Tomorrow we’re all off to Jerusalem for a day trip, but today it’s Judgement Day in the press centre as we get to see Russia and the Netherlands rehearse for the first time.
Roko kicked off rehearsals with The Dream and started the performance lying down on the LED floor surrounded by the fires of hell. Roko is eventually joined by two gold-winged dancing angels who attach wings allowing him to ascend to heaven. I’m guessing the story is fallen angel Lucifer getting his wings back and returning to heaven, though unlike the TV version of Lucifer, I doubt Netflix will be coming to Croatia’s rescue anytime soon. Despite Roko’s exceptional vocal abilities, the song is too overblown to be taken seriously.
Now time for one of the year’s big pop tunes. Michela starts gazing out from her bedroom window before the camera moves through the window to show Michela opening a door and causing water to flood into her room. Her bedroom then morphs into an underwater scene. The theme is that her projection backdrop constantly changes, thus enforcing the chameleon refrain. The backdrop shifts through various scenes as four dancers join Michela at various points during the song. The vocal was poor for the first few run throughs of Chameleon but Michela grew in confidence with every performance. Malta have created some strong visual branding which is what Switzerland is missing earlier on in the running order. The vocal worries might be something to watch out for in the jury rehearsal next week.
Lithuania is nearly identical to the national final; however, Jurij’s falsetto is much stronger. Moreover, he has great connection with the camera which is the main strength for Lithuania in the hope of being a surprise qualifier.
After what seemed like a 30-minute setup time, Sergey Lazarev took to the stage to perform Scream. There are mirrored LED boxes that are able to display Sergey’s reflection along with pre-recorded footage of Sergey, as well as allowing Sergey to appear within a box aka Ani Lorak. I think the narrative is looking into one’s soul, but it wasn’t anywhere near the finished article by the end of Russia’s allotted time. Much more work required I think. Don’t forget that in 2016 whole parts of the staging were changed between first and second rehearsal and the markets continually yo-yoed at points when Russia or its closest competitors were on stage. This journey isn’t over… yet.
Albania opts not to use the LEDs, instead favouring the stage lighting. The staging has a vintage quality with autumnal hues – I’m not sure this is the USP Albania needed. Vocally it’s on point if not rather vote-demotivating. Albania feels like a moment of breathing space before the pace picks up again.
Keiino were meant to be the party banger before Netherlands and North Macedonia, yet the trio opted for dark staging and dark outfits. They have also opted to divide themselves into separate sections of the stage during the opening, which makes the stage appear incredibly empty. They come together before the joik section, but I fear it might be too late for them. Norway’s performance lacks the sort of voteability required to compete at the upper echelons of the scoreboard when compared to Switzerland and Malta.
Duncan is sat alone on stage playing a piano. The performance is designed to represent authenticity and that’s most definitely on display. There is a nice quality to the performance with long swooping camera shots, yet I remain emotionally unmoved. I need to see more emotional resonance and a clincher moment to get the goosebumps going. The juries will 100% like this but the Netherlands needs the televoters on side to seal the win. Much like Russia, I feel this is a work in progress. I would have liked to have seen Duncan perform below an array of incandescent filament bulbs with a circling camera. The ingredients are there. It’s now up to Pannecoucke to make it work.
Tamara wears a dated emerald green ballgown with eight rear-facing Tamaras on the backdrop. It’s like a piss take of Russia’s staging. I’m guessing it is designed to represent turning one’s back on one’s enemies. This isn’t how I would choose to stage North Macedonia. It needs to be more classically ballad with warm hues and sparkly lights. Even so, in terms of connection and emotional resonance, it does take some of the wind out of the Netherlands.
Last up today was Chingiz for Azerbaijan against an almost neon-coloured backdrop. He’s joined on stage by two robot arms that project a laser heart on to his chest and seemingly scan his vitals. The whole mood and concept of the song really draws away from Switzerland and others much earlier in the running order. There’s a rapture moment during the middle-eight mugham-vocal section as an overlay effect lifts Chingiz’s soul to the heavens. This is a first class job from Azerbaijan and it guarantees them a top-3 finish in the semi.
We’ll be back on Thursday, folks!