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Czech Bounces

Apr 29, 2018 by

Czech Bounces

A big opening day here in Lisbon as among the current market leaders we get to see Israel, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Estonia rehearse for the first time.

Azerbaijan kicks things off. A bare-footed Aisel, wearing a floaty white nightie with a leotard underneath (think Tanya Estonia 2014), starts by lying down on a plinth with a dry ice effect as she rises up looking angelic. Four dancers join her later in the song, all of them standing on these Toblerone-style, jagged white mountain plinths.

A sprinkly hologram effect surrounds her at one point looking like stardust/the cosmos. She moves daintily around climbing to the top of the centre plinth like a magical nymph. Lots of hand gestures and facial expressions to try and bring it to life. It’s intended to look heavenly but also has an eerie David Koresh undercurrent with everyone in white.

Iceland’s Ari is wearing a hideous white suit with red chevron stripes on the sleeves and a red turtle neck underneath. Some nice close-up looks at the steady cam, and vocally strong. Five backing vocalists stand front and centre with Ari at the end. It is a nice ballad but Bjorkman won’t be getting any gratis trips to Reykjavik this summer after condemning Ari to trap 2.

Eugent for Albania has 2 guitarists, a drummer and 3 female backing vocalists. One guitarist has big afro hair like Germany’s Michael; the other has a passing resemblance to a pony-tailed George Lamb. They flank him on either side and the collective rock band look is reminiscent of Identitet from 2013. Eugent’s impassioned screams try to elevate things and are followed by the close-up steady cam towards the end.

The market has fallen out of love with Belgium. Song start is interesting. Spotlight on Sennek’s closed eyes, surrounded by darkness, before her face is slowly revealed, but the artistic promise fails to deliver for the remainder of the song as she moves somewhat aimlessly around the curved strip of the satellite stage. Simple, white spotlights surround her among the darkness which at least suits the lounge feel of the song.

There will allegedly be fans behind her, in the centre circle, come the semi-final which will help the visuals but it is hard to see what Pannecoucke has earned his money for here. She only finds the camera during a brief section as the close-up cam stalks her as she walks along the stage. Overall, she is possibly too aloof when this needs intimacy. On a positive note, Sennek negotiates the chorus, which has given her problems in the past, with aplomb here.

Czech Republic is attempting a lot of choreo in three minutes. Focus on the trumpeter at song start. Mikolas has 2 guys either side of him bringing the dance moves. He puts on his backpack, then it is taken off, then it is put back on again as the three of them gyrate their hips on top of the centre podium with their back to the stage.

Female backing vocalists lend support, there is a 3-way camera split at one point like they used to have on the credits for Charlie’s Angels. He does a forward somersault at the end and finishes by joining his buddies sculpting shapes. Colourful lighting and lots of energy. Mikolas has apparently had to go to hospital after this for a precautionary examination.

Ieva has female backing vocal assistance bringing extra oomph to the ‘old’ refrain in the chorus. There are images of couples young and old super-imposed alongside her as she sits in her now trademark pose. Ieva sings a line in Lithuanian at the end. She gets up and walks stage left and ends on a bridge unlike the song which ends on a verse, and hugs her husband. It is tender and intimate. The commercial break follows Lithuania.

The Outright market has been extra jittery this year and Israel has been on the drift leading up to this first rehearsal. Netta in a kimono gown on her looper with mechanical lucky cat dolls (maneki-neko) behind her. It is a good look for her and memorable imagery, with her dancers beginning on the bridge stage left.

She comes out and uses the satellite stage towards the end, joining her 3 female dancers, giving good camera into the close-up cam along the way. This improves on each run-through as her dancers find their marks. Shots to the audience at a few points which will help bring the energy on the show nights ahead. It has clear USP but the question that remains – is it all too kooky?

Belarus! Where to start? Alekseev wears a ripped white, Hamlet-style shirt and has a rose he hands to the camera which ends in the hands of his female dancer. She dances frenetically but balletically then pulls out a bow and arrow and fires the rose straight through Alekseev’s hand.

We see the blood on his hand with the rose’s stem stuck clean through. It appears to be a clean shot but fear not Alekseev fans, this staging will not be closed down by Portuguese Health & Safety – it is fake blood. Rose petals explode on the screen, Alekseev’s plinth rises up to a loftier altitude. At the end he turns his back and his exposed spine is full of roses. His ‘forevers’ remain cadence-challenged and the Belarussians have over-egged things here, as usual.

Estonia’s Elina has great teeth and the power of her vocal is amazing given how little her mouth moves. She could have a future job as a ventriquolist. This looks big match-ready already with a variety of visual effects projected onto her dress. One criticism would be, she doesn’t look at the camera enough meaning she looks slightly disengaged and in her own world but it’s definitely impactful.

Bulgaria closes day 1. Equinox stand side by side on plinths. Zhana in the middle has tattoes on her exposed arms, pulls some strange faces and her mic appears to be switched off with the female backing vocalist offering more assistance than she does, especially on the final note. You can see Zhana is miming.

The difficulty here is, they are trying for dark, brooding, edgy and artistic but the individuals involved are not especially charismatic or telegenic. There are some on-screen distortions trying to bring some gravitas but overall their stage presence is lacking.

That ends a somewhat underwhelming day 1 but let’s not forget stagings can and will improve over the course of the rehearsal period.

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2 Comments

  1. Ravi Dootelli

    Hey Rob,
    Great first day review as always. Good to be back. We last corresponded a few years ago, you might remember me Ravi ? I had a few pennies on the Common Linetts I think that’s what they were called, very catchy tune, made a little profit for the family (don’t tell the wife !) she thinks I did some overtime ! Anyway, here we go again, tell me if you were down to your last pair of shoes (and I am) where should I be looking this year? and don’t say cobblers !
    Thank you please Ravi

    • Rob

      I remember you, Ravi. The Common Linnets – what a gamble that was & the semi win was sweet. My strategy is always looking for value, and something at a bigger price e/w. I would have said France a week ago but the price has been cut now. It may yet go shorter so it is still backable. Good luck 🙂