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.
Disclaimer: This blog is being written as things happen so please ignore any mistakes and go with the flow.
Anyway, here we are on Day Three. Today we’re going to see the first eight acts from Semi-Final Two. It’s been extremely busy since we arrived here in Vienna. Still haven’t seen much of the city, but it’s early days yet. So far, the organization seems to be excellent. The press centre here is top-notch. We even have free tea and coffee and snacks! Unheard of! How very civilized.
First up today and now on stage is LITHUANIA. Monika Linkyte & Vaidas Baumila sing This Time. It’s a lively up-tempo performance from the two singers, who seem to have good chemistry between them. They even have a little snog during the act. Let’s hope neither of them develop cold sores between now and their semi-final! The backdrop is very bright and lively and works well with the theme of the song. There are lots of flowers with nice graphic representations of sunshine. So all is well with the world again. Ah… young love. How very sweet. (Makes you sick, doesn’t it?) They’re joined on stage by two sets of backing vocalists, who make good use of the entire stage. It’s a nice start to the show. It’ll be nice to see this in the final.
Next on stage is the act from our nearest neighbour, IRELAND.
Molly Sterling sings Playing With Numbers. (And talking playing with numbers, there’s a little casino table here at the press centre. Yes, all our needs are catered for here.) But back to Molly – the backdrop is really impressive with beautiful shots of nature. This is in complete contrast to the previous act. It’s a lovely slow ballad, with Molly sitting at he piano and joined by a small band and backing vocalists. Unfortunately Molly comes across as very shy. She doesn’t engage with the camera or audience at all. She just stares at the piano for three minutes. Hopefully, once she relaxes, the director will try and get her out of her shell (well she is only 17 years-old). She’s got a lovely smile and needs to show it. David Ransted loves this song and wants to encourage all of you to vote for it!
More youngsters now with the act from SAN MARINO. Chain Of Lights is sung by Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola. These two both represented their country at different years at Junior Eurovision. They’ve now progressed to the main events. But to be truthfully, it’s not with a powerful song. It’s a nice sweet mid-tempo song, and nicely performed by the young couple, but it has no modern hook to it. It would’ve really fitted in well with past Eurovisions in the 1980s and 1990s, but in 2015 it will struggle to get to the final. But bless them for giving it their best!
MONTENEGRO is next on stage. Knez sings Adio (Goodbye). But it’s a big hello from me as I love this song. It’s a pure ethnic Balkan ballad. The act is clichéd in its nature – one powerful singer, female vocalists, with one of them playing a violin – they all elegantly walk around and even do a bit of ethnic dancing. We’ve seen it all before, but who cares? It’s class all the way.
It now time for the first Meet & Greet of the day – Lithuania. Monika and Vaidas seem well suited for the song. They think Vienna is amazing – as is the Eurovision stage! A few facts: Vaidas used to sing opera, and Monika doesn’t like drinking pure water. Even though they started off as sololists at the Lithuanian national final, they combined their talents to win that show. And if they win Eurovision, the country is ready to host this great event.
Time for the Irish Meet & Greet. Young Molly seems very mature for her 17 years! She had to get special permission to attend Eurovision as she’s still at school. Her first impression of seeing the stage was “mental!” She also revealed that she a bit stage fright. She said she couldn’t stop smiling, but as she was singing a sad song, she felt she had to tone down her expressions. She’s a big fan of Fleetwood Mac, so is obviously a young lady of good taste. When asked about the symbolism of the trees and nature of their backdrop, it apparently is meant to convey Molly’s inner-peace. Fair enough – I just think they chose it because it looks nice.
Back to rehearsals where we find MALTA performing.
This is the second song in the contest to be called Warrior, but this time it’s sung by a young artist called Amber. No doubt there will comparisons with the Georgian Warrior, but this song stands on its own merit. The focus is very much on Amber, who stands alone on stage showing a lot of thigh. The act has a very electric-inspired backdrop. Despite a powerful performance by Amber, this might struggle to get into the final.
Next on stage is NORWAY. Morland & Debrah Scarlett sing A Monster Like Me. This is a bit of a sad song about a bad past and letting your love go. It’s delicately stage and might even pull a few heartstrings. The duo are both dressed in white with subtle effects, putting emphasis on the performance. A lot of people rate this song highly – and I can see why. The couple seem to have good chemistry despite singing apart.
PORTUGAL are next to rehearse. Leonor Andrade sings Ha Um Mar Nos Separa (There’s A Sea That Separates Us). Leonor is quite an impressive singer and her vocals suit this rock song perfectly. Dressed in PVC and chiffon, she just stands there and sings her heart out. But backing vocalists and a wind machine are there to give her a hand. This is quite a powerful and modern-sounding song from Portugal this year. It would be great to see this in the final.
Back to the Meet & Greets. At the San Marino one Anita & Michele came across a nice pair of kids. They’re both very excited to be at the grown-up Eurovision having participated at Junior Eurovision. They say the organization is ten-times bigger! They’re very proud to be associated with famous songwriter Ralph Siegel. San Marino is a small country, but their song carries a big message of peace and hope. Who could ask for more?
At the Montenegro Meet & Greet, singer Knez seemed to be employed by the national tourism department – everything in Montenegro is wonderful – the mountains, the sea, the people, the food, etc. Let’s all go and visit! Knez apparently is the oldest singer in the contest, and his daughter is actually one of his backing singers. The tune was written by famous songwriter Zelijko Joksimovic and has been criticized for sounding similar to his other compositions. But Knez assures us that the song has a unique Montenegrin sound. Can’t hear it myself, but I think it’s wonderful, so really don’t care.
Back on stage we find the CZECH REPUBLIC, the last act of the day. Marta Jandova & Vaclav Noid Barta sing Hope Never Dies. This is a sad but hopeful and powerful ballad – and it’s good to see the country back in Eurovision after a break of many years. It’s a passionate performance with Marta flinging off her shoes! It makes it more awkward for them to embrace at the end – he’s much taller than him, but the sentiment is there! There may be comparisons with Norway here – they dressed in white and the Czechs in black, but both are equally impressive.
Back to the remaining Meet & Greets. Amber from Malta thought everything went perfect in her rehearsal. She says she can relate to her song – fight for your right – find your inner strength and all that. Most of these songs this year seem to have that message! Anyway, since winning the Maltese final in November, her song has undergone a lot of development to make it perfect for Eurovision.
Onto Norway now. Morland & Debrah make a nice couple. Morland wrote A Monster Like Me yeas ago but was waiting for the right opportunity to release it – but needed a female singer to sing it with. And that’s when he spotted Debrah on Youtube. He noticed a deadline advert to enter the Norwegian national final, and the rest is history. The song isn’t that easy to sing, but they enjoy the challenge. If they win the contest, they’re off to do a parachute jump. I can think of easier ways to celebrate a Eurovision win…
Portugal was next. Leonor loved the stage and the Austrians she’s so far encountered (yes, they’re all very nice). Her song also has a strong message (I did tell you) about the distance between two souls. While she has no problem with other artists singing in English, she feels that since this is a European contest that some songs should be sung in their mother language. She owes her career to her very supportive brother.
It looks like they saved the best Meet & Greet to last. Marta & Vaclav from the Czech Republic were a right laugh – especially Marta who knows how to control a crowd. The Czech Republic are back after five years – and they got a lot of bad press at home because in previous attempts the country has done badly in the contest and many critics think that they’ll bring shame to the county again! Hopefully these critics will be proved wrong. Marta has a history of taking off her shoes when performing – she doesn’t like high heels, and it felt right for the song. When asked about their tattoos, Vaclav says he inked his daughter’s birthday himself. While Marta revealed that she has one of Vaclav’s on her back that she did herself! They actually met in Prague in a musical based on Hamlet – where Marta played Vaclav’s mother! They were a right hoot – a fun duo for a serious song.
And that’s it for today. It’s been another long day – and tomorrow will be longer with the nine remaining acts from the second semi-final!