Day 6 – Ukraine Stage Recovery

May 18, 2012 by

Day 6 – Ukraine Stage Recovery

Today commences with the last 5 nations in semi 1 offering up their 2nd rehearsals, after which the first 8 nations in semi 2 take to the stage for their 2nd helpings. Semi 1 remains something of a puzzle and you sense it will remain that way until Monday night. Hopefully, more clarity will be reached after that all important semi 1 jury performance.

A big round of applause in the press centre following the Babushki’s first run through. Cakes appeared on the tray today, disco baubles form the backdrop. It’s a strange contrast of a bright nightclub setting, and some inanely smiling seniors who would look more in keeping sat on a hillside halfway up the Caucasus, or in an old people’s home. The smallest one looks completely bewildered. All part of the endearing package? Maybe. As for the vocals, it’s not really singing so it’s hard to evaluate. They are certainly looking better drilled today. The hype is sure to continue and the odds likely to contract. If it reaches a silly single figure price again, possibly a laying opportunity on the Outright lies ahead if you are not already balls-deep red on Russia (he says wiping a bead of sweat from his brow).

Had a quick chat with the keyboard player of Compact Disco earlier today… as you do. I told him the lead singer Csaba needs to give better camera, now being a resident expert on such matters, and having patented that expression. He said a mobile camera would be in operation which would help. And the camera close ups of Csaba are much better today – great close up when he emotes ‘the sound of our hearts’ lyric early on but overall it probably still needs more of this. Too many wide angle shots. A guitarist follows Csaba down one of the walkways as he goes out to greet the audience. This is visually an improvement. They all wear black and the lead singer has a brooding intensity. His vocal is fine by the way – no problems on that score. Hungary’s draw and voting strength give it the edge over Switzerland. It’s such a great tune – the stand out among the last 5 in this semi – that it deserves a final place but there is rarely any justice at Eurovision. It may go down better with juries than Switzerland as a very worthy rock/pop tune.

Coincidentally, like Pasha Parfeny who follows, Trackshittaz would probably have been better served by last year’s offering – Oida Taunz losing out in the 2011 Austrian NF to Nadine Beiler. That said, Woki Mit Deim Popo is a visual feast and Lukas and Manuel really know how to work the cameras. This is enormous fun and the fluorescent green dresses for the 3 female dancers are back, as are some neon white strips on the guys’ jackets – some problems getting all lights to work. The blond dancer in the middle – who is incredibly agile on her pole – ends the routine at the top of hers legs akimbo with Lukas smiling from between her thighs and can you blame him? Not exactly family-friendly but I’m smiling too. Hard to rule out.

Still not really getting the ‘fun’ of Moldova – this may be a Western/Eastern European thing, and of course Moldova has far greater voting power than Austria. The choreo is certainly madcap but not in the full on, ingeniously whacky way Moldova 2011 was. He no longer ‘rides’ one of his female dancers which detracts. Pasha’s vocal is adequate. The sound and moves gel ok. It has the feel of a Charlie Chaplin movie but it’s all a bit weak.

And lastly Jedward from the pimp slot for the 2nd year, the spawny Irish eejits. 4 backing singers try to drown the twins out. Even with the backing singers to conceal them, they are still exposed as vocally weak here. Only a deluded tweenie with no discernible music taste could enjoy this and given their marketing juggernaut they’ve got plenty of those but juries surely will not be impressed. Water feature, overhead camera angle looking down on them, cartwheels, leaping around, yadda, yadda… Still not the roaring success of the ‘Lipstick’ staging last year. Attempting maximum return from extremely cheap and shoddy goods and starting to look like the emperor’s new clothes. You sense something has got to give among these last 3 songs in semi 1. If this truly is a ‘song contest’, which of course it isn’t, all 3 should bite the dust.

Back round to semi 2, 2nd rehearsal and first up Serbia still is what Serbia is. Classy, solid and dependable in all departments. Kind of the Vincent Kompany of this year’s Eurovision. Nothing new to report here apart from a slightly off-putting David Brent-style arm in the air from Zeljko at the climax while biting his bottom lip which looks a little bit… David Brent after finishing his famed dance routine.

Kaliopi showcases her classy vocal again standing front and centre throughout. At least this is a solo female ballad with a difference in a semi laden with solo female ballads. Great strings in this song. Lousy draw, excellent voting allies. I may have said all that before. Nothing further to add.

Joan’s in her head-dress again but there are no flaming pots killing the whole round-the-campfire vibe… until the last run through. The Netherlands delegation are probably saving their pyrotechnic budget for next week. Her band remain tucked away on the walkway though they do get some close up camera action. A solo female backing vocalist loiters at the back of the stage. Joan’s accent is indecipherable at one point. The band and backing singer only join Joan on stage towards the end. Not sure if this works. They want the focus to be Joan… and her head-dress. Her image is striking but it might be a trifle bizarre for viewers, and alienating.

Malta is a complete cheese-fest commencing with a tragic fist nudge between Mohawk guy on the mixing desk and Kurt. On the stage that is Eurovision, there may be enough cheese lovers across Europe to give this a fighting chance. Still using a horrible backing vocalist who crashes the party and wrecks the momentum when she sings. Kurt’s winklepickers make his nimble foot shuffle look ridiculous. Mohawk guy really is a tool of the highest order – fetching some more Edam by encouraging one and all to dance along, and throwing in assorted 80s dance shapes. Kurt finishes with a punch of the air too, like the one we saw earlier used by Zeljko. In the context of this song, it is even more lame. But maybe ESC voters will lap it up.

Belarus confirmed their status as weaklings among this year’s ‘rock’ crop of tunes. Their song has a different arrangement at the start. It’s the best thing about it. Once Dmitry starts singing it goes rapidly downhill. He has a worse delivery of English than the Sinplus lead – ‘we are the weeners’. Maybe young women will vote ‘cos he’s fit’, who knows. There’s a rock screech late on Dmitry struggles to carry off convincingly. Another clenched fist punch of the air to finish. Yeah, we are all ‘weeners’. That’s 3 of the 1st 5 in this 2nd semi incorporating this rather unctuous flourish.

Some people give Portugal a sporting chance in this semi. Not sure we can make a case for it. Surely it falls off the radar in a semi so rich with solo female ballads. Passes me by while watching my fancy get beat at York. This maybe makes ‘Vida Minha’ seem more unpalatable than it actually is.

Looking forward to seeing this… Ukraine. In an earlier preview post the description given to Ukraine was a ‘volatile ESC stock’ and this looked an accurate description on 1st rehearsal. It was reminiscent of a plate-spinner, as you sensed something would go horribly wrong at any moment. It’s a stock that could yet rise. This looks much, much better. In fact, wow. That has made the day. Ukraine really know how to stage songs at the ESC. This hits you between the eyes with Gaitana like a conductress leading her orchestra of dancing trumpeters in bright dresses with fabulous images scrolling through the vidiboxes throughout. She enters the stage as bright flames light up those vidiboxes. When the screens join together at the end and form a dancing crowd… this is surely the ESC money shot in terms of visuals.

Bulgaria ends the day. Oh dear. Poor Sofi is still alone. This is a decent tune but the staging is a disaster, darling, and couldn’t be in starker contrast to Ukraine. She has a good voice, is having a good time but it looks like ESC suicide.

That’s day 6 done and dusted. Big day tomorrow – we get to see the Big 5 and Azerbaijan rehearse for the 1st time. Roman, Anggun, Nina, Sabina, Pastora and Humpy. Got to be better than the mostly turgid fare served up this evening. I’m so excited by the prospect I’m off to try and find the Mohawk guy from Malta and Dimitry from Belarus. Fist taps all round guys. We all need to be ‘weeners’ next week.
Rob Furber

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  1. Bruce

    Haha Rob I get the feeling from reading this today we briefly have the old ‘Johnnyrant’ back. No punches pulled in today’s copy with some truly wonderful metaphors 🙂

    Isn’t it amazing how Ukraine manage to pull something out the bag every year to set it apart. A lot of fun and suddenly its back on my radar as one to watch.

  2. Roach

    hey Rob,

    Due to an absolutely caning week at work, I’ve not been able to pop up sooner this week here, but I just wanted to say thanks hugely for these excellent daily updates from Baku! Questions on my mind right now…

    Semi 1… Do you see Hungary & Switzerland definitely fighting over the one qualification spot – Hungary currently with the slight edge? You’ve bigged them both up this week.

    And I know you’ve been a fan for some time now, but how convinced are you that Albania will qualify?

    In Semi 2, are you expecting Macedonia to qualify from their early slot?

    And I backed it some time ago now, but Estonia top Balkan (now @ 1.67) over Lithuania looks even better now imo.

    Overall, I’m not hearing a winning song outside of Sweden or Iceland as yet, and whilst a backer I don’t expect the latter to win. Italy is a Top 4 LAY for me, hugely overrated imo. (We will see tomorrow though!)

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Rob

    Hi Bruce – it certainly was a long day and could not resist the barbed comments regarding some of the songs 🙂 Ukraine’s improvement was remarkable. Still a tough song for Gaitana to nail on the big nights ahead but she is capable.

    And welcome roach – keep asking myself the same question regarding Switzerland & Hungary. Not sure which one has the edge given Hungary’s greater voting power, and later draw, but Sinplus staging of ‘Unbreakable’ is much better and they are more telegenic. One at least should make it and wouldn’t discount both.

    Albania – remain fairly confident on this. Having advised Evens, was tempted to lay off around 1.6 on Betfair but decided not to. Juries should love it.

    Macedonia – it’s in the mix, pushing hard for a spot. Think Kaliopi should hold her own among the Balkan vote in semi 2. Would want something well above Evens though – think it should be about 6-4 so current price too short imho.

    Estonia impressed on 1st rehearsal and will likely end up with only Donny Martini, the blindfolded Lithuanian fella, to beat. Think that top Baltic bet looking good roach.

    Outright – still very open… if Sweden gets a poor early draw it will be game on.

  4. edz

    i think you’re a bit harsh on ireland. its like you already written this harsh comments just even before they rehearse.

  5. Rob

    Hi edz. Thanks for posting. Of course you are right. It is inevitable every ESC blogger brings a degree of subjectivity to any viewing as much as you attempt a clean slate and seeing through the eyes of the 1st time ESC viewer. But it was honestly underwhelming. If it had been a staging triumph I would have stated that, but it simply does not have the impact of ‘Lipstick’ last year and it demands more of them vocally and they sounded poor.

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