Soho ESC Form Pointers

Apr 30, 2012 by

Soho ESC Form Pointers

There was one performance at last night’s London Eurovision Party that really stood out. It got the crowd going like no other. Wow, this one is catchy. It’s a floor-filler. Look at this. It’s going down a storm. Quick, where’s Betfair? It’s time to back this for the win…
Oh… the song in question was ‘What About My Dreams?’ sung by Kati Wolf, which competed last year and finished 22nd. Note to self: ignore crowd reaction. Fan favourites do not automatically translate into ESC winners.
Last night was our first ESC live experience though the tiny dimensions of Soho’s Shadow Lounge must be a far cry from the stage in Crystal Hall, Baku. It was hard to tell how much backing track was used with some of the performances but it looked like all the artists were singing live.
First up was Eva Boto from Slovenia singing ‘Verjamem’. Lovely Eva was not aided by some poor sound engineering in the first minute of her song when feedback and the song’s instrumental drowned out her vocal. This was compounded by the fact she appears to have a naturally timid and delicate delivery. She hit the bigger notes in the last minute which was much better. Eva’s only 16 and lacked the stagecraft of some of her more experienced contemporaries who would later perform. Based on this, we certainly wouldn’t be piling in to back Slovenia to qualify.
Portugal’s Filipa Sousa followed and while her vocal was probably more impressive than Eva’s, her song ‘Vida minha’ was weaker, and extremely forgettable. It is pleasant enough but passed us by and we expect this to be the case in Baku too.
Two slow female ballads hardly got the party started, so we were excited when Compact Disco arrived on stage to perform next. Well, it was a compact version of Compact Disco as the 5 band members seen when they won the national final in Hungary was reduced here to 3: the lead singer, one guitarist, and the guy in the specs on keyboards.
It was a good chance for said keyboard player and guitarist to get in practise pretending to play live, as will be the case in Baku. It looked like the band were going through the motions here and the crowd reaction was noticeably muted. The lead singer’s vocal was definitely better than the one we heard in the Hungarian national final. He’s a decent looking bloke, telegenic enough, and as a song this was head and shoulders above the first two. The concern remains whether they can pull off good enough staging in Baku and convey the power of the song but if the ESC truly is a song contest this should be qualifying.
After the interval France’s Anggun began the second half and this was the stand out performance so far. She’s a pocket rocket brunette who looks amazing for 38 – we were informed this as it was her birthday. She has tremendous stage presence and really knew how to work the crowd. After her backing track-assisted rendition of ‘You And I’ , Paddy O’Connell invited her to belt out part of her song unassisted. Suffice to say, this lady has a great set of pipes, and there should be no doubts about her live ability come Baku.
Following Anggun was Valentina Monetta and her ‘Social Network Song’ for San Marino. She was determined to sing it in its original form so used the lyric ‘Facebook’ and made a big point over this which makes us wonder whether San Marino has struck up a deal with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the site, and he is funding the nation’s 2012 ESC efforts.
It would appear a poor marketing initiative if so, as the song, regardless of Valentina’s commendable live vocal, really is an abomination, and the sort of thing that would be a lot more in keeping were we still stuck in the 1980s watching Rod, Jane and Freddy perform on ‘Rainbow’.
After Kati Wolf brought the house down, the gorgeous Sabina Babayeva arrived on stage, and sang ‘When The Music Dies’. We noticed earlier a dance version of this song was played by the DJ and it was surprisingly well suited to a more uptempo beat.
Even in its original form we have no issue over this song’s lyrics possibly proving a downer for televoters. Sabina appeared to sing this tune effortlessly and it sounded very good to us, and the best solo female ballad of the night up until this point.
But Sabina was then trumped by the magnificent Kaliopi from Macedonia performing ‘Crno i belo’.

Kaliopi struck us as an incredibly talented musician. She has a terrific voice, well suited to this song, and the way it mutates into more of a rock ballad certainly gives it a bit more impact than the other slow female ballads. She then sat in front of the keyboard and treated the audience to an even more impressive rendition.
Sadly, unless he appeared very briefly while nature called, Lithuania’s Donny Montell was a no-show. Maybe he donned his blindfold too early and got lost wandering around the streets of Soho. We can only hope for Donny’s sake he didn’t stumble into one of Old Compton Street’s seedier venues.
Anggun and Kaliopi were the two stand out performers on the night but as a form guide, to use horse racing parlance, the action at Soho’s Shadow Lounge was akin to watching the early morning gallops ahead of the big race days that still lie ahead in Baku.
Rob Furber

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  1. Mitch

    Great write up on last nights performances. I am still intrigued by Compact Disco’s chances. Encouraging to read the vocals ok, but disappointed a muted reaction from the audience. Do you think Hungary will have enough staging power to qualify from their semi final? I think it’s a cracking song. Maybe even a top ten if semi negotiated successfully and get a lucky late slot in draw. What do you think?

  2. Rob

    Hi Mitch. Thanks for posting. The biggest lesson we learned from last year’s ESC is the importance of staging. So it might be better to hold off from backing Hungary heavily for qualification until we get to see it during rehearsals in Baku and see exactly what they bring to the stage. Hungary does have a nice late draw though in 15 (of 18), and is surrounded by a couple of jury shockers in the wailing grannies and the Austrian rapping duo. It also scores well in this semi in terms of voting strength – we rank it 6th. You would expect the juries to recognise the quality of the song. Overall, it would appear to have more going for it than a few songs currently quoted at shorter prices to qualify from semi 1. So in answer to your question, a small qualifying punt for now, with a view to a bigger one if it is shaping up well in Baku. If it went on to get a late draw in the final, it certainly might be a worthwhile speculative wager to finish top 10.

  3. Henry VIII

    Thanks for the update Rob, I find Kaliopi magnificent too.

  4. Henry VIII

    Angun’s certainly got stage presence, is very pretty and can work the crowd – are you sure you weren’t mesmerised by all that Rob?

    I tend to agree with Daniel about her. From the clips I’ve seen of Amsterdam and London she often goes flat on the high notes or bottles out of them completely. Of course I wasn’t there and I’ve only seen poor quality youtubes, but what I’ve seen would prevent me backing her, all other things being equal.

  5. Rob

    Hi Henry,
    I was there with a buddy, who is completely new to the ESC, and he thought Anggun was excellent – one of the night’s best. She has more than enough vocal quality to cope with the song. I was surprised by Daniel’s analysis. If you think back to last year, and worries over Kati Wolf, those were more understandable. I wouldn’t have anywhere near the same concerns regarding Anggun. A key difference is, she can really work the stage too, and when she sang a section of the song unaided it was note perfect. I would argue it is more in the nature of the song for her to pull out of some notes, because she has to get on with the next part of it. This clip also suggests to me her vocal is strong enough to cope with the demands of ‘You & I’:

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