacts at various points; however, the performance feels way too front-on with little side-on action or audience shots. On the hole it feels competent, professional but doesn’t have the look or feel of a winner. If one thinks back to Eric Saade, Måns, Mikolas Joseph and even Netta, they all had a focal point or memorable moment, a meme or a hashtag; Switzerland doesn’t have that because the staging lacks an identity or call to action. It has the feel of a jury 6th-8th and a televote 4th-6th, so a credible top-10.
After lunch Moldova resurrected Ukraine’s sand artist gimmick from 2011 to divert from their lame song. Strangely, it took a few attempts before we got to see anything near resembling a finished product – it’s still very much a work in progress. Even so, this heaps the pressure on Armenia who will be fishing for support in the same regions.
Ester gives an intense performance of On A Sunday set against Dracula’s castle. It’s a wonderful piece of staging and there’s something slightly demented and deranged about the performance. It’s so well acted! Ester is joined by two male dancers who start on the outer-stage before surrounding her in her chair. There are lots of fire jets, as well as a shower of sparks near the end. I have Romania slightly ahead of Armenia in my qualification reckoning.
Having previously opposed Denmark in the qualification markets, I have now closed out my liabilities and accepted that Denmark probably makes the cut. There are three fairly dark female-led songs in this first half and then Denmark comes along with its sunny production and cheery singalong quality. I still detest the concept and find Leonara a tough sell for the voting audience, yet I think enough juries and televoters will show it sufficient support.
Pænda had been dismissed by the market, yet Limits has always been in my personal top-5 of songs to listen to. The presentation starts in black and white with Pænda sat down amongst glowing rods. The triangular arena lighting is also brought into the act. The whole presentation is wonderfully optimistic and introspective – it’s a gripping and emotional performance that even caused Pænda to shed a tear. There are etherial qualities here and I just can’t stop myself thinking that Austria could be the surprise envelope next week thanks to some jury love.
Last up today was John Lundvik with Too Late for Love. Hampered by the different stage design, Sweden have had to adapt key elements of their production. The flashing flights on the tom-tom beats are gone, as is the strobe effect to reveal his backing singers. The sizzle has gone for me. Those elements used to give me goosebumps. It’s still a high quality performance, but it just needs to restore its magic.
We’ll be back for tomorrow’s big decider between Russia and Netherlands.