Tick Tock Loses Time

Apr 28, 2014 by

Tick Tock Loses Time

Like opening the first window on your advent calendar, day 1 of ESC rehearsals always promises much, but this year even more so given Armenia is first to rehearse, and some of the other perceived contenders will also be performing in the shape of Sweden, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and, dare it be mentioned in the contenders list? Yes, what the hell, it can, because it’s on the list you are reading here – Belgium.

Excitement was at fever pitch in my guesthouse first thing though you would never have guessed it as I breakfasted alone in contemplative silence. A bus full of screaming school kids and a yomp across the desolate wasteland of the godforsaken peninsula that is home to the ESC 2014 venue did its best to dampen spirits as did the usual technical glitches with no audio or visual in the press centre for the first 2 run throughs of Armenia.

Third time lucky. Aram is alone on stage, a surprise as the song lends itself to some live orchestration. This had been Tweeted previously by Aram apparently but my personal hope for the staging was that the component parts of the instrumentation would also be present.

When the drum n bass kicks in so does the light show as it explodes into life. Visually impressive, with some nice overhead images highlighting Aram being alone. The song is ‘Not Alone’ but Aram is alone, and the visual message is conveyed well here. Need to see more of this but what we did see today was adequate.

Just learned something new about Latvia. The lead singer is called Joran Steinhauer. Might save that one for the press conference. In a Blur press conference at the Brits back in the early 90s Dennis Pennis famously stood up and said, ‘I’ve got a question for the drummer?’

‘Quiet everyone. Someone has a question for the drummer,’ the rest of the band demanded, before Pennis hit him with, ‘What’s your name buddy?’

Latvia is ‘charmingly amateur’. Have to credit Michael at esckaz for that, and cunningly combining the 2 key words that spring to mind here in ‘amateur’ and ‘charming’. Joran has some nice interplay with the camera early on, and strides down one of the catwalks that jut out. It is a charm offensive throughout with the 4 band members gleaming smiles as they all join together, front and centre, on the final shot.

Tanja from Estonia goes through some extensive modern dance moves with her male partner during ‘Amazing’. The most amazing thing is how small they both look on the massive wooden gymnasium floor. Tanja could be in her big match kit here of white leotard beneath floaty white dress. Both are in floaty white matching the lyrics, ‘floating the skies, it felt so heavenly, we were weightless’.

Nice overhead at the start with the two of them lying on the floor. It is certainly a unique visual package and she manages to keep vocal control well despite the assortment of lifts and spins. Extra points for artistic impression or risking alienating viewers with no connection with the camera and the whole thing looking like the sort of routine you might see on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’?

Sanna Nielsen starts the afternoon and is stuck in a prism of white laser lights. The staging feels somewhat primitive in being so minimalist. It looks like a light show created by a ZX Spectrum computer geek; the sort of thing you might have been impressed by at a Jean Michel Jarre concert in the early 80s.

It must be stressed you won’t find your number one fan of ‘Undo’ here and it has been difficult to enjoy this since first listening to it at Melodifestivalen. More so after continually mishearing the lyrics to the chorus, due to Sanna’s enunciation, as ‘Undo my ISA. Undo what hurts so bad. Undo my eye pain…’ Listen closely the next time.

My advice to Sanna: you can always switch your ISA to a regular savings account – they can pay up to 6% interest online. And Optrex eye drops might help. Or, if it’s a really piercing pain, Nurofen Plus.

Iceland have drafted in a couple of guys from ZZ Top as backing singers – impressive beards. There is plenty of facial topiary among the band members so if beards are back in in 2014 this may have a chance.

The band are in coloured tracksuits – yellow, red, blue and pink – that are very Essex. There are some synchronised dance steps, and a focus on a frenzied drumming section, intended to add to the fun. The 4 band members spell out ‘Love’ at the end. It is all a bit desperate and eager to please in a ‘look at us, aren’t we these fun, zany guys’ way.

Albania has a lone guitarist on the catwalk riffing away self-indulgently at one point of the song and he looks too isolated. Hersi is on a plinth and on later run throughs she gives better camera while sometimes having her eyes closed. This woman has a lovely voice. One of the backing singers’ frocks blends in with the backdrop behind so well she could be in a Eurovision re-make of the classic Predator movie.

Russia’s Tolmachevy Twins sing a song called Shine and coincidentally they would be well cast as The Shining’s Grady twins as there is something dead-eyed about them. Fokas has thrown the kitchen sink at this by way of gimmicks. At the start their pony-tails are stuck together which separate as they move away from each other. A strange manoeuvre but not the first, it turns out.

They both hold glass poles which will presumably be lit, or maybe glow. They stand on each end of a large see-saw. They use the poles like ski sticks to balance themselves. At the end a fan unfurls behind them to create a sun – ‘you’re my rising sun’ – with full pyro curtain behind. Rumours the twins tried to reclaim a portion of the green room as officially theirs during today’s rehearsals later proved unfounded.

A woman on a trapeze swing accompanies Dilara on stage doing acrobatics above her throughout. This is taking up the gymnastic baton from where Estonia’s ‘Amazing’ staging left off. A cathedral-like, stain-glassed window behind Dilara. Excellent overhead visual at one point. Hard to explain fully. No pyros despite the ‘Start A Fire’ song title. Maybe the trapeze will go up in flames on another day. Good vocal from Dilara. Up there with Hersi.

Four backing singers for Mariya and she is accompanied by a male dancer in a giant hamster wheel who runs inside it. She has some interplay throughout with the man in the wheel and drapes herself over the top of it at one point. This is all the clock imagery we have going on here. Was somehow expecting more than this given Ukraine’s track record with staging. Have to assume this wheel is going to be built upon in later run throughs to resemble more of a clock.

This early version of Tick-Tock looks a work in progress. You have to admire the audacity of the male dancer on the last run through as his hand ends up cheekily grabbing Mariya’s right breast at the climax of the song.

Belgium closes day 1 and is the same as we saw in its national final with the ghostly spectre of Axel’s mum creeping up behind him. She would be well cast in the movie adaptation of The Woman in Black. Axel’s vocal is as powerful as anticipated and he sells it well staring right down the camera lens.

Whether the operatic nature of the song is to the tastes of ALL jurors… only time will tell but we do know from recent ESCs that an emotive, memorable strong solo vocal can take a song a long way. And this is a decent song regardless of the derision emanating from most of the press centre today.

Drum roll… the first betting recommendation of ESC 2014 after today is… semi-final 1 – 5pts e/w Azerbaijan at 8-1 a fifth the odds with William Hill or, if you prefer more favourable place terms, 7-1 with Ladbrokes e/w a quarter the odds.

Your thoughts on day 1? Do feel free to post below.

15 Comments

  1. Henry VIII

    Many lols your write up Rob. It seems so amateurish that countries still try things out with just 2 rehearsals and a dress rehearsal. Budgets are a factor but you’d have thought they could have brought the finished product to the Copenhagen rehearsals.

    I don’t feel the Azer love that most commentators feel. When do you all get to see the camera edit of songs? When they’ve worked that out I guess will be the most instructive. I guess you’re all watching it in the hall atm?

    • Rob

      It’s certainly closer to the finished product after 2nd rehearsals, henry, but there can still be small changes made before we see the songs performed prior to the jury performance in the evening.

      We are in the press centre watching on big screens. The screen closest to where I was sitting had some teething trouble early on and the feed kept dropping out.

  2. Matt

    Very funny write up Rob.

    Market has stayed pretty static though a bit of a move for Azer which i know we both thought was underestimated. Be interested in any additional thoughts on Estonia – saw lots of praise for the vocals and choreography but then equally quite a lot underwhelmed by the backdrop. Any scope to change that you think or will they persevere?

    Ukraine definitely has scope to develop and remains high on my shortlist.

    Brilliant work today and thanks

    • Rob

      Thanks Matt. I get the impression Estonia is set in stone as it is. The key element is, it’s all about the performance & Tanja barely looks at a camera throughout. This combined made it all feel a little distant – not sure it engages with the viewer but maybe they’ll be so impressed by her dancing while singing they will support her.

      • Matt

        hmm – might be a missed opportunity so i hope the camera face improves. (Think i just made that phrase up)

        Hate this part of the season, so many opinions but without seeing it first hand, it can be hard to see through the fog. Just as well you’re there then – appreciate your work.

  3. Roach

    hi Rob, very much looking forward to these daily salvos from Copenhagen over the few weeks ahead. Hope you enjoy your trip!

    Re: your new Entertainment Odds staking plan…

    I just wondered if 10pts is an average, small or nearer maximum bet size? and how many pts do you expect to be betting here on this year’s competition?

    Given it’s the first advised bet here, I don’t know if the majority of the remaining bets are all going to be 2pts or thereabouts, which would make this a max bet or thereabouts; or whether 10pts is going to a standard stake.

    As it’s the first advised bet, would be great to know where it sits roughly on your scale. Otherwise I am in the dark about how to stake against your advised 10pts, should I wish to do so.

    Thought I’d ask this one before someone else does!

    • Rob

      Hi Roach. A point here is being treated as £10, so it’s £50 e/w in this instance.

      The way things will go, there are obviously going to be some short-priced ones when it comes to ‘to qualify’ ‘not to qualify’, So if, say, there is a 4-6 shot advised, the advice you might see here will likely be 18pt win or even 24pt win.

      So it all comes down to the prices and ensuring the bets are weighted accordingly. Hope that makes sense.

  4. geoff

    Cheers for the review rob, its a pretty frustrating day with these 30 second clips so we are greatfull for the views of you gav and daniel.
    Funnily enough my girlfriend was saying simular sanna lyrics to you,undo my eyesight.undo my eyepain haha

    • Rob

      Ha, ha – nice to know I am not the only one who hears it like that, Geoff 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Asked my wife and she wasn’t sure – at the end ‘undo myself’ was the answer 🙂

        • eurovicious

          Same here. When a lyric doesn’t make sense, your brain tries to “hear” something that does.

  5. eurovicious

    Dobro dosli Rob – you can get a boat across from Nyhavn rather than having to trek up the peninsula, but I don’t know whether that’s convenient for you.

    I’ve known about Joran since Latvia’s 2008 NF, in which he had a hilariously awful song that didn’t make it out of the semi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUaGw_p9jxY It was cult in our office at the time (how I miss sharing an office with a fellow fan…)

    Even despite hidden backing singers, I’m really impressed at how good Tanja’s vocals are while being hoyed around. I think you’re right about the “distance” though, routines like that can seem a little abstract if the performer doesn’t connect with the camera at any point.

    Love Dilara and Hersi.

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting, ev. The boat is sadly not an option for me as I am on the peninsula side. My route is pretty swift to be fair – 10/15 mins by bus. Tanja’s vocal ‘in transit’ as it were was definitely impressive.

  6. Guildo Horn Forever

    Hi Rob,

    Love your Grady Twin’s reference:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMbI7DmLCNI

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