Rehearsals Day 3 – Serbian Masterclass

May 15, 2012 by

Rehearsals Day 3 – Serbian Masterclass

Will try and keep daily reports a little more concise after yesterday’s thesis, otherwise said writer will be in danger of burn-out come the pivotal second week.
Serbia is first up today. You sense this guy Zeljko is a seasoned Eurovision campaigner. This is his manor. Very comfortable on stage. He finds the camera well, has an excellent voice and Serbia’s staging already looks solid. The strings at the start are very evocative reeling you in. There is a pleasant backdrop of swirly lights like something from ‘The Sky At Night’ and also reminiscent of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song video. Very dreamy. An impressive start to the day. This does look a lock for top 3 in this semi regardless of trap 1.

From one professional outfit to another – Kaliopi, as we discovered from the London ESC gig, has a great set of pipes and the Macedonian tune is shaping up very well on the Crystal Hall stage. When it goes into full rock mode it sounds excellent and this song is a real dark horse in this semi. Everything is black and white by way of backdrop – in keeping with the song’s meaning – and a very suitable canvas. Macedonia is fighting for Balkan votes with Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Bulgaria but is capable of holding its own, and you can imagine juries being impressed by it. This is a very strong start indeed to semi 2.
Word on the street regarding The Netherlands is that Endemol head honcho John de Mol is hands on in the staging of Joan Franka’s tune, i.e., the Dutch supposedly mean business this year. He is no Cowell based on this first rehearsal because surprisingly Joan wears the head-dress which would appear such an obvious vote loser. That said, maybe it will enable her to stay in the minds of voters.
Flames surround her, rising out of pots, giving her the look of an Indian squaw singing by the fireside. She is alone on a very big stage. Her 4-piece band are huddled away on one side and wander down the walkway and join her centre stage very late on in the piece. Joan’s vocal is only ok – certainly compared to the two powerhouse crooners who precede her. It’s a very likeable tune though and in a strange way the stripped back staging works. Maybe de Mol knows his onions after all. Given its draw and lack of allies The Netherlands looks up against it, and will have to rely on a significant anti-diaspora jury boost – though let’s not forget this was a clear jury trend last year.
A big contrast follows in Malta’s pop tune. The staging for this involves a backdrop of silhouetted fans clapping their hands along to the music contrasted by orange lighting. Initial reaction is, it is a clever touch and the song starts promisingly. Kurt is a telegenic lead singer, a capable vocalist and finds the camera well. But there is too much going on here. Kurt flirts with his female backing singer, high fives his Mohawk-ed sound mixer, acknowledges the drummer…  Mr Mohawk then throws in some shapes front and centre, Kurt does a fleet-footed shuffle in time with the ‘yeah, yeahs’ along with his band and it is hard to keep up with all the action, his voice waivering as he bounds about the stage. The song rather loses its way in the last minute. His female backing vocalist doesn’t help by sounding very flat, and Kurt riffs poorly. Pyrotechnics climax the song. It’s all rather messy and if it’s how a song finishes rather than how it starts then this is failing. A shame as given Malta only missed out on qualification in 2011 by a single point with the far weaker ‘One Life’ sung by Glen Vela, it has a fair chance to qualify from semi 2 but maybe not on this showing.
It is interesting to compare Belarus with Switzerland and Hungary… and it is losing on first rehearsal. Litesound’s lead singer may be eye candy for tweenies but he doesn’t have a very strong voice at all. There’s no escaping it’s a very weak rock tune, and the only noteworthy piece of staging is the group defying gravity, moving until they are near horizontal to the stage. Not sure the David Copperfield trickery is going to help save Belarus. It comes across as a band playing in an amateur school of rock competition. The backdrop is an unremarkable mix of blue and yellow.
Portugal is just plain dull. This ballad is as limp as they come. She has 5 backing singers but this song would be more in keeping with a late night Buenos Aires bar and the gouchos serenading the ladies with their Argentine tango moves. The backdrop is a cityscape… Lisbon? Then it glows a fiery red. This could have an X Factor effect on viewers – it looks like Filipa Sousa could be teeing herself up for a Sophie Habibis-style demise here. It is maybe the sort of tune that might surprise by way of its jury score, like last year’s Lithuania, though there is so much strong solo female ballad competition in this semi Portugal looks seriously up against it.
That is now 4 average to poor efforts in a row. The first 2 songs are huge winners today; a real class apart. And what to say about Ukraine… it flirts with disaster and you hold your breath throughout wondering if everyone will make it through unscathed.
Male, trumpeting dancers in dresses of different colours, a robotics dancer with a luminous jacket who would look more in place if we were still in 1984, lava lamp colours swirl, 4 vidi screens feature computerised dance move characters behind Gaitana. She seems to almost lose her way in places and risks getting a little screechy. She could really fail horribly on the big nights ahead with this.
The screens come together to form images of a crowd all dancing along to the tune towards the end. Ukraine have really thrown the kitchen sink at this by way of visuals. It’s like someone among their delegation got that paintbox software as his new toy and went berserk with it. This is no sand artist but amazingly the sheer energy and colour going on on that stage sort of works. It’s certainly memorable.
And to end the day Bulgaria. Another uptempo dance tune and yet following Ukraine it looks and feels very subdued. Sofi Marinova has a stronger vocal than Gaitana but she doesn’t have the same stage gimmickry, and this could prove vital. It all looks far too plain. Sofi looks like the only one on the dance floor. That’s because she is on stage… alone!!! Have the backing crew missed the bus to Crystal Hall? This can’t be right. Poor Sofi is giving it her all but she has been hung out to dry here. She also has an unflattering tattoo on her right forearm. The backdrop offers purple lighting. Very uninspiring. Sofi looks like she’d fit right in in a Geordie nightclub.
Over-riding impression after today is the first half of semi 2 is full of dross bar the first two songs. It is far, far inferior to semi 1. The songs in the 2nd half of this semi look like they have an open goal to grab the bigger share of the ten qualifying berths.
Rob Furber

Related Posts



  1. steve

    Cheers Johnny sounds a long hard day. I see they have put the arena scoreboard up how does that ork does everyone with acreditation score them eurovision style? And is it 1 member 1 vote?
    Pleased about Serbia though I concede it is boring it only has to avoid becoming that way for 3 mins come finals night so given a decent draw top 4 should be achievable.
    Any buzz on Sweden? make or break in some respects tommo, Im in the drift camp fwiw.

  2. Rob

    Hi Steve,
    I was so busy working on my report the arena scoreboard completely passed me by!! My impression is, media reaction is not to be trusted one iota. Hacks seem to follow the hype. They are not aficionados when it comes to assessing the merits of individual countries so whatever the scoreboard comes up with, treat it with great caution. I would guess Russia will be a runaway leader in semi 1 given the coverage. I presume it is one vote per accredited individual. There are also some incredibly partisan characters around getting their flags out in support of their countries.

  3. fiveleaves

    Excellent work Rob.

    You did well to stay awake during todays rehearsals.
    I’m not even with you on Serbia and Macedonian. Though I can see a very strong argument for the former based on allies

    The only light for me in a sea of dirge was the Netherlands.
    I agree Joan on stage alone works well and share your disappointment that the headdress has returned.

    After an enjoyable couple of days watching rehearsals for the 1st semi, this was Eurovison at it’s worst for me.

  4. dicksbits

    Serbia and Ukraine are today’s only guaranteed finalists for me. FYROM might knock Croatia out of the running as I’m not convinced all 4 Ex Yugo countries will qualify.

  5. dicksbits

    Malta: He sounds like he’s singing in a tunnel. Very muffled. There is also a touch of high school / sixth form about this whole routine. Poor draw plus no neighbours = MISS, no MAYBE. Yet another tune with “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” in it this year.

    Portugal: Words can’t describe how deluded some bloggers are about this song. “I really like it and I think there’s a place in the final for this one”. They say the same about almost every song they blog about. Definite miss. Possible wooden spoon, but hey aren’t Spain voting in this semi so they’ll give it a few.

    Bulgaria: I agree, very disappointing. Could do with some choreography. Badly. A couple of ‘mood’ dancers behind her, who come up and caress her at the very least.

    Belarus – more over hype I’ve read about this. Why do so many bloggers JUST think through their genitalia? He’s not even fit! 100/1 is too narrow here. Should be 150-200/1. He’s so out of tune and flat as a witch’s tit.

    Holland – two twee to make any impact. shame. I liked this one. won’t appeal to under 25s I don’t think.

  6. Rob

    Hi dicksbits. I think you’ve called that about right. I had concerns for Ukraine, and still do. It’s a routine that could easily go t*ts up on the big night. Gaitana seemed to struggle to keep up with the song and was almost riffing in parts. The visuals probably salvage it. Malta was utter cheese in terms of staging and the last minute is poor. And Kurt foolishly tries to freestyle towards the end, gets carried away and it reminded me of Marty McFly in Back To The Future when he goes too far and everyone ends up staring agog at him. I like Macedonia’s chances. It has voting power in this semi and those first 2 tunes stood head and shoulders above the rest.

    fiveleaves – I fear for The Netherlands… again! Lousy draw, no voting allies. I found it endearing but Joan’s only way through will be via a massive leg up from the juries – not impossible.

  7. Rob

    In answer to Steve – the OGAE scoreboard is towards the back of the press centre and everyone here with accreditation gets to vote for the 10 songs they think will be qualifying from each semi, and these numbers are then crunched. I saw earlier Russia leading semi 1 and Ukraine towards the top in semi 2. There is clearly a lot of partisan allegiance, and support based on hype more than objective appraisal at play here.

  8. fiveleaves

    I’m not confident about the Netherlands Rob.
    As you say an early draw and no real allies, unlike many others in this semi.
    It’s the only one I’d listen to for pleasure tho.

    ..and good gawd. Ukraine top. Having rather liked the song beforehand I thought it was awful. Her vocals were way off.
    Also it’s clearly a total rip-off of ‘When Love Takes Over’

  9. dicksbits

    I don’t like the Ukrainian song. The horns remind me of their winner in 2004.

    AKOE on stats say: “Unfortunatly for Ukraine, their three biggest supporters; Azerbaijan, Moldova and Russia, will be voting in the first semi-final, leaving only Belarus and the Ukrainian diaspora in Portugal to support them. Consequently it’s a tougher than normal task for Ukraine to qualify in Baku. ”

    Even though it may be tough I think this song will improve on visuals and performance before next week, and critically it depends on how it comes across on camera, which we won’t know about until the jury final on Wednesday (?).

    After so many dull songs, and with Bulgaria following it, I find it hard to see how Ukraine can fail to qualify. There are ten spots after all, and they have a 100% qualification record.

  10. dicksbits

    It’s a cliche but true – if Holland qualify it’s down to the juries going for non-traditional eurovision songs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *