ESC United is live at the Eurovision 2014 Press Centre, where we will give you updates throughout the day’s rehearsals. Come back regularly and refresh for updates. We’ll be documenting today’s events right as they happen, as well as our personal impression.

As a reminder, we are not allowed to tape the actual rehearsals during the first round.

Matt, Madeleine, Olivia, Gerry, Ahmet and Chris will bring you the latest news & updates. You can tweet us your questions about the rehearsals @ESCunited, or post them HERE  and we’ll answer them as soon as possible.

1. Moldova

Today is the second day of rehearsals. Proceedings kicked off with Moldova.

Things did not start off according to plan with thirty minutes of delays until the rehearsal was finally aired at the press centre. The second performance opens with Cristina standing alone with a dancer balancing in the air, supported by another dancer. Artistic choreography continues throughout the song, but Cristina remains static asides from a few hand gestures. She is wearing casual clothes – a black leather jacket and trousers. Her all-male backing dancers are dressed in black hooded robes. The stage is drenched in dark colours, with occasional bursts of pink ink-like graphics.

By now during the third rehearsal Cristina is clearly more comfortable and holds the stage well. Curiously, the microphone appears to be too large, as it blocks out some of her face from the camera.

Olivia: To my surprise she delivered what is, in my opinion, a rather weak and repetitive song, pretty convincingly. The choreography, performed by monk-like dancers, really holds the performance together and makes great use of the huge space on stage. Overall, a commendable first rehearsal. Good on camera – not so lovely on the ears!

Gerry: I think her vocals could have been a lot stronger; she started out a bit weak, but she did hit those notes at the end. Everything was pretty polished, but it still needs a lot of work to stand out.


2. San Marino

The first performance starts bang on time. The song begins with a shot of the piano playing the opening riff on the other side of the stage. The camera then focuses on Valentina, standing barefoot on a glittery podium, wearing a long white dress. Behind her there is a beautiful backdrop, made out of material that changes colour with the light, imitating a shell.

Valentina’s first few lines are shaky and hard to hear. She makes little eye contact with the camera. As the performance continues into the second chorus her confidence builds and her nerves ease, and she starts to move freely to the music.

Second performance – screen goes blank. Second performance is far better. She looks very calm and very focused. In the third performance they have adjusted the opening camera angle, zooming closer in on the piano. By fourth performance she adds many more expressive hand gestures.

Olivia: I was a little worried at the beginning that she was a bit weak and under-confident – but she proved me wrong. Strong start, flows well and she really immerses herself in the performance.  Voice is in very good shape. However, staging needs to be improved, she is a bit lost on the big stage. Also, the visual symbolism of her being a ‘pearl in the shell’ needs to be made more obvious to viewers watching her for the first time.

Gerry: It would be so nice if she qualified, but it’s a bit more difficult for her this time around. She was alone onstage, so there is a risk of her getting lost on that huge space. I really like how she looks like Boticelli’s Venus, actually, but I find it a bit weird that they took the first line—“Maybe there’s a pearl in the shell”—and just ran with it. There’s much more to the song than just that.


3. Portugal

The performance opens with Suzy spinning around whilst her backing dancers bang two massive drums at the back of the stage.

The stage is busy and full of colour. Suzy is wearing a black dress with red lipstick and gold jewelry. Three dancers and a bongo-like drummer, dressed in casual clothes, dance around her. The colours of the Portuguese flag -– red yellow and green, light up the stage in, whilst two dancers wave two large red flags.

Suzy’s vocals are  strong, and she comfortably reaches the top notes.

Olivia: Suzy brought a real carnival atmosphere to the stage. She was smiling the whole way through and seemed to be enjoying herself. The performance is already very polished, but she and her performers were understandably holding back a little. Very promising first run through!

Gerry: This is going to be such a breath of fresh air in between the slower songs. It’s really fun, but I hope Suzy’s voice isn’t drowned out in the music. She definitely has strong vocals, but she needs to push just a bit more. The performance is hella sexy. I love it.


4. The Netherlands

It starts with a camera hovering above both singers and you can see a street/highway separating both. They are using a microphone stand that holds both microphones so they face each other for the entire song. Shortly after the colors of the ground changes into something that looks really abstract but quite eye catching and somewhat dreamy. It’s uncertain if they are just wearing casual close if they’re planning on wearing it next week. Ilse was wearing blue jeans with a white top while Waylon was mostly wearing black and a Cowboy hat.

The two singers are joined onstage by three musicians playing the drums, bass and guitar.

As expected, vocally they are on top of it.

Matt: If you like the song, you’ll be happy with the execution, if you’re no fan then I don’t think it’ll win you over. These are pros and they sound amazing. I’m hoping for a bit more eye contact but other than that I am giving this a big thumbs up

Madeleine: I was afraid the Stage would be too big but they’re doing a great job with the cameras making it look “smaller”. Some of the graphics used were a bit distracting. Overall I really liked it.


5. Montenegro

The Stage is mostly blue and purple with Sergej taken center stage. He is dressed black with a purple shirt wearing a nice jacket. He is joined onstage by three backup singers standing to his left.

The big moment is when the chorus starts and a woman ice skates onto the Stage doing spins, pirouettes and other things ice skaters tend to do. As she skates across the Stage, she leaves a trail of lights on the ground which is a really neat effect. The backdrop is in blue with distant waterfalls. Overall the entire performance is quite magical.

At the end the backup singers will surround Sergej for a nice big finish.

His vocals are spot on, at times he was looking around which was most likely him figuring out the layout and where the cameras are. On the third run through they had to stop and start over due to some camera issues.

Madeleine: It feels like the iceskating has been done in the past even though it works. Maybe they should have come up with a different gimmick. Overall it’s not for me.

Matt: Definitely superior to Dima Bilan’s Ice Skate IMO. Though at times I feel it’s a bit distracting but I think this could do really well.


6. Hungary

Andras Kallay Saunders is sitting in the center of the Stage on a chair with a female playing the piano to his right. The two backup singers are far to the side basically almost invisible to the camera. He certainly did not dress up for the occasion wearing a tank top (or sleeveless shirt) and comfi pants so we’re assuming that’s going to change.

Right before the chorus kicks off, he starts running along the runway all the way to the end when he starts singing the chorus. Shortly after he starts walking back. All of the sudden a man shows up out of nowhere and the piano dancers jumps up doing something we’d call interpretative dance as she is becoming the one “Running”. The Stage is mostly blue throughout the song while it turns more colorful (mostly red) at the last chorus. The dancers continue to dance around until the very end when the female dancers seeks protection by Kallay Saunders while is pushing away the male dancer and with that the song ends.

The vocals seem solid and he comes across as confident knowing what he’s doing.

Matt: This is way better than the NF performance, I’m glad the crazy mask lady is gone. The part where he starts running is really effective. This is really well executed as it’s memorable without offending people. It’ll come down to whether or not people will feel comfortable with this serious subject.

Gerry: I can tell he is holding back on his vocals but even though he sounds really good. The interpretative dance is quite literal but serves the story well and it was very entertaining.


7. Malta

The stage is a big field of corn with a beautiful blue sky along with a few clouds. Random pictures are also being displayed throughout the song though the meaning of them are not clear yet.  The band members are standing in one row taking advantage of the space available to them. Behind them there are some boxes to fill up the stage which gives it a “country” look.

They are all dressed rather casual which is expected for a first Semi. Vocally there are no major flaws! Not much else to say about this one.

Matt: It looks really pretty, there was a good round of applause in the press center, I have a good feeling about this one. The leader singer should relax a little bit though. His face turns red and veins pop out which can be a bit unpleasant.

Gerry: They are surprisingly dynamic for just standing there. They are also very warm at the same time; you can sense their emotions. Really good staging despite this not being my kind of song.

8. Israel

It starts with Mei by herself on Stage with a black & white screen on the ground. At that point something went wrong with the camera slowly zooming up but not really focusing on anything. The Stage turns yellow/orange during the chorus and two female dancers are joining Mei Finegold on Stage.  Mei walks around quite a bit onstage with the two dancers taking advantage of the big space as well.

Today she is wearing  a black dress that some described as a conservative negligee.

At the last chorus Mei and her dancers walk down the runway until they reach the end where she sings her final note.

Matt: This is a pretty good song but the Staging was really bad if you ask me. The colors and graphics used are average at best and rather generic. The choreography is odd and while they’re trying to use all the space they have they seem lost and it looks really empty

9. Norway

The performance opens with the camera focused on a male pianist playing the opening melody.

A spotlight comes on Carl, who is wearing a blue shirt and black blazer. As he sings smoke fills the stage, lit in dark blues.

Upon the chorus four female violinists appear on a small-sloped stage to the right, wearing blue and white outfits to match the background of a swelling sea.

Olivia: There is something truly beautiful and sincere about Carl’s performance. He sung effortlessly, and you cannot help but be touched by the emotion behind his eyes. He sounds very polished for a first rehearsal.

Gerry: It’s very simple and dramatic. I think it’s a good song, but I feel like his eyes aren’t selling the song.

Christian: This has all the ingredients to become a classic Eurovision song. A ballad with a pure raw emotion and a voice that leaves you wanting to hear more. I would like a song like this to win. A simple but effective and touching ballad. The lights and visuals are stunning and does a good job to show what a silent storm is like. I could be persuaded to think of Antony & the johnsons or the sweet swedes Eskobar but then again Carl has his own voice and even though I know from previous years that some ballads are used as toilets breaks please do not let this one be one of them.It felt at the first rehearsal that Carl was holding his voice a little back but that would only show that he knows how to take care of his voice and blow us even more away at the actual night.

10. Georgia

The performance begins with a closeup of the lead male singer of The Shin, but a bit into yodel-like intro, the camera zooms out and we see the entire stage. There is a parachute held aloft by some wires, carrying the second drummer, who hops onto the drum but jumps off at “skydiver’s space jump”. There is a lot of focus on the parachute gimmick. At the song’s bridge, the colors get much more vivid, and there is a psychedelic sort of blur effect going on as the camera pans over everyone.

Mariko’s vocals are strong, and her movements have an ethereal feel to them. Everyone looks like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, and that they’re really feeling the performance.

The backdrops in the first half of the song were clouds and sky, and it came across as if the band was in mid-air, in free-fall. The second half has some groovy colors going on.

Christian : I like this song. Very dramatic. It has many elements of real genuine music and seems to incorporate many genres.

Her voice did remind me a bit of Shakira and that is not a bad thing. It has a roots / folk / blues feeling and it stays faithful to the studio version. Please do watch the video if you have not seen it. It looks very expensive. The first rehearsal went well and they seem able to perform a full blown concert. It is a well written and well composed song with many bridges and I never tire of listen to it. Due to it’s many layers I keep finding new things in the song that keeps me interested in listening to it. Finally musicians that are also able to write a proper ending to the song. Just think about how many songs that just fades out.

Gerry: This is definitely one of the most interesting songs in the contest, and the performance on stage doesn’t fail to convey the quirky, off-beat nature of the song. The parachute guy is a surprise, but extremely literal.

11. Poland

Last country for today’s rehearsals, and the press centre is clapping along to the song’s intro. Cleo is on center stage, with three ladies behind her dressed in traditional Slavic outfits, complete with flower crowns and long braids. The graphics on the walls are a sort of Slavic red-and-white flower motif, together with what look like clips from the music video. At the halfway point, before the English lyrics start, Cleo takes out a Polish flag-styled handkerchief and waves it around as the backup dancers revolve around her.

Meanwhile, on the runway is a lady pretending to do laundry showing off lots of cleavage. It looked like she took water from the moat surrounding the stage. On the other side of the stage is another lady churning butter seductively.

Cleo’s vocals were strong and unfaltering, and she seemed extremely confident onstage.

Christian : Oh dear, dear Poland. What happened to you? Sorry for coming with this warning but it is much needed for the sensitive ones : There will be a busty lady washing clothes on stage. Thank you Poland because you clearly testify why the songs should only last 3 minutes because the precious minutes are more than enough for this one for me! This is a first time for a talented dj together with a less talented female singer (NOT). It is loud and noisy and  it makes the hidden treasure Isis Gee seem light years away.

I know that this track has been a youtube sensation. On the positive note they still have time to shape up the song to make it listenable. I just got a bit dissapointed to the fact that I know what Poland has to offer. This song makes the polish The Jet Set “Time to party” seem like going for the noble prize. The good thing about youtube sensations is that they only last this long. Anyone remembering PSY “Gangnam style”. It has been a winter, spring and soon summer to come since this was hot so I hope that the viewers has either tired of the song or…… I know this out of my hands but it is a tough one to accept that there could actually be people voting for this track. Give me the strength to accept the things I can’t change. This is me from a positive note on this song.


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