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.

Today’s rehearsal coverage team will be Matt, Madeleine, Gerry, and Christian. You can tweet us your questions about the rehearsals @ESCunited, or post them HERE  and we’ll answer them as soon as possible.


1. Armenia

First rehearsal of the day and of Eurovision 2014 is Armenia. Unfortunately there is no sound in the press centre, but as the song go on we can hear the base drop from the arena next door. They are working on the problem and it will hopefully be fixed to his second rehearsal.

With fairy lights in the background Aram MP3 is standing alone on stage. This time we have sound in the press center. Wearing a green vest and shirt and a brown set of pants. As the song builds up you can feel the beat drop from the arena, even here where we are sitting in the arena. There is a lot of emotion and he handles the singing well.
Matt: It clearly was a rehearsal, he was trying to get comfortable trying to figure out the cameras. His facial expression to me were a bit painful and doesn’t translate on screen well. Vocally it was a solid effort.
Madeleine: It was good, he is a good singer but he had is eyes closed throughout the performance quite a bit so it felt like he was sleeping. He needs to learn how to connect with the camera. Otherwise it was good.

2. Latvia

Four people standing on stage looking happy and cheerful as they perform “Cake to bake”. It is a very simple performance where they are all standing on stage with their instruments. One time the singer runs out on the runway of the stage otherwise not much more happens. Some of them look a bit nervous and confused throughout the performance but nothing strange since it’s the first rehearsal for Latvia.

Starting on the runway walking slowly towards the stage, they all seem a bit less confused this time but you can still see that they are a bit nervous. The singing is still as happy as last time and it’s a song that easily get’s into your head.
Gerry: It’s a very happy song and a lot of chemistry but need to work on audience rapport; their eyes keep shifting and they need to smile a lot more.
Matt: It’s a simple song with simple Staging so I’m worried this may get lost on the big Stage. It’ll all come down if this will translate to the viewing audience.

3. Estonia

Lying on the ground with the camera coming from above getting up in an intense dance routine. Both singer and dancers are wearing full white clothing and the background has totally changed from the last performances. The floor is projected as wood with walls that looks like dark grey bricks the whole stage come off more as a dancing rehearsal instead of a stage.

Running, jumping and spinning around on stage her voice is very impressive. Not one foul note even when she’s singing upside down.

As Tanja sings the song once again we spot the backup singers hidden to the right of the stage. They are barely noticeable and you have to look close to even be able to see them.

Madeleine: The singing and dancing is really nice and effective however there is no connection with the camera and audience, the eye connection Tanja has with the backup dancer, she should also have with the camera.
Matt: I am amazed how someone can dance so much and sound so good at the same time. However, I don’t care for the choreography. It’s like a aerobic class and to me it’s rather distraction with no connection to the actual song.

4. Sweden

Very simple staging for “Undo”, with Sanna standing in the middle of the circle of lights, formed in a cone that tapers upward. Backdrop seems to be sparkly and star-like. Everything is very sleek; most is carried over from the Melodifestivalen performance. Light floods the stage at the key-change portion, bathing everything in white. In one rehearsal, the peak of Sanna’s light cone cage had a ball of bright light, like a Christmas tree topper.

Sanna intensely stares at the forward camera for most of the performance. Great for audience engagement.

Vocals were on-point and flawless. Sanna looked absolutely fierce. She works well with the camera, but she does get caught up in her emotions during the performance, though. It was as if her arm just involuntarily wanted to reach out.

Gerry: Everything was so simple, which I think is best for this song. Very minimalist, which is such a Sweden thing.

5. Iceland

After a false start, Iceland’s Pollapönk la-la-la’d onstage in their trademark colors. This time though, it looks like sailor outfits and not tracksuits. They all look kind of tired though; the lights must be hot onstage, too, as Blue Pollapönk Heiðar had to wipe the sweat off his brow. The staging looks oddly static. There wasn’t much movement from the group; the cameras were doing all the work.

Lights were nice and bright, which is suitable for this kind of performance. The backdrop and floors were bright and colorful, too, of course. Giant flying shapes everywhere. Very preschool disco.

Vocals seem a little flat compared to the national final version. There aren’t as many backing voices as there should be, which hurts the chorus parts of the song. The main vocals seem pitched up, but that might just be because of the lack of backup voices. The third go, however, got a bit screamy at the end, even more than the first two.

Gerry: Pollapönk is supposed to be high-energy, but they seemed a bit lackluster during rehearsals. I’m hoping they step it up for the actual show, because I love them and I don’t want them to not qualify. They need more energy, and more smiles. Maybe the orange and purple ones in the back should do more than just stand there growing their beards, too.
Matt: My first impression was that it was underwhelming. They seemed very nervous to me. I do believe that with a lot more energy, this could be better than what the betting odds predict.

6. Albania

Hersi seems to be standing on a raised platform in the middle of the stage. The lighting is incredibly unflattering. She’s wearing what looks like a teacher’s outfit, but she’s barefoot–her shoes are onstage next to her.

The backdrop seems to be a bunch of nature scenes that fit with the whole “One Night’s Anger” theme: some creepy trees, and then stormy skies, and then a bright full moon right behind Hersi. One round has the camera following the guitarist across the catwalk. The backup vocalists also have their own 15 seconds in the spotlight. Everyone’s rather separated on stage: Hersi in the center, drummer on the left, backup singers on the right.

As for vocals though, Hersi’s are impeccable. The sound mixing was a bit bad in the beginning; you could barely hear her sing, but it was thankfully fixed immediately. Not much in terms of choreography, but she does reach her hand out a lot.

Gerry: I feel like this is hardly enough. Hersi’s vocals needs something with more impact than this, really. Hopefully they iron out the kinks.
Madeleine: I like the little pedestal thing, but then I think the rest of the people on the stage were so far apart. It’s a big stage and they wanted to use it, but it doesn’t work. She does have a good connection with the cameras, though.

7. Russia

The performance starts with the twins back-to-back standing on some sort of platform. They are dressed identically, in denim and ponytails. Very cute.

Each of the twins are holding long glass rods that they move around with, and the platform is suddenly just a big see-saw. The background is a vortex of sparkly things on red and orange. The movements are very simple: up and down with the glass tubes, up and down on the see-saw. And then, without warning, some guy appears onstage behind the girls, slowly walking towards the see-saw, and unfurls a giant fan that’s apparently attached to the see-saw? And on the second run, the girls’ ponytails are attached to the other’s? There’s so much going on.

Vocally, everything sounds just like the studio version; no noteworthy changes.

Gerry: What.
Matt: I am confused!!! There is so much going on on stage, yet I have no idea what they’re trying to tell us. It is distracting and unnecessary. They’re cute though.

8. Azerbaijan 

For a good ten minutes, all we got in the press center were raw vocals from Dilara: beautiful and pitch perfect.

She turned up on stage in casual attire, to a backdrop that looked like old, tall church windows. An acrobat with a trapeze rotated around her to the music. At the first refrain, the church windows turned into a cityscape, seen from above; it looked like the acrobat was flying above the city. The light grid looked like silhouetted industrial scaffolding.

Throughout the performance, Dilara barely looked at the camera, which added to the feeling of the song. Everything was sleek and well-presented.

Gerry: There’s a lot of background visuals going on, and I hope it doesn’t distract from the song. What Dilara’s song needs is simplicity and style. What she has right now is slightly too much, but should translate effectively on screen.


The song starts with darkness and silence. Then the light comes in and Mariya claps her hands and the music starts.

She wears a red dress with a twist and incoroprates with a male dancer in a spinning wheel .

Christian: The song knows how to use visuals and staging. To be honest I was not grabbed by the song so far. Now after the first rehearsal  the song has improved to me a lot. Mariya is on stage with a spinning wheel and a dancer. It is simple but works very effectively.

Her live vocal performance is immaculate. I just do not understand the use of precious time with a song that takes a while to get off.

Do not give this one a miss because it is worth lending the three minutes to your ears and eyes. Her voice is really taking off in this song . Someday I must visit Ukraine because there is something in their water. Year after year they impress with female singers that have the most incredible voice .

10. Belgium

Please welcome one voice , one man performing all alone if we do not meantion the shadow lady (Mother?) at the end. So far Axel and his team did not change anything in the recipe for the success of the song . It is simple and powerful and well performed. He does not set his foot wrong

Christian: Please let me start with saying I have a lot of sympathy for this guy. It is a powerful ballad and I am a sucker for ballads.

Is this the best male vocal performance of this year ? Somehow I still think that the song needs that little extra something to touch my heart. Did I  say the name Paul Potts and I have nothing against mothers. It just seems a bit too cheesy lyrically. Hopefully he will save his voice so that he still will able to perform on saturday because he probably will get many votes from the female audiences.

He should make Belgium qualify for the final. Unless the fathers all around in Europe are hiding the cellphone of the mothers while Axel performs.

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