This is Hass Yusuf, editor of Vision magazine, reporting live from Malmo.
Usual disclaimer: as this is being written live, expect typos, missing words and the like. Just go with the flow.
The Euroclub, which doubles as the press centre for the first rehearsals was in dance-floor mode last night. It was great listening to old Eurovision hits until the small hours. It really isn’t easy to get away from the Eurovision bubble for these two weeks.
Today we have the second half of semi-final two rehearsals. Hopefully we’re in for another treat.
First on today, we have Greece. Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis sing Alcohol Is Free. The song isn’t really about free booze but more of a euphemism about the trials and tabulations of modern life. I think. Their performance is quite energetic – they’re using the stage and the catwalk effectively. It’s not easy to prance around and sing at the same time, but they’re all young enough to do so, except for Agathon of course. He just stands there with his lacquered moustache singing and playing his instrument.
This is quite an unusual sound for Greece – spa/funk with traditional elements. I think it sounds fab – and is generally expected to do well. Greece should be back in the top ten this year with this offer. Not sure if the lads will be in their kilts on the live shows, but they had better watch those legs kicks…
Hah — they’ve just lost their sound in their third rehearsal. Might as well iron out these problems now.
Agathon has his ‘worry beads’ hanging off his small buziki-like instrument. They’ve got nothing to worry about,
Israel are next. Moran Mazor sings Rak Bishvilo (Only For Him). ‘Rak Bishvilo’ – sounds like it could be a character out of Star Wars.
Anyway, here’s Moran who’s been squeezed into a nice outfit. but is totally unsuited to her body shape. No one wants to see a knicker-line. And the poor girl can’t move around a lot in case she has a wardrobe malfunction!
But let’s concentrate on her performance – which is quite powerful. She sings her song with much passion – sometimes at odds with the backing singers. She may need to calm it down a bit, because at the moment it’s a bit shouty. But on the whole, this is a ‘pure’ Israeli song. Top marks for sincerity, but I think it’ll struggle to get into the final – which is a shame as Moran really can sing. And ut’s the sort of song, that grows on you with each hearing. And how refreshing to have a singer who’s not afraid to wear specs on stage.
Armenia are next. Gor Sujyan and Dorians sing Lonely Planet. This song of course was co-written by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame. This is another rather shouty offering. But it does convey a good message, so all is forgiven. Thinking about past Armenian offerings, having a rock band representing them is a brave effort. This is a straightforward performance – the band play and the singer sings! Gor has quite a powerful voice and cuts a striking figure. The song isn’t really my cup of tea, but the contest does need variety, so it would be nice to see this do well, though I doubt it. But top marks for effort. Especially as in the last rehearsal they’ve let out the dry ice mist. – always a favourite of mine. But, then they go and ruin it by having those insipid fireworks – which add nothing to the performance.
Next we have Hungary. ByeAlex sings Kedvesem (My Dear). This is one of my favourites – it’s a rather charming and understated performance. Alex is joined on stage with a guitarist and one backing singer. Simple and effective. The graphic backdrop is made up of images from his video. I really can’t praise this enough – just a lovely unique sound. But he just tried changing the key – not a good idea Alex – keep to the original please. We want you to get to the final.
Time for Norway – and another song I have time for. Margaret Berger sings I Feed Your Love. This is a popular song among Euro-fans.
The song is a electro-pop ballad which won the Norwegian national final by a landslide. Margaret in a vision in white and silver. She jut stands there and delivers her song expertly and professionally. She joined on stage with a drummer and backing singers – all simply done. The song has an unusual haunting element to it. It ticks all the boxes of being a winner. Not much more you can add here. They’ve got a great backdrop that fits perfectly with the song. Not sure that I ant to go back to Norway so soon, but a worthy winner, is a worthy winner. I Feed You My Love. Well thank you.
Here’s Albania. Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko sing Identitet (Identity). As rock numbers go – this is an excellent example. it’s got a great ethno-rock style to it. Shame about by the screeching electric guitar bit, but you can’t have everything. The duo are joined on stage by a band – but the song also contained classical music elements which all makes for an interesting sound. The grand final really needs a song like this. I’m not sure who is Adrian or who is Bledar, but the lead guitarist reminds me of Olive from On The Buses. Oh Arthur… Younger viewers can watch the repeats on ITV 4 in the wee hours of the morning. Anyway, the band are doing their final rehearsal and out comes mists of dry ice, which of course, I’m quite partial to. And get this — fireworks out of a guitar. Well the group may need a gimmick, so this will do nicely if it helps them get through to the grand final.
Next we have Georgia – which everyone has high hopes for. It came out top in the Vision magazine poll. It may not be my favourite song, but I’ve decided that if the UK doesn’t win, then I want to go to Georgia. Personally, I feel Eurovision fans get ripped off wherever we go (with bloated hotel bills), so we might as well get ripped off by going somewhere interesting rather than an ordinary western city which could be anywhere in Europe.
Anyway, Sophie Gelovani & Nodi Tatishvili sing Waterfall. It’s an extremely powerful love ballad, with Sophie & Nodi performing in perfect harmony.
Nodi starts the song off dressed in black, then we see Spohie – a vision in white and pale blue full of glittery pearls. This sets the mood of the song perfectly. They embrace and the love story begins. Then they both sing they hearts off. You couldn’t ask more from them.
Now, will we see dry ice mist and a pyro waterfall in the last run of these rehearsals? I’ll know in a few minutes.
And due to time-lapse typography… ah, here’s the dry-ice mist. I’m happy. And, yes, here we have the fireworks waterfall – just before whiffs of fog squirting out around the stage. It’s easy to predict these things you know.All very fab. Doesn’t take much to make me happy. C’mon Georgia!
However, my favourite song of the contest is up next – Switzerland. The group were originally called Heilsarmee – Salvation Army – but had to change their name because EBU rules don’t allow anything to do with religion. So they chose Takasa instead – which means ‘purity’ in Swahili, but we all know it really stands for The Artists Known As Salvation Army! Hah!
Hmm.. not a very good first-run, They all look bored. I’ll have to go over and give them all a slap to wake them up! I’m tired of have the Swiss song as my favourite and not going through to the final (The Highest Heights in Moscow, Vampires Are Alive in Helsinki)! The band features the oldest person on stage at Eurovision – 95 year-old Emil Ramsauer, bless him. but he looks completely lost on stage. I think one of his colleagues is telling him what camera to look at!
If I’m being honest, as much as I love the song, there’s nothing here on stage to set it apart from its competition. It may even be in danger of not qualifying! I really hope I’m wrong. They’ve got a good slot and they’re run-throughs have been getting better with each go. Fingers crossed!
Last act of the day belongs to Romania. Cezar sings It’s My Life. This should stand out – maybe for the wrong reasons. OMG. Cezar is dressed in black sparkly gown, but his top reveals his hairy-chest (put it away please), wearing a big cross (so much for EBU rules about religion). He stands on a sea of red waves, which turn out be a bunch of dancers. Pure campfest. What’s the world coming to? But tune-wise, he does have an amazing voice hitting those high notes. All said and done it’s a fun uptempo dance song to end the semi-finals. The act also takes a feather from the Moldovan cap, as Cezar rises up and up and up! Well the two countries are buddies.
But of course you all realise that if this song wins, Eurovision won’t be taken seriously for at least a decade! But mustn’t criticise, because here comes the dry ice mist for his last rehearsal, so all is okay in the world again. I take it back – just had more pyro effects. Ho-hum.
Anyway, that’s it for the semis. Just the Big Five and the host nation to perform on Saturday.
Tomorrow we move to the official Press Centre for the second rehearsals.
We’re all off to the San Marino party tonight. Report tomorrow. ‘We’ includes most of the British and Irish crowd that come to Eurovision year after year. And of course all the other European journalists that we get to know better over time.
We’re just waiting for the last few Greet & Meets of the day. It’s been a long day, but tomorrow and Saturday, we’ll be working until 11.00pm! Yes, I’m sure your hearts bleed for us!
Right-0, here’s Albania. First impressions of Malmo: It’s a beautiful city comes the answer. Their song is about Albania becoming more integrated with Europe.
For Georgia – they were asked why they chose famous Swedish songwriter (Thomas G:son) for their entry. They replied that they wanted to do well in the contest, so it made sense to ask an experienced European. The host also asked if they thought a ballad could win Eurovision? Some one hasn’t done their research. Sophie and Nodi replied that any powerful song about love can win – but you can express love better in a ballad. They’ve just sung a version of Waterloo. Please get over it – it was nearly 40 years ago.
Let’s see what the Swiss have to say. Well nothing really – got called away to record an interview with the Georgian singers for a friend. It’s all go here y’know.
Just Romania left now. Cezar is really happy — he loves it here. He got a great vibe from the stage – a lot energy from it. As for his outfit – he enjoyed the glittery concept. He think it fits well in the show. Indeed. The song has a message – it’s my life – he tries to describe his life through song. Well, something like that. They all say the same thing.
We’re going to miss the Euroclub doubling as a temporary press centre.
That’s it – back tomorrow.