Day 4 – Loreen Lays Down A Marker

May 16, 2012 by

Day 4 – Loreen Lays Down A Marker

A longer day of rehearsals today because we have 10 songs in the 2nd half of semi 2. The big one, of course, is red-hot favourite Sweden so we will start there. To sum up concisely: very impressive. The live vocal is totally on the money, Loreen is aided by 3 backing singers which helps enormously. Those Swedish sound engineers have worked the oracle here. The staging looks so, so professional compared to many of the other nations seen so far, especially the 2 solo ballads that precede her in this 2nd semi. Loreen dances on a raised stage. It’s very much what we saw at Melodifestivalen. Maybe not quite so dark and sinister. This production has brighter lighting to begin with but it remains impactful. It still incorporates some good close up shots of her and she is an amazingly agile lady with her captivating Tai Chi moves. ln the last minute when she kneels down, the lighting changes to falling white snow on a black background. Again, very effective. She is having problems with the final move as she is launched into the air by her partner and isn’t landing it but overall this is a worthy Outright favourite.

But an early draw in the final could dent her chances so those taking the 15-8 are playing roulette that she lands a decent double figure position in the running order a week tomorrow. It goes without saying Sweden will be very tough to beat in this 2nd semi.
One of the great imponderables in this semi is, what will be the pecking order among the Balkan juries? To start with Slovenia, Eva Boto’s dress looks like a meringue. The staging, with Eva flanked by 5 female backing singers, is reminiscent of a wedding ceremony. At the outset blue spotlights beam down on the ladies. Eva’s voice is soft and floaty, but not that strong and the entire presentation lacks impact. Really unconvinced by this Molitva rip-off though. It’s a borderline qualifier at best.
How Slovenia squares up against Croatia is key as you sense there is only room for one of these two songs, max, in the final. Nina Badric has a more polished voice for sure. She is a stronger stage performer than Eva. The staging… hmm… some really bad handography going on here. Two male dancers, 3 female backing vocalists and their movements around stage seem pointless and absurd.  A white sheet is unfurled and wrapped across and behind the ladies. This has all come from the Azerbaijan 2010 school of staging – remember ‘Drip Drop’? None of it really fits or makes sense to these Western European eyes. On historical voting stats Croatia comfortably beats Slovenia in this semi and this may still prove critical, but on today’s showing both look more likely to miss out, and such average efforts bring Macedonia even more into the qualifying picture in this semi.
Georgia: Anri Jokhadze is joined by 4 women on stage. They take up positions on individual stands. He has a piano and a drum on either side he plays at different moments in the song. The women come out and dance with him. It looks really good. Having originally thought this song was an abomination the staging certainly improves it. Some great stars in the lighting effects behind and flame blasts at the front give this a colourful canvas. This is not meant in a bad way but the staging makes Anri look like a pimp. This hareem are in his possession and he is proud to show them off. I like his style. This has just gone from definitely not qualifying to probably not qualifying given Georgia’s reasonable voting strength in this semi.
Nautical is Can Bonomo’s theme… obviously, and it’s loud and clear – the backdrop of ships’ anchors and blue waves looks really good on screen. Great lighting.  Five male dancers – 3 mic-ed up – join him on stage and the dance moves fit nicely with the drunken sailor vibe. They create a boat for Can. Backdrop turns red later in the tune. We have red love hearts – a love of the waves is presumably the association here. There is a dry ice effect at the end. This a real winner on the staging front. Can’s voice sounds fine. Quirky, charismatic, ethnic. Cannot resist writing this…  Turkey looks like it’s sailing through.
Now, will Ott sit at his piano? No. Ott is standing. We have the spotlight effect beaming down on him, Nadine Beiler style. Right, so this is stripped back, all-about-the-voice Ott. And his voice is very good. There’s no denying that. He closes his eyes a little too much. He has one female backing vocalist. Nice close ups though and he finds the camera well enough when his eyes aren’t closed. Bright lighting backdrop – fiery reds like a lava lamp dropped in an aquarium. Looks good but the song is something of a snooze-fest as well as Ott sings it. You sense what Ott is doing here reasonably well will be trumped by Roman Lobb when he pitches up for first rehearsal on Saturday. But Ott has a nice little niche for himself in this semi as the only slow solo male ballad.
Talking of niches, here comes this year’s rocker, Max Jason Mai for Slovakia. This song has the potential to be a dark horse. The worry is, his vocal in the band’s one live performance uploaded to YouTube was poor. The band is close knit here centre stage. Three guitarists and a drummer join Max on stage and they have wisely ditched those scary Friday The 13th masks. This is a very tough song to sing in tune all the way through but Max is giving it a decent stab. They’ve got the Slipknot/Korn/Systems Of A Down rock screeches off to a tee. Max wanders down the walkway towards the end and stares close up at the camera. It’s certainly a better all-round performance than that YT horror. On the big nights ahead though the pressure is going to be on Max to hold his vocal together throughout and that is a big ask. It is a borderline case but may well get through if managing to coalesce Europe’s rock fans. Its late draw in 15 has to be a boost but backers must hope the masks do not make a reappearance in the final (and according to Keith at AKOE they will wear them).
Now Norway, which has mysteriously been drifting like a barge on the Outright. Can Tooji sing well enough live? The answer is a unanimous yes. Not only that but the staging already looks the business. There is a great start with a backflipping dancer, then Tooji enters wearing his hoodie (which he eventually pulls down), walks towards the camera, stares down the lens and away we go.
He is joined on stage by 4 dancers and he has a backing singer for assistance. This tune gets my toe tapping straight away which is a rare occurrence these days. The production is very slick but that is not a negative. They are well drilled with their choreo, Tooji sounds excellent throughout and owns the stage. This is impressive. Make no mistake, with a late draw in the final this is a contender.
Maya Sar for Bosnia is another big contrast. She sits at the piano and the lighting is very fitting. Orange on black with Maya’s long auburn hair serenely lit. She gets up and stands to deliver the latter part of the song. The wind machine sets her hair flowing in the breeze. It’s all very dreamy and looks and sounds a classy tune you would expect juries to reward well.
Last but not least, Lithuania. Donny Martini was a no-show in London so this performance is much anticipated. In the lead up he has been a love-to-hate figure with his blindfold and backflip. If he tried to do that sort of showboating in my local nightclub he would never dance again. Oh ffs, his blindfold is diamond-encrusted on the front.
From the pimp slot I’ve got a feeling this young chancer is going to qualify. His voice is very good. And the one-handed backflip/cartwheel remains as does a bit of air guitar. He gives good camera. Behind him, we see silhouetted women, writhing seductively alongside poles and these images later extend all the way out to the stage floor. Visually it is certainly very striking. Donny looks like a little boy lost among all those sexy females. He needs Anri Jokhadze on hand to give him an introduction.
Today has confirmed the second half of semi 2 is much, much stronger collectively than the first half. Loreen and Tooji were the two stand-outs but having now heard all 36 semi-finalists it is noticeable how many excellent vocalists there are at Eurovision this year.
Tomorrow is an even longer day with the 2nd round of rehearsals for the first 13 songs in semi 1. Slowly the picture is clarifying. Hopefully these first 4 posts are guiding one and all in the right direction. We won’t be making qualifier predictions yet but let us know your thoughts below.
Rob Furber

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  1. Henry VIII

    Another excellent review Rob.

    I think Euphoria might be too avant guarde for ESC (even though its 90s trance music). The audience may not get it. It took me a few listens to appreciate it. It doesn’t tick many of the normal boxes for success, so it has to blow them away, ie be a trend setter, a re-definer. That maybe too tall an order.

    Just a site issue: the picture links to the rehearsal posts on the top right of the home page don’t work. (I get to the rehearsal posts from the text links under “Recent Posts” just below them.)

  2. Rob

    Thanks Henry. You may well be right regarding Sweden but it’s certainly a staging triumph.

    With the slider, if you click on the image on the right that should bring the image up in the main slider box (on the left). You then need to click on that to take you to the post.

    I wondered whether readers might find this an issue – everything works, but only works according to the slider design. We’ll stick with it and hopefully you’ll master it – it’s been a flat out effort to get the site re-designed and working in time for ESC 2012. Sorry for teething troubles.

    Please keep reading and posting 🙂

  3. Henry VIII

    Thanks Rob, I get it now. Just imo, but probably best if when you click on an image that says “Day 6” (say) it takes you directly there, makes it easier for the less astute like me, but overall I think the revamp’s excellent.

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