Vienna Blog. Words by Hass Yusuf, photos by David Ransted.
This blog is updated constantly throughout the day, so tune in for all the latest news as it happens.
Welcome to day two in Vienna. Had to quickly finish off last night – it was well over 8.30pm before we left.
There were a few more Meet & Greets last night.
At the Greek Meet & Greet Maria Elena, who apparently has three young sons, thinks the whole production in Vienna is excellent.
Now many years ago she was encouraged to apply for Pop Idol in Greece, but felt she wasn’t ready. Ten years later, her brother insisted that she apply for the Greek national final – and the rest is history.
Estonia was next. Stig and Elina admitted that they still haven’t sorted out their camera angles – which is why thinks seems disjointed. Stig has been trying for years to win the Estonian national final. He doesn’t often perform – preferring to write songs. Goodbye To Yesterday lay in a drawer for years waiting for the right time for it’s release – and now was the time. He also thinks Eurovision is very contemporary these days and every song has a place on a radio playlist.
The last Meet & Greet was Macedonia.
Daniel Kajmakosk came across as very likeable. His backing singers are members of the US group, Blackstreet, and says he’s privileged to share the stage with them. Daniel actually lives in Vienna so feels he is representing both Vienna and Macedonia. His inspiration is his mother, who really encouraged him to take up a singing career. In fact he was named after Daniel Popovic who sang for Yugoslavia in 1983 with the song Julie. He was asked why sing about autumn
Back to today where the second half of the first semi-final will be featured.
SERBIA is first on stage today.
And judging by the first rehearsal, this is another OMG performance. Bojana Stamenov sings Beauty Never Dies. She’s a big lady, with big hair and a big silver outfit. She’s a great singer and is obviously having fun with this anthemic song – as are the backing singers – dressed in white and carrying white flags (surrendering to what I wonder – probably to the fact that they won’t qualify to the final?). But as the song ups its tempo off fly the robes to reveal brighter outfits. But one of the male singers clearly is embarrassed by the whole thing – looks like a bad-dancing uncle at a wedding. It’s difficult how to rate this act. On the one hand they’re trying too hard, but it is good fun.
In complete contrast we next have HUNGARY.
Boggie sings Wars For Nothing. As the title suggests, it’s a song for peace and very delicately performed. The inventive backdrop suits the song perfectly. Maybe a bit too subtle after so many OTT performances? Hopefully not. Having a very quiet tempo offering will benefit the show. I rate it highly. Kiss of death, or what?
BELARUS is next on stage.
Uzari & Maimuna sing Time. Actually Uzari does all the singing, while Maimuna walks around playing the violin. It’s an enjoyable up-tempo performance, but it may struggle to get through to the final. It’s lacking that something special to set it apart from many of the acts we’ve seen so far. The real stars of the act are Uzari’s ear-decorations. Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine may mistake him for a Bjorian…
Now it’s time for RUSSIA.
The country is always a big-hitter, and this year it’s well deserved with Polina Gagarina singing A Million Voices. The first impression of this act is how under-stated it is. Polina is joined on stage by a band – which does seem a bit strange for this anthemic contribution – but that apart, this is a top five contender. It just got a big applause in the press room.
Time now for the first Meet & Greet of the day.
Bojana from Serbia is a happy soul – and is usually a Soul singer. But for Eurovision she’s become a bit of a disco diva. She was asked about the abrupt key change in the song – going from a ballad to up-tempo. She said it was a way the composer wanted to show of her voice.
She would’ve preferred to sing her song in Serbian, as it’s more special to her, but obviously English is more universal.
We also found out that the flags won’t be white on the night of the actual show – a surprise for us all. Serbia is back in Eurovision after a little break, so it would be nice to see Bojana in the final.
Back on stage we find DENMARK.
Anti-Social Media play The Way You Are. It’s a bit of a throw back to the 1960s – and is a most welcome sound it is. The four-member band are joined by two female singers dressed in red mini-skirts. Think Beatles or Oasis. It’s the most Britpop song in the contest, so really deserves to do well. The band members all seem very young though. Are those zits I spot? But they sound great. Good luck to them!
Whizzing back to the Meet & Greet we find Hungary.
Boggie is quite n emotional singer. She’s very comfortable on stage and thinks the visuals are fantastic but modest. She talked about her flashmob tour around Europe which has gathered over 40 million hits on Youtube. Basically she went around various European cities and started singing. She only had a bit of problem in Rome where she was asked to produce a filming permit!
Next at the Meet & Greet is Belarus.
Now the theme of the song has somewhat changed since they produced their impressive video. In the video it was a homage to Lord Of The Rings, but now the song is an inspiration about the battle against cancer. The song is called Time, and in a way he song’s narrative is how you use the time you have. It can be a powerful weapon if used wisely.
On stage we only see Uzari & Maimuna, but hidden away are a few backing singers.
Back to rehearsals again and on stage we find the act from ALBANIA.
A somewhat understated performance from Elhaida Dani singing I’m Alive. She just stands there and sings helped along by a few backing vocalists. Somewhat of a missed opportunity I feel. Elhaida has a lovely voice and is a good singer, and while the song has its merits, it may struggle to get to the final. But you never know.
ROMANIA is next to rehearse.
Voltaj sing De La Capat/All Over Again. The band was worthy winners of their national final. Their gentle song plunks at the heartstrings and has a serious narrative – leaving children at home while their parents go abroad to work. And to emphasis this, the stage is full of suitcases. It really is lovely song – one of Romania’s best.
Russia is next for the Meet & Greet ritual.
Polina is a real star and comes across as very sincere. Her song, A Million Voices, has a message of love and kindness. Don’t forget to hug your family and friends – we sometimes forget about the important things in life, such as caring for each other.
Polina says has to overcome her nervousness and fear whenever she sets foot on stage.
The final act on stage is GEORGIA.
And what an act to end Semi-Final One! Leather shorts, leather thigh-length boots – what more could you ask for? How about a great singer and act? Well that’s what you get with Nina Sublatti singing Warrior. Learning a lesson from last year’s winner, Nina just stands there and commands the whole stage. Helped along by impressive visuals, this is a great show-stopper. The song, while not the strongest in the contest will stand out because of the performance.
Time for another Meet & Greet, this time for Denmark.
The young band only got together a month before the Danish final, but still managed to win that show with their Beatles-inspired song. They’re still getting used to each other, but are very happy to be part of the Eurovision experience.
At the Albanian Meet & Greet, Elhaida revealed that she thinks her name has an Arabic background and means ‘leader’ or someone you follow. She only had three weeks to find her song as her original entry was withdrawn by the composer. Her first big break came a few years ago when she won Voice of Italy. She’s now a big star all around the Balkans – not bad for a 22 year-old.
It’s Romania’s turn for the Meet & Greet.
Voltaj are a popular band in Romania, and have been for 20 years. While Eurovision is important to them, their message in their song is the real reason why they’re in Vienna. The song’s message tells a story of the millions of Romanian who go abroad to work, leaving their children behind. They want to encourage Romanians and the country to either come back or take their kids with them. The band have even sponsored a little girl. A powerful message via a powerful song.
The last Meet & Greet of the day is for Georgia.
Nina Sublatti comes across as an independent and powerful personality, befitting her performance. Her song seems to resonate with young women. It was important for Nina to be on stage alone to show that she’s in charge of her destiny. Her own inspiration was her mother and grandmother. She also helped design her own outfit – but wasn’t sure of he bird-like shoulder pads. Well it all worked for me.
And there you have it – all the acts for Semi-Final One. Is the winner from this pack? It won’t be that long before we find out.
Back tomorrow with the first rehearsals for the first half of Semi-Final Two acts.