Melkweg ESC Concert 2013

Apr 14, 2013 by

Melkweg ESC Concert 2013

With PeR’s no show, ESC fans were treated to 25 of this year’s acts performing live at Amsterdam’s Melkweg last night.

The first thing to say is, it would be unwise to get caught up in the fan boy reaction that greeted a number of this year’s artists. Some of this year’s fan favourites, based on the whooping and hollering decibels, would certainly include San Marino, Ukraine and Ireland.

Another key aspect worth remembering is that a good few of last night’s songs had backing track assistance – this was hammered home when poor Roberto from Belgium had struggles with his earpiece and had to pause from his performance while the song continued to play, before a quick re-start was organised.

It was interesting comparing the uptempo numbers in semi 1 as we got to hear and see Roberto, Ryan Dolan, Alyona from Belarus and Hannah Mancini in action. They all did ok but of these 4, Hannah probably impressed the most both with her vocal prowess and her stagecraft working the audience.

If we were given an insight into ‘Solayoh’s staging in Malmo, then Alyona has four backing dancers wearing some particularly garish black and silver jackets, but her vocal seemed solid enough and she gave it plenty of welly during an energetic performance.

Krista Siegfrids also gave a very exuberant display of ‘Marry Me’. The staging was certainly impactful with Krista being lifted at various times in a set strangely reminiscent of ‘La, La Love’ last year.

It was all rather frenetic – like witnessing a young child going wild after a heavy hit of tartrazene – and this may prove Finland’s fatal flaw. The O.T.T. staging looked like it was desperately trying to conceal what is, behind all the wedding-themed shenanigans, a waifer-thin pop tune. She indulged in a lesbian kiss at the end of this song which was loved by the fan boys but if this is repeated in Malmo it may not go down so well.

Greece got to reprise ‘Alcohol Is Free’ after some technical issues and if we are talking impactful and fun, then Koza Mostra and Agathonas Iakovidis had it in spades and should be appreciated by the traditional ESC audience who tune in first and foremost to be entertained.

Having earlier advised Switzerland as something of a dark horse to qualify from semi 2, and even land top 3, the staging of ‘You And Me’ fell a little flat and they didn’t involve 95-year-old Emil on double bass enough. That said, it is certainly a feel-good, sing-a-long tune, its iambic pentameter lending itself to crowd participation as the Melkweg audience hummed the chorus long after Takasa had finished performing.

Austria, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine’s solo female ballads were all performed competently, though you do start to wonder where the casualties lie in semi 1. Vocally, Birgit and Dina were virtually on a par with Zlata. Maybe Natalia was slightly below these 3. You also wonder what gimmicks Ukraine has up its sleeve possibly involving a release of red Admirals at some point or a gravity-defying gymnastic troupe as Zlata wiggles her charms.

France’s Amandine offered a very sassy rendition of L’enfer Et Moi and if we’re comparing female leads this year, her gritty delivery was a much more compelling spectacle for this particular audience member but maybe that’s entirely down to personal taste.

Albania’s rock duo did ok but you sense this song will have greater resonance once the stage is fully utilised with full rock band paraphernalia. This is an important point to make with many of last night’s songs. Shorn of the staging accoutrements we will no doubt see in Malmo, not to mention the addition of backing singers who can often do a remarkable job concealing vocal weakness, it is easy to envisage vast improvement.

Having been keen to put forward the case for Georgia this year, it was good to see Nodi and Sophie go through the gears during a powerful rendition of ‘Waterfall’. This song really does have an epic quality all of its own as it gradually builds over the 3 minutes.

There are already murmurings that their partnership jars somehow. We still recall countless ESC observers keen to slate the romantic interplay between Ell and Nikki performing ‘Running Scared’ in 2011, suggesting it didn’t work due to the age difference. It was much the same with Paula Seling & Ovi in 2010.

We never agreed with any of that analysis and let’s hope the naysayers continue to decry Georgia as it may invite more generous odds. If Nodi’s appeal resides with middle-aged women, then Italy’s Marco is definitely this year’s ultimate heartthrob. His brooding Latin looks, the sideburns, the tailored Italian suit, the sullen charm with which he emotes this song… it is easy to see women of a certain bent drooling over this despite L’Essenziale being somewhat ponderous as a song.

The Croatian tenors offered a consummate display of their vocal skills, while Bulgaria’s Elitsa did a good job bringing ‘Samo Shampioni’ to life despite appearing without Stoyan, and having to improvise with a guy in a back-to-front cap who looked like a drunk stage invader.

Lithuania’s Andrius did a good job, there was certainly a fair amount of love for him among the crowd and he looks like he may have sorted out his eyebrows, but charisma on stage can be an innate thing and he and Belgium’s Roberto were possibly trumped in this department by others on the night including Malta’s Gianluca, who might be this year’s Donny Montell in eliciting warm, motherly feelings in female voters.

Israel’s Moran did a competent job with Rak Bishvilo during which it became apparent it’s a devilishly difficult song to sing, or maybe it’s just that Hebrew sounds devilishly difficult when it is sung. As the Galliano controversy rumbles on she wore a more suitable, demure dress, as did the members of Serbia’s Moje 3. Instead of the vicars and tarts outfits seen at the Serbian final, it was good to see these young ladies in altogether classier outfits. To borrow from the kind of trite analysis regularly heard among X Factor panelists, they also sounded ‘on point’ throughout.

Of course, you tend to grow an emotional attachment to songs carrying your money at Eurovision so we will rein in any further accolades but the 25-1 advised e/w in semi 1 certainly looks good value based on what was seen and heard here.

As for Romania, Cesar’s vocal could shatter crystal and leave dogs running for cover. What he does is something very specialist but it does have stand-out appeal. Romania is certainly the joker in the pack in semi 2, and it is easy to imagine him causing havoc by sneaking through ahead of one of his better fancied rivals.

It’s an interesting exercise writing this article as a stream of consciousness. What is left that has so far not received a proper mention? San Marino, Macedonia and Moldova. Does this mean they were the least memorable on the night? No, not entirely.

The fans love Esma but after Lozano’s impressive opening, it felt like you know intimately what it’s like to be in his shoes as he watches on in near bewilderment as his singing partner joins him on stage caterwauling to an ethno beat. Much like trying to pair Gerrard and Lampard for all those years in England’s centre midfield, it just doesn’t work.

It is now more apparent why Aliona Moon is singing ‘O Mie’ in Romanian: she is much more comfortable coping with the demands of this song in her native tongue. She did a good job but this ballad is definitely rather mauve in a semi top-heavy with solo female ballads.

As for San Marino, Valentina performed the song adequately enough. She looks transformed from the manic blonde tapping away behind a laptop during last year’s ‘Social Network Song’. It’s probably a case of how much more sway ESC fans have when it comes to semi-final voting because they are definitely going to rally behind Valentina, in the desire to see San Marino make the final with such a decent song.

And that’s it. There was definitely some further valuable knowledge gained seeing nearly two thirds of this year’s field perform ‘live’ at the Melkweg. Live with backing track assistance to a greater or lesser extent, that is. Much can change yet, of course, and there is still a very long way to go before the performances that really matter take place in Malmo.

3 Comments

  1. Rob

    This is what we expected regarding Ukraine. A clever, televote-grabbing stage gimmick is definitely required to help improve its chances:

    http://escxtra.com/2013/04/zlata-announces-more-stage-details/

  2. Boki

    I’m sure the 6th person will be David Copperfield’s limo driver who picked some tricks of trade to levitate them all.

  3. Rob

    Should have added that the performance of ‘Alcohol Is Free’ in Amsterdam has persuaded me to upgrade Greece’s top 3 chances in semi 2, & 10-1 e/w with Boyles looks fair value.

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