ESC United is in Malmo to cover the Rehearsals and we will keep you updated on how it went. Today we cover semi-final 1. We will also be posting video as much as possible on our YouTube page
Check back and refresh as we will update this article as the artists perform one after another. We will also add video as soon as it’s uploaded.
It’s the first day press are allowed in the arena to watch the show. And now sitting in the back left corner, I must say that every seat in here is a good one. You can see everyone quite well. And two giant LCD screens flank the arena. It’s quite interesting to see the stage in full for the first time ever, with all the cameras working in unison to put on the big show.
The MC announces that each country has 20 minutes, three times to run through the song. And if pyro and other special effects are used, they will only be seen in the last run-through.
Austria and Slovenia switched positions for today’s rehearsals. Some improvement but there is still some struggles with the vocals.
Birgit still sounds great as usual and in the arena, she sounds so much better. You can feel the music flow through your veins. This time there are some dry ice/smoke effects which add to the performance.
The bass envelops the arena. Natalia sounds great. And she is using her eyes to express herself a lot more. You notice some more touches inside the arena. You can hear the backup singers’ voices so much better and there is actually some choreography in play. Another strong performance, but as the first to go, it may be a victim of placement in the show.
Croatia were pretty well-polished in the first rehearsal, And they are very polished in the second rehearsal. Some may say it’s a boring song and a boring performance, but this is one where they let the song, reflective of Croatian culture, take center stage. There’s ruminations that the odds are ever increasing in their favor (sorry for the Hunger Games reference) for qualifying into the final. This is a classic Eurovision performance.
Another run-through very similar to the Danish national selection. In the first run-through, Emellie sounds a bit shaky at parts, but comes back to being solid in the second and third run-through. The MC also announces that there will be lights that will go off in the audience during the song a la Sweden 2010. In the third run-through, we get confetti that pops off into the audience at the beginning of the final chorus. Then we are treated to a nice pyrotechnic shower. A captivating performance.
Bad luck for superior singers to be before and after Denmark (although with possibly boring songs). Dina sounds a bit shaky in the first verse, but comes back in the second verse. The two male backup singers are handed white balls off-camera and when they appear back on-camera, they throw them out to the stage at the beginning of the final chorus. They sound great in the arena. The MC also announces that all members in the audience will have bracelets that will light up during this song. The second run-through has even stronger vocals.
As the staging is getting set up, we can see the costumes have been added to Ukraine. The giant is now dressed in what looks to be a chain-link top with a cap with two large feathers sticking out vertically by each ear. It’s a bit medieval-looking. Zlata is in a sparkly red and purple dress with a sea blue bottom to it. I know this sounds ridiculous in writing but it looks good on her. Dry ice envelops the main stage as the song starts. It’s not as strange as before. What is noticeable is the absence of Cleveland Watkiss, the male backing singer. They have a stand-in instead. Vocally, Zlata sounds great. The dress stands out but perhaps clashes with the backdrop that features a forest with butterflies flying about. They have these great costumes but they are not used to the fullest extent. She is just standing there on her pedestal. There were rumors of other new additions when the special effects are added to the final rehearsal. We anxiously waited for something special but just got some quick sparkles at the end of the song. Maybe more to come?
Anouk comes out to the front stage to much applause from the press. She is in all black aside from a silver belt that matches her high heels. As the first run-through starts, the wind machine is turned on, but a bit too high. Anouk motions at them to turn it way down. From the seats, even we could hear its enging going in overload. I’m not sure if we noticed it before but the backdrop goes back and forth from the cloudy reddish sky that we’ve mentioned before to a detailed picture of a bird’s wingspan. It is quite fitting for the song. A bit dark and melancholy. On the screens in the arena, which broadcast what viewers at home would see, there are a lot of nice slow shots that pan around her and fade in and out from long shots to close ups. In the first run-through, Anouk messes up the words in the middle-eight, but still garners a lot of applause from the audience. After the second run-through, her three backup singers, who are standing on the main stage to the left, even flash her a thumbs up sign as she turns around to look at them.
As I watch the screen, the camerawork for Montenegro also is quite nice with a lot of action shots. They have really cleaned it up. I’m also happy to report that the rumors that Who See were ditching the astronaut suits turned out to be false. They are wearing them. When we watched the closed rehearsal in the viewing room at EuroClub, a lot of the press were pleasantly surprised at the performance of Montenegro. However, in the arena, it’s sounding a bit different. Who See’s vocals sound too loud. The bass is way too loud. And Nina’s vocals sound muted compared to the rest of the music. This will probably be cleaned up in the next run-through. And it was. So much better. Previous Who See interviews had mentioned that the song would include some simple choreography. We didn’t get to see it in the viewing room, but in the Arena, we see that there is indeed some choreography. Between the second and third run-through, Estonia’s delegation came in to watch. In the third run-through, there bring in the smoke geysers. Nothing too complicated, but I think they have done a good job putting on a good show for the live audience and the viewers at home.
Andrius and his backup singers sound great. In the arena, you really see the entire effect of the lighting as multiple lights fill the arena. Andrius is totally relishing this moment. He performs with great enthusiasm. Still, the performance may be too simple for it to catch the attention of the voting public. Andrius was such a nice guy in person. It sucks to see not many press stayed to watch his rehearsal.
Out comes the disco ball and in goes Alyona. Everyone on stage is now in their costumes. The backup singers are dressed in white and blue. And Alyona’s dress is a nice slinky blue and silver sparkly dress that looks like it could be part of a fast Latin ballroom dance routine. She looks stunning and her legs go for miles! The performance is energetic, the choreography is sharp and well-rehearsed. After the first run-through, there is a bit of a break in which the delegation is on stage discussing. They are having Alyona and the back-up singers sing a capella, perhaps to make sure the vocals are on spot. The last run-through includes full-on pyrotechnics. They are a nice addition that work very well with the song. A very entertaining performance that should be a crowd pleaser.
The MC jokingly demands to know why he isn’t playing the piano. Then he says “Okay, no fuckin’ douze pointe for Moldova.” LOL. Pasha has a stand-in on piano. We’re beginning to see he is very much a perfectionist. But you can see the results. And the view from the arena is grand. You see all the facets of the performance at once. The backup dancers have nice choreography going on, yet Aliona can still capture everyone’s attention with her stage presence and that voice! Her dress is also mesmerizing. Even in the arena, it’s very vivid. On the first and second run-throughs, she doesn’t attempt the high note at the beginning of the final chorus. I am thinking she is probably preserving her voice for the semi-finals. Without that note, I don’t get the goosebumps I previously did. But amazing vocals nevertheless.
The shirtless backup dancers appear on the front stage to the “woos” and “cheers” from some in attendance. Their pants look to be painted onto them. And they are greased up. Ireland is definitely playing up to the gay vote. The backdrop with the celtic influences look amazing in person. The lights in the arena are red, white, and green, the Irish colors of course. The backup dancers start upfront and although the cameras don’t show it, they have to move fast to get into their positions to the drums on the main stage. The backup singers sound terrific and the drummer to the right of Ryan is putting on a good show himself. It is fortunate that everyone else is putting on a show because Ryan himself pretty much stays in one place during the whole performance. Overall, there is something quite charming about this performance.
Despina had a good first rehearsal and this one is sounding great from the arena. Prior to Eurovision, I was a bit concerned her voice was not strong. But I was wrong. I’ve said it time and time again. You can’t really complain about vocal quality this year. Even those who some would consider to be the weakest singers are pretty darn talented! The wind machine was a bit out of control on the first rehearsal and now has been tamed. On the second run-through, the crew interrupts Despina halfway through the first verse. While they are fixing things, she goes on singing a capella and adlibbing. A true professional. At the third runthrough, the MC notes that her dress is very expensive.
Roberto jokingly came strutting out on stage. The lights are put into position. He has been improving vocally since we first saw the Belgian national selection and today is no exception. The choreography is very sharp with the backup dancers and singers in sync. The backdrop is a simple reciting of the lyrics during the chorus, but very eye-catching. There are a good number of delegations using lyrics in the backdrop. Malta and Hungary come to mind first but I’m sure I’m missing others.
As the girls from Moje 3 previously described, this performance tells a story. They are gushing personality on stage. A lot of press have focused on Nevena being the first to participate in Junior Eurovision and Eurovision. But all three girls look very experienced on stage. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but in the arena they sound great. Better than the National selection and better than the first rehearsal. The second run-through is even stronger. It should be a great closer to the first semi-final and get people up and jumping.
We end and only over by 2.5 minutes. The MC exclaims, “Only two and a half minutes over after 16 songs is fuckin amazing!”
Semi-final 2 tomorrow. Here’s hoping for more great live vocals from the delegations!