This is Hass Yusuf, editor of Vision magazine, reporting for OGAE UK on the biggest musical show in the world.
Disclaimer: This blog is being written live, so there are lots of opportunities for typos, missing words, etc. Just go with the flow.
So here we go again – just the third day here in Malmo. Today we have first rehearsals for the first half of semi-final two. I’m being joined this morning by OGAE UK’s Ticket Coordinator, David Ransted, who’ll be giving his opinions on selected acts as well.
Latvia are performing first – with PeR, aptly singing Here We Go. And A nice camp start and here they go! The lads are joined by two other musicians on stage – all dressed in glittery black and silver. The lads have shaved their chests for the occasion. And if anyone is interested, the lead singer has a ‘inny’ navel. This is all inside information y’know. For such a lively song, they’re pretending to move in slow motion – you’re only still allowed three minutes chaps!
There are long gaps between each try-out – we’re not privy to any discussions between the performers and technical staff. But we’re still having fun here in the cinema screening room at the huge Euroclub.
The group’s name, PeR, stands for Please Explain the Rhythm. They produce an easy-listening beatbox/soft rap song.
Next we have something more classy – San Marino. Valentina Monetta is back again with another Ralph Siegel number, Crisalide (Vilo) (Chrysalis (Fly)). And what a difference from last year’s social network song. Valentina starts off on the floor embracing a bright globe draped in black. Then suddenly she emerges all in red ready to face the world – like a caterpillar to a butterfly. You would not believe that this is the same singer from last year – she looks far more serious and mature – reflecting the style of this classy Italian-language song.
She’s just abandoned her second try-out — it’s why these first rehearsals happen – to iron out any problems. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse is the name of the game. Her third try-out went perfectly.
David thinks it’s a certain qualifier for the final – a first for San Mario. And I tend to agree. It’s well presented – starts off as a slow ballad, then we get a sudden key change to an upbeat tempo with a dramatic finish.
Macedonia are next. Esma & Lozano sing Pred Da Se Razdeni (Before The Sunrise). An unusual paring from the Macedonians this year. Esma is a famous Romani singer, while Lazono is more traditional pop. It all makes for an interesting sound. The Balkan states will lap this up, but I doubt the rest of Europe will appreciate this very ethnic sound.
Here’s Lazano dressed all casual, but out comes Esma – a beauty in purple. Have they changed the song again? Do the EBU know? It’s certainly a different arrangement and Lazano is singing in English. This is a bit of a mish-mash – but strangely interesting. Not entirely sure if it works. There’s a nice sort of chemistry between the singers with Lazano all laid back, while Esma is more manic. And I’m sure those backing singers are her granddaughters.
Comparisons between Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe will be made. But that’s where it stops. I would like to see this in the final, just to spruce things up. Esma is a big star in her part of the world (and internationally actually), so she at least deserves some recognition.
Azerbaijan are next. Farid Mammadov sings Hold Me. Wait till you see this act! Farid starts off on a glass box – which contains his ‘mirror image’. Ever seen a dancer float upside in a glass box? You will now. They’re also joined on stage by a blonde beauty wearing a red dress with a mile long trail.
And it doesn’t stop there – we get petals galore. What a show – makes you forget about the song – which really shouldn’t be the case! But, as I’ve said before – this is Eurovision.
David thinks the song is decent enough, but the performance will probably put it among the top six at the final. And again I agree.
In the main hall Valentin from San Marino is just starting her Meet & Greet. She said she had awkward start to her rehearsal, but managed to sort it out. She says her song is all about love – love will cure everything. She sounded quite emotional. She also said that she needs to relax her mind more for her second rehearsal.
Back to the screening room. Finland have just started. Krista Siegfrids is making a statement about gay marriage with Marry Me. It’s a very modern sounding song, telling a good story. The backing singers and dancers all play a major part in this lively saga. Masked dancers turning into bridesmaids, long flowy veil – it’s got it all. Even a kiss with a girl at the end. Maybe the most relevant song of the contest?
Malta are next with an entertaining little ditty. Gianluca sings Tomorrow. It’s all about a nerdy IT consultant tying to find love. The song also works due to Gianluca’s likeable personality – he has a very captivating smile that will endear him to many a grandma. There’s an old-fashioned feel to the song, that just adds to the charm. It’s very uptempo and ‘good-feel’, which should hopefully get it into the final. I know many fans would love Malta to win one of these years. This would be a worthy winner. Nerds rejoice!
We have Bulgaria next with Elitsa & Stoyan performing Samo Shampioni (Only Champions). The duo achieved Bulgaria’s best result when they previously performed in 2007. Like Macedonia, this is another unique ethnic offering. Lots of drum playing and Elitsa has a great voice – hitting those high notes perfectly. But there’s a strange man sporting a rather large mask lurking around the stage. What some fans will do to get into the limelight! I’m sure he was on earlier pretending to play a sort of sheep-skin bagpipe. All a bit creepy really – he’s following Elitsa & Stoyan around the stage trying to put a curse on them! Someone should call security.
This is a tour de force of an performance, full of great energy – but I only hope the rest of Europe can appreciate this sort of sound.
Time for Iceland now. Eythor Ingi sings Eg A Lif (I Am Alive). He seems to live up to his image of a Thor figure (check out his name) – all beard and hair. A simple but effective performance by Eythor. He spends most of the stage on his own, then is joined by four backing singers for the finale. This is a powerful ethnic-sounding rock ballad. The whole act is understated – brave of them – but deserves to do well. There’s a lot of emotion in this song about life and death. And it sounds great in Icelandic. Eythor just owns the stage. The only song in the contest that can cause you goose-bumps. Such a strong voice.
David thinks it’s a beautiful song, note perfect, with really nice staging. The complete package. By far the best performance of the day. I think he approves.
If there’s any song which has gone up in my estimation, it’s this one. When I reviewed it for Vision magazine, I didn’t think it would stand out. I now officially eat my own words! Tastes better than the Greek salad I had for lunch earlier.
Anyway, that’s the last of today’s rehearsals – just waiting around in the main hall for those Meet & Greets and to take photos.
Tonight, it’s back here to the Euroclub – but this time for relaxing and pleasure (as if writing this blog wasn’t that already) with lots of Euro-music.
Finland are here now. Krista is here with who she calls her Ding-Dong Girls. They were please with their third rehearsal- apparently their bums looked good. Yes, I suppose so.
Time for Gianluca of Malta. The singer is actually a medical doctor. The host has just him if the contest has reached fever pitch yet. I like a good pun. He likes to convey smiles to the audience watching. The best medicine is happiness and smiles apparently. Give me a couple of mojitos and I’ll be smiling.
Quote of the day from Gianluca: “I hope this contest will give me ways to expose myself.” That would make an interesting wardrobe malfunction. Calm down now, it’ll probably never happen.
Bulgaria next. Elitsa & Stoyan are happy to be at Eurovision again. They would love to achieve a top five finish, but realise nothing is predictable at Eurovision. They also recognised the achievements of their backing singers, which is nice. The backing singers and dancers seem to be more in your face this year.
And finally tonight here’s Iceland. Eythor never expected to get to Eurovision. He’s found everything in Malmo to be very professional so far. His song is about life and thinks often of his wife and kids. They’ve just performed their song on stage – quite outstanding. A perfect way to end today’s activities.
A bit of bad news to finish off though.It’s been reported that the first lady of Eurovision, Lys Assia, who won the first Eurovision in 1956 and was meant to be here in Malmo, is very ill with pneumonia. Let’s wish her a speedy recovery.
Back tomorrow for the second half of the first rehearsals for semi-final two.