Copenhagen blog: Day 1

Hass Yusuf, editor of vision magazine reporting from Copenhagen. Photographs taken by David Ransted.

Disclaimer: Apologies for any typos, bad grammar,  missing words, etc. These blogs are being written live as the action happens.

So it begins! But what to begin with?

How about… what a dump! Well, just outside the B&W Hallerne in downtown Refshaleon – it’s a deathtrap in waiting! Barbed wire, rusty containers, dirt road, rubbish dump, potholes galore,  patchwork tarmac, paint-balling, triffids – you name it and we’ve got it!  And very awkward to get in. Took a short-cut through a hole in the fence this morning. We’re British you know – we always find a way.

But, hey – this is Eurovision. It all adds to the charm of the place.

The Press Centre is actually very nice – quite big. We’re just waiting for the first rehearsal of the day – Armenia, but so far nothing on the screens for us. The press can only these first rehearsals from the screens.

Today of course, first rehearsals for Semi-Final 1 begin.

While we wait for the connection to the arena, let me just say that Copenhagen so far seems to be a very nice place. Watch out for the cyclists – they certainly add to the green credentials of the city – but they try and run you down.

For a first day of rehersals there seems to be a lot of press. The good thing about Denmark is that it’s feasy to get to for most western European countries.

I see a flicker on the screen – yes, it’s Aram MP3 from Armenia singing Not Alone.

Aram MP3 (probably not his real name) is encircled in beams of light. The stage looks amazing. Are we on the planet Krypton? Spotlights galore. You’re getting your money’s worth here! Well – that was a fab start to the contest. Couldn’t tell how he sounded though – hardly any volume.

Spoke to soon – here he is again. He’s sounding good to me – and looking very angst..  This song is very highly rated and apparently was the bookies favourite for a while. Personally I can’t see it winning (famous last words) – but it’s certainly a great entry.

Armenia

By stark contrast we next have Latvia, where  Aarzemnieki are attempting to Bake A Cake. Actually, they would have more stage presence if they were actually trying to bake a cake! (Remember the Russian grannies a few years ago?)  The song is very understated as is the performance. They need to spruce it somehow. But the lead singer does make full use of this impressive stage.  It’s a charming song and not all songs have to be big productions – but that does seem to help these days.

Latvia

Estonia are now on stage with Tanja singing Amazing. She’s have a little boogie with a hunky male dancer. Her voice is holding despite being flung around all round the place. She’s climbing on top of him now. The stage act seems to show her breaking free of something. Well she can’t get away from that dancer. He’s got her by the ankles now. All very strange. Someone needs to call security!  Maybe it’s a strange Estonian love ritual . Fabulous light effects though.

Estonia

So far so good.

Time for the first Meet & Greet with Armenia.

Aram MP3 says he’s got a lot of support in his home country and so is hoping for the best. As for going on first he sees it as a nice present and will be able to watch all his colleagues from the Green Room. I’m sure he wishes them well – well not all of them of course. Only ten countries can go through to the final from this semi-final.

On stage we now have the lovely Sanna Nielsen for Sweden singing Undo. This is highly regarded and is easy to see why. Sanna is in fine voice. she just stands centre stage and is circled in a cage of spotlights. In a way that’s all the song demands. There are no sudden moments. Sanna let’s the song’s emotions tell the story. Along with simple, but effective light effects, this is a perfect entry.

Sweden

At the Latvian Meet & Greet, lead singer Joran Steinhauer said he was inspired to go to Latvia from Germany after watching the first Latvian Eurovision by Brainstorm singing My Star (one of my favourite Eurovision songs ever by the way). He wrote a song about the Latvian currency for YouTube that went viral. And that was that.

On stage we now have the Teletubbies.. sorry I mean the Icelandic entry. Pollaponk sing No Prejudice. And you can’t argue with that. They’re a colourful band with members wearing pink, blue, red and yellow suits – and the backing musicians are just as colourful.. All good fun. But for such a lively song, most of the performance is quite static. Unlike the Swedish song, this one needs to be a bit more lively to suit the fun mood of the song. It’s beards galore with Pollaponk. ZZ Tops fans will approve. Not many performers have won Eurovision with beards, but Eurovision in Iceland would be great, so good luck to them!

Iceland

At the Estonian Meet & Greet, Tanja was asked – as an ethnic Russian – if there was any political backlash to her representing Estonia (obviously in relation to the Ukrainian crisis). She said she’s had a long career in Estonia so he widely known there, so hasn’t had any problems. She’s been a big Eurovision fan for 23 years now and is going to make the most of here two-week experience.

We have Albania on stage now,Hersi Matmuja sings Zemerimi Nje Nate. She’s standing on a raised platform – but has taken her platform shoes off. Well might as well get comfy. Barefoot singers generally do well in this contest. Here band are on stage as well – and the cameramen are obviously filming around them. Hersi can certainly sing, but the performance seems to be missing something. I take it back – just noticed dry-ice mist effects. That’s better. And you can’t fault Hersi for her passion!

Albania

Time for Russia. The Tolmachevy Twins sing Shine. This is a decent pop song with a good stage act. They’ve brought along their own prop – a nice shaped see-saw. The girls are dressed very casual – they couldn’t even be bothered to put their shoes on. And they’re both holding long glass rods. Very ominous! Ah… here’s some mist. I like to see mist on the Eurovision stage. Can’t get enough of it. The twins might be young, but they know how to sing. Thy won the Junior Eurovision in 2007, so they’re used to success. A very decent decent performance that should get them through to the final (politics aside).

Russia

Now for a country that always do well in the contest – Azerbaijan. Dilara Kazimova sings Start A Fire. Azerbaijan of course don’t do things the easy way – they often find a good gimmick. And this year they’ve employed the services of a trapeze artist. Very subtly though. This is really an impressive ballad and Dilara sings it perfectly. Add in a bit of mist and you have a hit. The act also has a fab gothic backdrop. All very impressive especially when you add in a great light show.

Well just look at Ukraine and their giant hamster wheel on stage! Maria Yaremchuk is trying to sing Tick-Tock while climbing over it. Steady on girl! Well she’s trying to get her hands on the hunky acrobat who’s performing within the wheel. He must be ultra-fit with the things he’s getting up to! I like it. The song is a decent pop offering – and the act goes nicely with the subject matter. Ukraine usually does well in the contest, so this should easily get them into the final – and with the country being in the public eye at the moment won’t be a bad thing. It could even win!

And here’s another potential winner – Belgium. Axel Hirsoux sings Mother. This is performed very much like in the Belgian national final which reduced many to tears including judge Ruslana (who won the contest for Ukraine in 2004). The staging is simple but effective – a subtle light effect with good camera work. And how nice to see a dancer who isn’t that young. Axel certainly has a rich and powerful voice. Powerful enough to guide into the final. Hopefully. Antwerp awaits…

I’ve missed a few Meet & Greets – there’s only so much you can do, but just come from the Ukrainian one, Mariya says this experience is the beginning of the best time of her life. Her father was a famous Ukrainian singer – who died when she was young, but still feels inspired by him. She was asked why only one dancer is appearing on stage with her. She explained it told the story better – two lovers that are kept apart. She came across as very genuine – a very different from the rock-chick that she displays on stage.

Belgium is the last Meet & Greet of the day. Axel is really enjoying his experience and says he’s representing all of his country. The song isn’t just for mothers, but for whole families and best friends.

And that’s it for the first day of rehearsals. It’s been a log day – started at 9.30am and it’s 8.00pm now. Tomorrow we’ll see the final six acts left from Semi-Final 1 and the first five acts from Semi-Final 2. So, have we seen a winner today? For various reasons there are three that could do it.

Back again tomorrow with more comment and David’s photos.

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