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Coming Up Roses

May 3, 2018 by

Coming Up Roses

Second rehearsals for the first 15 songs in semi 1 today. From this point on there is little that can change as the next time they will be seen on stage is in next Monday’s first tv rehearsal of semi 1.

Azerbaijan is a bright and breezy start. Dry ice as Aisel rises up like an angel in the sky. She moves so daintily around the stage it seems harsh she has been told to go on a diet apparently. Gorgeous girl. Her vocal is thrown off when she crouches and is lifted up by one of the guys. She has a battle with Estonia’s Elina for best teeth in this section. Visual effects looking much crisper.

Iceland has been held up so Albania goes before it. The right sleeve on Eugent’s jacket makes it look like he has been attacked by a Rottweiler on his way to the arena. It has been done to expose his arm tattoo. This lad has some pipes on him. A very safe conveyance, even on the screeches. A shame the song doesn’t offer a better window to showcase his skills.

Iceland is what it is, always was and will be. Vocally competent but wardrobe incompetent. Sorry Ari – the jacket is a shocker as is the turtle neck. He looks like a young Johnny Logan up there. It is like an X Factor winner’s song of old. Very Westlife. Maybe a few housewives around Europe will be charmed by this.

Belgium now starts with Sennek’s arm covering her face before she pulls it away to reveal her eyes on the ‘By showing hardly any emotion’ line. She is wearing eye make-up and is finding the camera much better. Plus, spot-lit backdrop better. It’s just a shame they didn’t give this a more intimate set with orchestra players present on stage with her but let’s not lose sight of the fact this is a quality song. Sounds like they are trying a nice echo effect on the echo line.

Mikolas is kicking off again. Stopping his rehearsals because of this and that, and looking sulky up there. He seems to have a new backing singer offering a gravelly James Earl Jones voice. He is only able to go through the motions here and is also missing a male backing dancer who is doing an exam today.

They have kept things much as before but obviously with less flashy dance moves attempted by Mikolas today. Conspiracy theorists would have to concede it is not a PR bluff and he is injured as he winces on occasion and moves like someone with a back injury. This might end up better staged by being more careful.

Lithuania’s Ieva has a powerful reverb on her vocal. It’s like a Dolby Surround Sound effect. Camera slowly pans in from behind her before she stares down the camera for the ‘From the very first smile’ line. This needs the audience swaying and holding their mobiles aloft to complete the atmosphere but her lilting voice helps create a tender, dreamy aesthetic. The lighting is pitch perfect for the track – beautifully intimate.

Some much better camera angles with Netta’s backing dancers and there is altogether more energy up there today. The looper is not a looper. Confirmed. Instead, it lights up when she taps it spelling ‘Hey’ at one point. 3 dancers on the bridge doing their crazy moves. There is a brilliant segment with her backing dancers when they join her centre stage appearing from behind her. Bubbles float through the air at the climax. Huge fun.

Belarus has kept with the same staging. There had been talk of significant changes. Alekseev’s rose deserves a Twitter handle as much as his mouth. Rose petals pour out of his chest, petals fall (both as visual overlays) and it’s quite touching until Alekseev turns at song end and is sporting a serious rose-inflicted wound presumably from previous run throughs when his female archer wasn’t so accurate with her deadly rose arrow.

Estonia’s Elina is smiling more and staring at the camera much more today. Visuals on the dress looking better too. All-round better.

Now, we all know countries use backing vocals to cover and elevate singers. Trouble for Bulgaria is, it is glaringly obvious Zhana is miming at the end of the song. We can be guilty of over-estimating how much attention both jury members and tv viewers pay to this sort of thing. But this isn’t on the same level of the vocal chicanery they used last year to enhance Kristian. And the visuals are nowhere near the same level either. This is less ‘Beautiful Mess’, more bit of a mess.

FYR Macedonia seems to have regressed on 1st rehearsal. Vocals are not the best and the visuals are unaided by Marija’s choice of outfit which is… unflattering after she takes off her red dress. It’s something of a sweeping statement but Balkans really do seem to have strange dress sense.

Croatia’s Franka has just put in a late bid for best teeth in semi 1. Great set of gnashers. Great dress – defying the previous statement about Balkan fashion. Great performance but she ideally needed a stronger song than this. Song start focuses on her right arm and hand. Franka and Sennek have a separate competition in this semi for best use of arm/bejeweled hand during song intro.

Austria is a fine studio song but Cesar still does not entirely convince as a live performer. Lots of shots of his face as he stands on top of his oil rig. He is nicely spot-lit but that rig is cumbersome as is Cesar’s futile jog around the strip of the satellite catwalk. The Messianic image behind him screams pop star; Cesar doesn’t.

Greece’s Yianna is shaky vocally on first run-through but improves on later run-throughs. Visually this is looking much better now with nice use of dry ice and blue and white lighting. She is more precise with her armography too and finds the camera much better.

Saara for Finland is last up today. Not sure why she starts on the revolving table. It is a poor prop and the whole thing comes across as too kitsch. The lighting also remains too dark. There is a lot of busy choreo purely for choreo sake from her androgynous dance troupe.

While Saara risks being shouty; she is joined by Pink & Perky sounding backing voices on the ‘I ain’t, I ain’t’ – aurally, it’s an awkward juxtaposition and uncomfortable listen. Saara obviously has her style; you just wonder whether she might have been better suited by a big power ballad.

There endeth day 5. Tomorrow we will get to hear the Big 5 and hosts Portugal for the first time and find out whether France can sustain its position as 3rd favourite.

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