Baku Blog Day 1

Vision magazine editor Hass Yusuf reporting from Baku, Azerbaijan – home to Eurovision 2012.

Disclaimer: Please note, this blog is written ‘live’ – as things happen, so errors and typos may creep in – so just go with the flow

Well here we go – or rather not. Due to some sort of bicycle race all the roads to the Baku Crystal arena were all closed off. Luckily we chanced upon a hotel where the Latvian delegation were staying at, so we hitched a ride with them to the arena. Latvia is now my favourite song.

Everything is running very late – the first act – Montenegro, hasn’t even arrived yet! Anyway, the press arena is nice and big, though just one big screen on the wall rather than small ones at the end of each row of desks.

From what we can see, the stage is big, but the image is a bit dark at the moment to see it at its full glory. I have yet to experience that first ‘wow’ experience. The motto for this contest is ‘Light your fire!’, I’m ready to feel the heat – eventually.

And due to the wonders of time-lapse typography, here’s Rambo Amadeus for Montenegro on stage now. Just doing his sound check – which we can’t seem to hear in the press centre… ahh, but here we go.

“Let’s go!” shouts out Rambo …. silence. These rehearsals are fun. But here we go. Rambo strikes an imposing figure on stage. He’s got a backing group of musicians and dancers who will try to spruce up the performance. Rambo’s song isn’t for everyone’s taste, but even he looks bored at the moment. But I’m assured that’s his normal expression.

I made my way to the arena to catch his last rehearsal, but too late – it’s a bit of a walk – so didn’t get to experience that wow factor when setting eyes on the stage. It looks interesting – made out of abstract shapes.

But Iceland soon came on – Greta and Jonsi were on great form – and their backdrop was marvellous – great shots of mountains. Makes you feel like flinging your clothes off and roaming around like nature intended. But fret not – I resisted the urge.

At the Montenegro press conference, Rambo displayed his dry sense of humour. I couldn’t get to ask him a question – but I wanted to know if there was any sense to his unique style of music – or was he just out to shock people. Someone did ask a similar question, where he stated that we all had to ask serious questions of the near and distant future.

His video featured a donkey – and a donkey plays a part on stage as well – but not a real one of course – no one wants a ‘Blue Peter baby elephant’ experience do they? Though might be fun.

At the Icelandic press conference, Jonsi said that this experience was just as nerve-racking as his first Eurovision in Istanbul in 2004. Poor lad – he always seems to travel to the most Eastern parts of Europe to perform!

Greta’s song is actually bast on true story – and her dress on stage has been specially designed to reflect that story. They also decided to sing the song in English to achieve wider appeal.

Managed to catch Greece perform via the screen. Eleftheria Eleftheriou looks fab and performs well. She should do well for her country (though she was born in Cyprus).

At her press conference I asked her about her promotional tour – and whether she really found it that useful. She said it was useful, but being in Baku is what really matters.

She’s actually a sweet young girl – I just helped record an interview with her for Robin Scott who’s working for esctoday.com this year. She’s had a busy time during her short career – been on the Greek version of X Factor and has even toured with Sakis Rouvas – who of course represented Greece twice at Eurovision.

Missed the Latvian rehearsal and press conference – but with two or three things happening at the same time, some things are bound to be missed. But everyone rehearses twice, so you can always catch them the second time round. Also missed the Albanian rehearsal – though it’s not a favourite of mine.

Just seen a potential winner – Romania. Great performance and busy back-drop will easily see them into the final from their semi-final. Even three securities guards were spotted wriggling their, er…booties! Security here by the way is very tight with guards around each corner. Nothing gets past them.

The Swiss are now on stage with Sinplus singing Unbreakable – which I rate highly. Not much chance of winning, but I like the britpop sound. Switzerland’s record of getting through to the final hasn’t been that great in recent years (just about managed it last year – then came in last), but this deserves to go through just to offer some diversity. The two brothers and their band have just delivered a good performance.

It’s been a strange old day so far – everything has been delayed and nothing is perfect yet. No food in the press conference except for fruit – but incase you think they just want to keep us healthy, the only other option is very sweet pastries! Hopefully proper food will be available tomorrow otherwise we’ll be asking for food parcels!

These press conferences can be a bit bland at times. There aren’t many journalists here at the moment, so questions are a bit sparse. But it’s not easy trying to think of something to say that hasn’t been asked before – and this probably isn’t the place to ask anything controversial. But Mandiga from Romania have told us that their song has been received positively – they travelled via Istanbul and were surprised to find many of their fans on the plane. They just wanted to touch the band. Some fans can be a bit much, can’t they?

On stage now is Belgium represented by a young singer, Iris. Her song is pleasant enough, but will probably get lost by the more ‘louder’ songs in semi-final one.

Most of the performers are rehearsing in casual gear, so you can’t really gauge how well they will be received by the viewing public. We’ll have a better idea with the dress rehearsals. They do however bring their outfits on stage to get a colour check.

Getting to see more of the stage from different camera angels. It looks more and more impressive with a catwalk and even a  small separate stage where the presenters will no doubt be doing their bit.

The Green Room is a rather strange position this year – it’s in special section within the seating area on ground level. The Crystal Hall is also located on the seafront and we’ve got a great pamoramic view of the Caspian Sea and the city opposite.

It’s turning into a rather long day – the last press conference from Finland is on at 9.00pm. The Euro Club opens tonight, so will obviously need to check that out. It’s been a rather slow start so far, but things are slowly falling into place. Transport to the arena is still a struggle, but that might be sorted out with regular coaches soon.

Shame there’s no juicy gossip to report. Maybe more luck tomorrow…

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