Rehearsals Day 1 – Rona Hits A Home Run

May 13, 2012 by

Rehearsals Day 1 – Rona Hits A Home Run

It is never a good idea to go jumping to too many conclusions following first rehearsals as staging and performance can improve markedly and it is worth remembering when semi-final nations perform in front of the juries this is effectively their fourth run through, and the live tv semi-final performance their sixth. That said, you can get a sense of where things look like heading.
In the delayed morning session, only one song looked the part and that was Iceland. One of the reasons for this was as much about the backdrop as the vocal. One big lesson hammered home last year is the importance of staging and in this vital aspect Iceland looks to be on to a winner. We sweep past majestic glacial scenery. It’s cold, dark and magical and the visuals fit the drama of the song perfectly. It has real impact, Greta and Jonsi harmonise well enough and there is good interplay between them. This looks extremely polished already and good to go for the semi-final.
The most eagerly awaited song among the first 4 nations to rehearse was Greece given the limited, backing track-assisted performances we had to go on up until this point. When Eleftheria’s ropey vocal started wafting across the press centre, a dash was required to Crystal Hall to take in her performance up close. On second run through she sounded a little better. On third, again an improvement. Performers are actually given 4 goes to perform their songs in these first rehearsals. She doesn’t have the strongest voice and the energetic nature of the routine makes her a little breathy in places and struggling to carry some notes. A kaleidoscope backdrop of dizzying colours left a little to be desired too after the ingenious staging Greece pulled out of the bag last year.
On the plus side Eleftheria certainly has it in her to sell this song well performance-wise. She has a telegenic smile, confidence in abundance and owns the stage. The choreographed dance moves with her ensemble while somewhat cheesy probably play well to Greece’s audience and will only get better. On the back of today’s effort though the market is likely to begin to question Greece’s qualification prospects. Greece is aided by having Latvia follow it. Anmary may possess a superior vocal but the staging is very, very static with her female-only troupe, and the backdrop of mostly yellow is horrible, pretty much in keeping with the song. The whole package looks pedestrian and amateur.
Bottom of the pile though comes Montenegro, first to perform in semi 1 and likely to turn viewers off in droves. Rambo Amadeus has brought the donkey from his preview video to the stage, in wooden form, and it is one of the more captivating elements of this musical holocaust. He mumbled his way through ‘Euro neuro… monetary gravy’ and it’s hard to see Montenegro improving enough to get anywhere near qualification. Rambo has apparently placed a bet on himself finishing last… a wise wager if he procured odds on finishing last in semi 1 but a hugely optimistic punt if placed on the final as it assumes Montenegro qualifying.
The first live performance of ESC 2012 to leave goosebumps on this spectator was Rona Nishliu who gave the acoustics in Crystal Hall a proper work-out during ‘Suus’. She doesn’t do anything by halves this lady and gave as much on the second flawless run-through as the first. The backdrop is simple and the single spotlight that drills down on Rona as she powers out the notes is effective enough. A possible negative is the grimace she gives it while delivering some of those exceptional notes, but juries won’t be holding that against her.

Mandinga have their routine off pat and it already looks the business including a moon-walking bagpiper at the start. A little overkill, perhaps, but there is very little else not to like about this fun tune or the colourful staging. Romania supporters will be pleased to learn Elena, the lead vocalist, has a very good voice indeed. Like Iceland, this looks close to the finished product already. This performance has only confirmed the opinion Romania will be pushing hard for top 3 in semi 1.
Switzerland worked the stage well during ‘Unbreakable’ and again the lead singer’s vocal was decent. Sinplus appear to have added a foxy female guitarist to the group, or maybe she has been hiding her light under a bushel previously, but she adds to the group’s visual appeal. The two brothers Broggini are telegenic enough and collectively Sinplus look pretty cool, and modern but you get the impression this rock-light tune will never be more than a borderline qualifier.
The last 2 songs to perform on day 1 are Belgium and Finland, two solo females. Iris and Pernilla. You already sense Finland will steal Belgium’s thunder. One issue for Iris is her song is so, so plain, and her vocal, while by no means weak, is not especially memorable. Nor is the staging. This song lacks traction, it just meanders along rather aimlessly. Like Albania’s Rona, Iris also has an issue with her grimace. She has an unflattering jawline at full delivery reminiscent of the predators in the sci-fi series ‘V’.
The Finnish song on the other hand has an under-stated beauty about it. The presentation is minimalist but this works in its favour. It is charming. And has a nice backdrop of dreamy blue with white lights that works rather well, with Pernilla joined only by a cellist. This might well end up a fruitful qualifying punt.
Today’s biggest winners: Albania, Iceland and Romania. The biggest losers: Montenegro, Latvia and Greece. But don’t go writing off Greece. It still has more than enough going for it to get through. In fact, a big drift in its qualification odds could make it look something of a steal on Betfair‘s semi 1 ‘to qualify’ market.
Rob Furber

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7 Comments

  1. fiveleaves

    Hi Rob,
    I hope you’re enjoying your 1st live ESC experience.

    We only have Youtube to go on here, but would agree with most of your post.
    Albania was a spectacular vocal. The worry would be how telegenic she is. Atm she looks like Mrs Overall 😀

    I’ve never been a fan of Iceland or Romania, but a very good rehearsals from both. Having said that I’m not totally convinced by the voice of the Icelandic female and how her voice blends with the very strong male singer.

    Greece was dire on the video I saw. So interesting to hear she did improve.
    It makes me worry a little about laying her for top 10 off the back of what I saw and heard, but shall sit tight for now.

    Finland a real gem. I just worry it might be too subtle for a saturday night audience. Hopefully not.

    Have fun and don’t smile at too many strangers 😀

  2. Rob

    Hi five leaves. Thanks for posting. It was an informative day. I expect they will make Rona up come the live tv semi-final so I don’t think it will be too much of an issue. Albania should be a big pts scorer with the juries and this is where Finland could fare well too. Finland the riskier qualification bet but it has a nice position at the end of the 1st half of the 1st semi and from what I saw today it will eclipse Belgium.

  3. NXRBL

    Hi Rob,
    Hope you’re enjoying Baku and tyvm for your informative up to the minute reports! Hope you have a rewarding few weeks! 😉
    Just wondering how Romania look visually? Hard to imagine it without ALL the chunky instruments on show, but my initial take was that it sounded good and has the potential to look pretty slick with correct camerawork too (well, as slick as it can look considering said instruments)

  4. Rob

    Hi NX. Thanks for posting. I was seriously impressed by Elena’s vocal for Romania. They look a very polished outfit and the staging looked fine to me. Visually on screen it may veer towards being a little crowded at the moment – they remain quite close-knit in the centre of the stage. Some think the routine has lost a bit of its spontaneity but I think this is maybe more down to watching them perform it so many times. I imagine they will soup up the choreo some more and get it all much tighter come the live semi next week.
    Keep reading and posting your thoughts 🙂

  5. Bruce

    re Romania’s staging I don’t want too many ‘long’ shots in the final performance edit. It’s good in my opinion that they are close together, in that the fun element of the song shines through because of their interaction and that they feed off each other. Every time I watch them I just think this is a good bunch of friends just having some fun, definitely a summer vibe and a ‘feelgood’ song.

    I agree some of the original fun factor is lost after many viewings but as the vast majority will be viewing it for the first time in the final I think that concern is best dismissed.

  6. Bruce

    I think Albania is a love it or hate it song. I don’t like it.

    Last years Albanian entry had relatively strong voting allies, a powerful vocalist and good staging but didn’t make it through. I don’t think this will either.

    I can’t help thinking ‘omg shouty woman’ at a lot of stages listening to this – that, and the poor draw, is very much in common with last years vocalist.

  7. Rob

    Hi Bruce. I think a key difference with Albania 2012 and Albania 2011 is that Aurela Gace really was shouty, and attacked the song with far too much venom. The song and the voice were both weaker last year in comparison. Rona is a class apart as a vocalist and she should collect big jury votes in the solo female ballad stakes pitched against Belgium and Finland in this semi.

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