So here we go. 2018. First day of rehearsals
We were excited to see what staging director Fokas Evangelinos prepared for Azerbaijan as he always has a visual concept and this staging clearly has his signature. Not all the camera angles are working out just yet, but there’s still time to improve things. Aisel’s vocals are fine for a first rehearsal and compared to what we have seen so far. Even though she has a jazz singer background, she is really trying to make this song her own and perform it the right way.
There are on-screen effects of stardust.
The lyrics are a bit silly, but also so much fun! This is what Eurovision dance pop is all about! Also, let’s remember that Azerbaijan has never failed to qualify for the final.
All ready for another year full of rehearsals! Azerbaijan has already started and from the first run we didn't get to hear everything yet. Aisel is wearing a white dress and doing the choreography on blue/white triangular shapes that most of all remind me of icebergs. A lot of arms spreading, it's all a bit cliché. As for the vocals, I'll reserve my judgement until hearing it in full, so check back for an update!
Update - So Aisel starts the performance laying on the triangular shapes. After that there is a bit of running - Safura anyone? - which didn't look good 8 years ago and it still doesn't. During the second chorus she is joined by all her dancers and the bridge features some nice visual effects with glitter above her head that she throws away a la Dami Im in 2016 or Kristian Kostov in 2017. Her vocals are mostly on point.
OK, last run before we move on to the next country - and we get pyro! Maybe we did - can't say I noticed it.
Overall conclusion for me - it looks good, it sounds well, but I don't feel it. As the song itself it's all a bit disjointed for me.
First up in this years season is Azerbaijan - several people on stage in triangular stage props. White lighting and clothes - though as yet we do not know if these will be the stage clothes.
Sound in the press centre is rather quiet so cannot really judge the vocals on this first run through
More to come on second run through but I am suitably impressed so far
In a few minutes the first dress rehearsal for semi-final one will start and we just heard that the opening act will be done twice. I'm live in the hall where I will keep you continually updated, so please refresh from time to time to read the latest news!
The start is delayed for a few minutes. Spain, Italy and UK will also perform.
And we're off! just 5 minutes later than initially planned We start with women wearing traditional gear and Ukrainian folk music in the background. Then a dancer on stage to be joined by Monatik, who proves to be very versatile: rapping, sing and dancing a very modern song that could've been a nice participating entry. Unfortunately I haven't been able to catch his name yet. I hope to update you on that after we have seen him again.
After the second run his name is not mentioned, but instead he introduces the hosts who are in casual clothes for this rehearsal. Some introductory speeches later the lineup for the semi-final is shown on screen and the voting is explained. No surprises here.
Next: song 1 from Sweden!
Post-card: Stills from Robin and his dancers, rehearsing, motor riding, getting ready to perform.
Performance: The lights seem to flicker a bit in the beginning. First time I notice it, not sure it's meant to be like that. Once again a very solid performance so it's bound to at least qualify and possibly do very well. On the other hand, there is still the issue with the 'OK' sign he makes with his hands that means something different in other countries.
song 2: Georgia:
Postcard: Rehearsing with Anri Jokahdze, running in the park, getting ready to perform and walk on stage (which seems a common thing already for all countries).
Performance: There's a delay in the start of the Georgian performance, so stay tuned! A solid performance by Tamara, who has no need at all to hold back.
song 3: Australia
Postcard: Isaiah in Melbourne and in a car, getting on a stage, watching the stars.
Performance: In the hall Isaiah really seems a bit overshadowed by his own images on the screen. A very good performance again. No further issues here.
song 4: Albania
Postcard:Running, singing with a band, doing sports, working on her dress and making the heart sign with her hands.
Performance: Vocals a bit shaky in the beginning. Only yesterday evening she was going all out in the Euroclub.
The long note is not working completely as it should so she sings it lower to save herself. Will be something to look at tonight and tomorrow evening.
song 5: Belgium
Postcard: Blanche playing the piano, reading, doing press conferences, autographs.
Performance: Blanche wears a different dress now - in black! so her nickname nnow no longer fits her outfit. The black dress is very dark, as the staging is as well. I know the white one was criticised a lot but I prefer it to what she wears now. The high parts near the end still sound very weak. However, a good reception in the hall.
Song 6: Montenegro:
Postcard: Slavko in the park, in a theater.
Performance: The visuals of Slvako while he lays on the floor have changed now. In blue, no more bright pink lipgloss. Looks a lot better and a bit less over the top. Slvako still fills the stage on his own, Could be better vocally. I am quite worried about its chances but I still enjoy this song a lot after a few ballads.
First break: Hosts on stage (minus greenroom host Timur). App mentioned. Timur in the greenroom speaking with who performed.
Song 7: Finland
Postcard: Norma John working/sitting together, walking in a building, shopping sunglasses, playing the piano.
Performance: Dry ice. Looks beautiful at the start. Vocally it seems not as solid as we have heard before. Big applause though.
What I most noticed seeing the first run in the hall is that there is a hidden backdrop that hardly gets noticed on screen (because the camera focuses on the box DiHaj stands in): an overview from a city. I thought it was actually not shown at all, but seeing the rewinds on the screens here in the hall now, I notice that is not correct. I hadn't noticed it before, so it's either new or just doesn't catch the attention. For those in the hall the performance is less interesting to watch than it is on screen.
Vocally Dihaj is on point, but I still have my doubts on the long high notes in the chorus. The second part of the performance is also a lot weaker visually. There's probably a whole concept behind this but I don't think people will get it just from seeing and listening to the song once.
Day one catch up review...it's not live....but then again some days I wonder if I am (a)live anyway....
Well the most important tasks for me, always, on day one is to actually get into the press centre in good time, and hunt the interview lists. So The Boss and I duly arrived at around 7.45 in the morning to make sure we were in a reasonable place in the queue to get in - first!
The only real issue we had with this was that actually entering the building ended up being so confusing, with two queues (one for S accreditations and on for P) but in the end it all worked out as we were the first to get in. Which leads onto task two. Hunt the interview lists. This is a huge thing for me each and every year, there are never lists prepared in advance, the poor volunteers never know what I am talking about and it often takes about 20-30 minutes to even get them to prepare some sort of list for the press wanting to book interviews. When you bear in mind that the first rehearsal is on stage at 10, the press centre opens at 9 and there are other things to get on with, this can cause a little raising of the heart rate!
Not this year though - amazingly, wonderfully and to my deepest delight - the lists were already prepared in advance….who knew that Ukraine could be so organised???? So well done on that!
So all in all the day started off really well in the end….computers all worked, wifi and LAN were fantastic speeds (Thanks Swedish Tecchie guys) and not too many hordes of massed fans running around like school girls on a day out from St Trinians. All going so well so far yes??? Err well no, cos that’s when rehearsals started on the big screens….
Now we know that every year there are sound issues, always with the first run through. So if we know there are always problems, then surely the organisers should know the same? And maybe, you know, test things first? Nah, that would be too simply. So we were left with watching the big screen and attempting to listen to the sound coming from the arena next door. Which was fun. Anyway maybe I am being too harsh and expecting too much? Still it was all solved pretty quickly and left with the delight of the Swedish rehearsal.
Blogging is not really part of the things I get to grips with at the Eurovision each year, most of my work revolves around processing background stuff, like video, checking the work of the rest of the team, meeting with delegations to check for interviews, actually doing the interviews and generally just annoying people so I never really get a lot of time to watch the screens….but I do hear snippets of enough of the day to form a judgement on whats Fabulous, Great, Ok, and OMFG what the hell was that??? So here was my day in running order
Belgium OMFG what the hell was that?
Portugal - - - Can’t really judge as he wasn’t singing but still find the song really dull…
Team Kaz has 2 full time and some part time English bloggers so if you want detail on who wore what, who did what to whom, and that Azerbaijan step Ladder please check them out….
The other huge part of my day was dealing with interviews, and we managed to get 4 out of 8 done yesterday with three being mine, Sweden, Albania and Montenegro. No real surprises with any of these as I’ve met them all before, apart from Slavko, he does get really in depth when you get him away from his on stage persona and get him talking on a level about some deeper though provoking stuff. He’s actually super intelligent and opinionated and kinda the guy I have a secret admiration for in the way he behaves and carry himself. Lindita is also the same, again get them talking about stuff away from Eurovision and underneath the surface gloss are some really deep individuals
I missed the interview with Finland, but I know that these two guys are the same as Slavvie and Linnie above, in that respect. Georgia’s Tamara seems a little off the wall, but in a totally great “don’t mess with me or I will destroy you” kinda way….still you can judge for yourselves on the clips. Robin was the one I still am trying to find a connection with every time I meet him though. I am still not sure if he is being reserved due to shyness or a lack of sleep or a lack of something else entirely but I will keep trying to find out what his buttons are and such them hard
All in all it was actually a great day, as “Eurovision Day One”s go, it all worked, we left the press centre on time, and still got to the restaurant in time to have food drink gossip with friends and actually look forward to Day Two without coming out in a cold sweat
Some last thoughts on today's first rehearsals. Overall there haven't been that many surprises I think. Everything started and ended perfectly on time.
Obviously a lot was expected from Belgium but I also think that the earlier performances already did a bit to lower those expectations. Georgia and Albania once again delivered great vocals (even though the latter's experiments weren't such a great idea in my opinion). Vocally Australia was also really good but his face all over the screens is a bit much for me.
That leaves Finland and Sweden who hardly changed anything to their performance and did a really good job, especially considering it's just a first rehearsal. Montenegro was the most extravagant act of the day and I would've been surprised with anything else. It also really stand out with its draw. Last but not least Portugal, I find it hard to say something about it as another singer can leave a completely different impression. I think it will be mesmerising on the night, especially if flags don't ruin the view as they kinda did with the Dutch performance of 2013 (Anouk - Birds).
So on to tomorrow where we will see the last songs from the first semi. I think there's a lot to look forward to. A few of them have been around quite a lot with promo-tour performances but for others like Greece and Armenia it will be really interesting to see the staging as they either were hardly performed live or didn't really show a lot in the previous performances. I'm also quite looking forward to Iceland. Before the national final it was quite the favourite already, then many people were disappointed but with a different staging that might all change again. And then there's Moldova, obviously not the masterpiece of the year but one of the songs that always gets me in a good mood, so I can't wait!
All in all another exciting waiting for us, see you tomorrow!