Baku Blog Day 2

Day 2

Monday 14 May

Vision editor Hass Yusuf reporting live from Baku

Disclaimer: Please note that this blog is written live, so typos and mistakes may appear – but will try to correct later on.

Getting to venue was another shambolic experience this morning – even the official black cab drivers have no idea where the Baku Crystal Hall is! In fact 90% of taxi drivers we’ve used for the last few days don’t know where anything is – they’re always stopping to get directions. And there’s no access to the road to the venue, so it’s a fairly long walk to get to the Press Centre and Crystal Hall. Hopefully that’ll be sorted out before the three main shows start, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  And everyone should allow three hours to get to the venue – seriously – traffic is usually terrible. Police cars often drive up and curse motorists with their loudspeakers. No kidding.

Never mind – here’s Israel on stage now to cheer me up. Definitely one of my favourite songs – it’s got a slighty 1960s psychedelic beat to it. They’re not a particularly good-looking band, but the music is fab. It’s another late start – but not as bad as yesterday. What an adventure this Eurovision has been so far!

Ahh.. here’s San Marino represented by Valentina Monetta. She is a Facebook friend – as is everyone else apparently! If you like your songs cheesy – then this is for you. It probably has no chance of getting through to the final, but it would be such a laugh if it did. It’s actually quite a nice performance by Val – and she has a great backdrop.

Her rehearsal did drag on though. Normally in these first rehearsals you have one sound check and at least three camera rehearsals. You’re luckily if you get one camera rehearsal here in Baku. There were frequency problems with her apparently – her singing wasn’t that bad!

The UK isn’t voting in semi-final one so we can’t vote for San Marino – because it’s the sort of song that we would vote for – as we do admire the underdog – even if the song is…

As her song is all about the internet, Facebook – and apparently cybersex, according to the lyrics – it’s almost tempting to ask her at the press conference how many pokes she’s had while in Baku. But too rude? Yes. You’ve all got filthy minds.

Cyprus are now on stage. No one’s actually heard Ivi Adamou sing the song live, so this should be interesting. This is probably one of the best Greek Cypriot songs in ages.

Oh, I see movement – they’re all lining up behind each other – and up emerges Ivi. She’s just going through a sound check. She’s not looking as glamorous as her official photos – probably arrived in Baku two hours ago. She sounded fine though, but seems to have developed an accent since her video. I do like La La Love  – but the Greek vote will probably go to Greece, so Cyprus may miss out in the final – and alas all the Cypriots in North London won’t be able to help.

Anyway, here comes the camera rehearsal – she’s standing on a platform and four female dancers are flinging themselves around her. It’s coming across really well. You never know – it could go through – and it deserves to. A good catching modern number with a good dance routine. And another great graphic backdrop. I approve. And she’s making good use of her wind machine. There’s nothing like a good wind machine to creat that right mood.

Didn’t catch most of the Danish rehearsal – too busy at the San Marino press conference. Valentina speaks very little English – so she obviously just learnt how to pronounce the words to her song. The writers of the song were also on stage – which of course includes Ralph Siegel , who announced that this was his 20th Eurovision – and he has been entering songs since 1972. Siegel was inspired to write the song after he joined Facebook and suddenly found himself with more friends than he knew he had. The song was entered to various national selections, but was picked by San Marino. Then they sought the service of one the country’s top jazz singers, Valentina Monetta. Siegel also mentioned that he’s proud of his Eurovision connection – even though some people like to put the contest down, it rises above it all.

I can hear the Cypriot press conference in the background – which was supposed to be broadcast on the big screen in the press hall, but I forgot this is Azerbaijan where things only work if it fancies it. I’ll catch the Cyprus press conference next time, but I’m told Ivi was lovely – chatty and confident.  One of her backing singers apparently sang for Cyprus in the early 1990s.

Everyone seems to be waiting for the grannies from Russia at the moment. And last on this evening we have the return of Jedward. This is definitely the more fun semi-final.

Soluna from Denmark had a good press conference – she appears quite intelligent with a nice personality. I don’t particularly like her song, but if someone appears nice, then they get my support regardless.

The Russian grannies proved to be a sensation on stage – definitely had more TV cameras around. The young ladies perform a bread-baking act to accompany their song – though their choreographer was getting quite frantic with them – someone deserves a slap in the face! You don’t speak to your grannies like that! Anyway, the Buranovskiye Babushki will storm to the final – unless the juries mark them down. The song isn’t really that good, but the act is a fun to watch so that more than makes up for it. The grannies of course sing Party For Everyone – well they certainly know how to strut their stuff!

Hungary seem to have had a good rehearsal. Sounds Of Our Hearts is a worthy product from Compact Disco.It’s got a Britrock sound to it that makes it very appealing – but may be one of those songs on the borderline of qualifying for the final – though it deserves to get through, as it is a serious effort.

And it appears to be one of the few acts that is actually using the catwalk. There’s definitely more to this stage than greets the eye.

Just come back from the Russian press conference – as expected the hall was packed.  The conference was quite long, but unfortunately most of the questions asked were in Russian. Still, eight grannies turned up on stage – as the group actually contains eight performers, two of them will have to sit it out as EBU rules only allow six performers on stage. The grannies are performing all over the place to raise funds to build a church for their local village.

Some of the vocals from the group may not be top-notch, but they can sing in harmony at times – they gave a nice rendition of Yesterday.

Unlike most of the delegations, the Russians are staying on the outskirts of Baku, as they don’t like the noise of the busy city.

Moldova have a lively act making full use of the large stage. And the phrase ‘ride ’em cowboy’ will become evident! Pasha Parfeny is a good performer.

The vocals so far in the contest have on the whole been quite good. I remember in previous years some very awkward squeaks. The technical support for the show seems to be handled by a German organisation – the same who provided the technics for the show in Dusseldorf, so at least that part of the show should be decent.

I appear to have missed the rehearsal for Austria – I’ll catch them next time. Everything is running more than an hour late, with only Ireland’s Jedward to perform,

I’ll take this lull to talk about the opening of the Euro Club – which opened with a whimper. The Euro Club is where various delegations hold their parties – and where this year’s Opening Party will be held. It’s basically a large sports hall which has been converted for Eurovision.

Attendance was very sparse – despite the great Eurovision music. The only people on the massive dance floor were a few young volunteers and some of the British and Irish journalists! Well, we know how to have a good time! No doubt it will get busier soon. But Safura, who represented Azerbaijan two years ago, joined the volunteers on the dance floor, which was nice of her.

Trackshittaz from Austria had a fun press conference. They were the first act to stand on the stage desks. Don’t like their song at all, but the band are fun. As their song translates as Shake Your Booty, they were asked if they’ve checked-out any booties yet and which ones impressed them! They said they hadn’t had a chance to check yet, but probably Russia!

They were also put on the spot about the song being sexist, but they explained that the song is just a bit of fun and they’ll be strutting their booties as well.

It’s getting late here in Baku, but still a few press conferences left. Not many people went to the Moldovan one, so I thought I would ask Pasha about the various awards that he’s won. He replied that they were mainly for musical awards around the region – Moldova, Romania and Ukraine – but he’s hoping to add Eurovision to his tally.

Jedward finally made it on stage – it just looked like the usual Jedward performance. Last year’s colour motif was red – this year they look quite dapper in blue. Their singing was fine, but the backing singers need to tone down a bit. They also have a water feature on stage. Just their press conference left.

And what a riot it was! The twins came in wearing special popcorn-styled outfits – and started throwing popcorn around. It must have been five minutes before they shut up and let the conference host get a word in edgeways. The whole event was just manic – they were asked if they completed in the Olympics what event they would enter? Anything long distant was the answer – because of more camera time! Apparently they’re down to carry the Olympic torch.

Previous Eurovision winner, Linda Martin, has mentored them this year and said they were the nicest people she has ever worked with.

It’s been a long day – back again tomorrow with the start of semi-final two acts.

However, leaving the press centre at 10.00pm really showed how much effort the Azeris have put into the show. The Crystal Hall looks amazing in the dark.