Phoenix From The Flames

Apr 30, 2014 by

Phoenix From The Flames

Conchita starts today and she has flaming imagery of a phoenix behind her. At the outset she is in darkness before the spotlight arrives. She can do this song justice, that is for sure, and her performance goes down a storm in the press centre. Judging by this reception, Conchita is clearly winning this year. Not only this semi-final but also the final and at this rate she could well run successfully as the next leader of the free world.

Lithuania’s Vilija has one male dancer with her on stage going through some ‘interesting/strange’ choreo. Green lighting not seen since Georgia’s Eldrine in 2011. She has the same black skirt on as seen in the national final which could double as a chimney brush. This song is a tricky one to get a handle on. Funnily enough, if Vilija’s skirt is a chimney brush then her male dancer becomes the handle as it were, as he disappears beneath her undercarriage at one point.

What is this song exactly? Answers on a postcard, please. The fact remains however that Lithuania has big voting strength in this semi. It is top of the charts, in fact, so unwise to discount. But one that hardly encourages backing to qualify either. Vilija gestures a kiss at the camera at one point. She is giving her all up there and is very likeable in her slightly unhinged mannerisms.

Topi has his eyes closed far too much of the time singing ‘Something Better’ and his voice is a little weak. This song has no competition in its ‘soft rock’ genre in this semi but the band isn’t selling this well. In fact, they are all like rabbits stuck in headlights today.

Much like Malta it is a song that doesn’t withstand repeated listens very well. As a lover of indie with much more edge to it than this ‘landfill’ variety it is hard to warm to this personally, but in the arena that is Eurovision this may well pander well to a certain audience. Have to keep reminding myself, this is not the Grammys. My perennial ESC blind spot.

‘The wall is now paper thin’ goes the 2nd line of ‘Heartbeat’ and coincidentally Kasey’s voice is sounding paper thin here. Orange is the predominant staging colour, including, whisper it, Kasey’s fake tan.

The Keltic elements are here in spades with the dancers trying to sell the whole ‘Riverdance’ thing. It is all so tired and cliched and overtly Irish. Kasey isn’t a natural performing this either. She lacks stagecraft, placing her choreographed movements with no deftness. It would be a delight to see this lose out in this semi but Ireland does have a nice batch of voting friends.

Teo follows Kasey and offers up something far more professional. He is joined by his troupe of male-only dancers – wisely not choosing women and going down the misogynistic Robin Thicke route – and they sync their steps stylishly in this swing/R&B fusion of a song. He certainly has charisma beaming a confident smile, and wearing a classy back suit with open collar white shirt. He scrubs up well for male and female voters alike.

FYR Macedonia is far from the finished product. It looks like Tijana will drag one of her male dancers on strings at one point given the choreo. This is a pop song which lacks the confident swagger of Israel or the fun of Poland. Is it falling between 2 stools?

Sebastiano’s diction has not improved as much as Swiss supporters might have hoped. His fiddling needs to be more convincing too and there is an issue with the backing singer’s voice overpowering him, and this backing singer sounds like he has just been kicked in the nuts.

Greece have brought a trampoline so they literally ‘rise up’ bouncing up and down in the last minute in between possibly a famous Greek male gymnast. It is Riskykidd aka Shane Schuller, and Nikolas Raptikis who are front and centre here. This is very Chase & Status. It is fun, modern and has impact. Does the trampoline push it too far towards silliness and detract from a song surely aiming at a certain contemporary credibility when it comes to the juries?

Overhead spinning blue whirlpool effect for Slovenia with the staging playing heavily on the ’round and round again we go’ lyric. 3 female backing singers help Tinkara but they are not helping her when she needs their help the most, and she is consistently struggling on some of the big notes. She also struggles to combine flute-playing duties in between singing the song. Unlike Teo who is possibly a very palatable filling between two solo females, poor Tinkara, whose lookie-likie is Dervla Kirwan by the way, has the uptempo numbers of Greece and Romania potentially sandwiching her.

Romania has a super-imposed image of Paula at the outset. The surprising thing here is Ovi moves inside what looks like an Olympic Ring but is actually a hollowed out, illuminated piano. He looks plain ridiculous tapping away at the keys. Further in, Paula looks like she is suffering from severe constipation as she forces out her extended power note.

The interplay between them looks forced, there are some needless arm and hand gestures throughout – maybe some more visual effects sprinkling magic dust will be added further down the line – and none of this is by any means a miracle. It has been an under-par day for many nations on day 3 here at ESC central. No bet today. The rest day is much required tomorrow to think further about this semi and where the casualties are going to come from.

Here’s some Conchita for all you Austria fans out there:


  1. Gert

    Hi Robby ;-). Delightful reading as ever. So far, for semi final 2, I think it’s harder to predict. I don’t know why, but semi final 1 seems more “polished”, seems having the better songs, better charismatic performers and better staged countries.

    Following 3 countries in performing order are the ones to watch out for (a good scoring). If you ask me personally:
    –> Malta (will do well with juries & televoters)
    –> Norway (will do well with both juries and televoters, though slightly lower than Malta and Austria)
    –> Austria (the buzz is helping this, like it did Serbia 2007 and Israël 1998. I said many times….this is a contender)
    And then:
    –> Belarus (charismatic boy. jury & televote magnet)
    –> Switzerland (charismatic guy. around 4th to 7th place)
    –> Greece (televote magnet. Romania 2013-like scoring?)
    –> Romania (jury & televote magnet. weird props, but did that result in bad result for Ukraine in 2013?)

    From semi final 1, I have now like 9 -more or less- certain qualifying candidates (remember, only first set of rehearsals!). In performance order:
    –> Armenia (jury & televote magnet. Crafty staging)
    –> Estonia (jury & televote magnet. Underestimated)
    –> Sweden (jury & televote magnet. Fans are right I think. Even my mum loves it. TOP 3 this semi)
    –> Russia (televote magnet. Eventually staging will work)
    –> Azerbaijan (jury magnet & televote magnet, though by far Azeri’s most complicated entry ever)
    –> Ukraine (televote magnet)
    –> Belgium (jury & televote magnet. Still TOP 3 candidate for this semi)
    –> Netherlands (jury magnet -5th- then televote like 12th = Q. Allthough, it’s actually pretty damn original. Belgium 2010-esque, Ireland 1994-esque)
    –> Hungary (jury & televote magnet. TOP 3)

    • Rob

      Hi Gert. Yes, semi 2 is still something of a puzzle. It is weaker & there isn’t much in it between a number of songs so hard to predict at this early stage.

      There is still a bit of uncertainty in semi 1. Good luck with your predictions 🙂

  2. Gert

    By the way Rob, Switzerland reminds me a bit of Norway 2009. It’s quite unique actually. I think I’ve slightly underestimated this entry.

    • Rob

      One of my biggest concerns with the Swiss entry is Seb’s poor English diction, Gert. He could also do with watching the video of Rybak in 2009 & how to mimic fiddling on stage with more gusto.

    • Rob

      Thanks ev. Good to see Hatch & Blackburn have been pensioned off, though I guess they were prohibited (thankfully) under the new jury rules after being on the UK jury last year.

  3. Rob

    I guess the most significant points to take out of this is:

    The average age of the jurors is 40 years old, 79 members are female, 106 are male.

    And just over 10% of the 185 jurors are former contestants, assuming those listed on are the only ones (& there are 20 names there). At least they look qualified, in general, to be judging things.

  4. Rob

    And this is worth remembering too:

    They are being asked to judge:

    vocal capacity
    the performance on stage
    the composition and originality of the song
    the overall impression by the act

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