Vienna Blog Day 4

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!

Well here we are on Day 4. I think it’s Thursday, but all the days are merging into one. It’ always a slow start in the mornings, but once the smaller press conferences, the Meet & Greets, start in the afternoon, it gets really hectic in the afternoons when rehearsals start clashing with these Meet & Greets. But we’re still going to attempt to watch and get to everything!

Rehearsals are still a closed set, but once the second round of rehearsals start, we’ll all be allowed into the arena, where David Ransted will be perched all day taking photos. The things we do to earn our accreditation! Still haven’t had a chance to see the city yet – but the time we finish at the press centre and get something to eat, it approaching midnight. Too old to go clubbing these days.

The first rehearsal of the day, from Israel, is still 45 minutes away; so let me chat about things. The press centre here is excellent, but it’s really busy compared to other years. Even though the EBU have been cutting back on accredited journalists, everyone seems to have come to Vienna early rather than wait for the second set of rehearsals. We’re treated very here by the way. There’s free tea and coffee and loads of free snacks as well. And the canteen is quite decent as well. It’s important to eat y’know. And I know you’re wondering about it – but, yes, the loos are clean. Though some press people could do with a wash.

The young volunteers here by the way, are all lovely. They all speak English (how very civilized), and greet us with a cheery smile when we arrive and wave us off when we leave. But apparently they are treated very well and have all received the latest iPhone for their time and effort!

Today we have nine more to comment on. They’re the second half of the second semi-final, which by the way is the one that the UK will be voting on. So don’t forget to watch the shows on BBC 3. Anyway, have we seen a winner yet? The best contenders so far are probably from Estonia, Russia and Norway, but early days yet. Still 15 more songs to go! Anyway, while we wait for Israel to come on stage, here’s a pic from the press centre foyer where images of all the past winners are on display.

It's usually rude to point, but Sandie Shaw won in Vienna in 1967!

It’s usually rude to point, but Sandie Shaw won in Vienna in 1967!

And here we go with ISRAEL!
Nadav Guedj sings Golden Boy. As you would expect from the title of the song, the staging is very gold-like. It’s a somewhat male affair on stage where Nadav is joined on stage by two male vocalists (who take over when Nadav is prancing around) and three male dancers. The staging isn’t exactly original, but it’s an up-tempo fun performance and I love the Middle Eastern influence. Nadav is dressed in a black suit, which makes him look even older than his 16 years. Nadav is obviously the golden boy in his mother’s eyes – hopefully the rest of Europe will agree. It’ll be good to see Israel in the final again, where last year – having the best song in the contest in my opinion – ended up near the bottom of its semi-final! Anyway, this should wake up the viewers. At the last rehearsal run, the stage explodes covering Nadav with a golden shower.

Next on stage is LATVIA.
From gold we go to red. Aminata sings Love Injected which she wrote herself. It’s an very interesting electro-pop offering. A bit shouty, but it’s a great stage act. Aminata is wearing an interesting red outfit – and as is the theme this year – attempting to show off her boobies – with a marvellous red backdrop. She also rises up at he start of the song, but has to stay in one spot, especially in that outfit!. I have admit I didn’t rate this highly before coming to Vienna, but now I really want it to qualify. It’ll offer the final an unusual sound, especially with its interesting beat. Well done to LATVIA in upping the ante!

Next we have AZERBAIJAN, my favourite song on the contest!
Elnur Huseynov sings Hour Of The Wolf. A somewhat under-stated performance here. It got a loud clap in the press room – but probably for the song rather than the act. Elnur has a smashing voice, but the two dancers are a bit off-putting at the moment. They’re clearing meant to be representing wild animals, but probably not in costume yet. I expect the Azeris to up the ante by the second rehearsals. They have a nice backdrop though – a scene of woods with big red moon.

And quickly moving on to ICELAND.
Maria Olafs sings Unbroken. Maria has a good voice – she needs it for this rather shouty song. But she’s young girl obviously having fun on stage dressed in some sort of tutu outfit. She joined on stage by a nice chorus of vocalists. The background graphics are quite decent. The whole thing reminds me of a high school musical act, but apparently it was the younger viewers in the Icelandic national final that put Maria through to Vienna. Iceland have yet to win the contest, and it’s about time it does!

Just come from the first Meet & Greet featuring Israel. Young Nadav won the Rising Star show in Israel. “Super” seems to be his catchphrase. He’s super-blessed to here in Vienna. He’s super-happy with everything so far. He was a bit daunted by the stage, but after his third run of rehearing he was [super] confident. With so many ballads, he wants his song to suggest a [super] party. Though he may be a golden boy, he intends to finish his school. Super.

Here's Nadav, the golden boy from Israel.

Here’s Nadav, the golden boy from Israel.

At the Latvian Meet & Greet, Aminata and her crew gave us a performance of their song with just a guitar. There’s a nice buzz about her and this song now. It’s probably the surprise hit of the contest so far. Aminata tries to put all her personal influences into her songs. Her mother is Latvian and her father Africa, so tries to incorporate her background into her work.

Aminata from Latvia wants us to ring her.

Aminata from Latvia wants us to ring her.

On stage is SWEDEN.
Mans Zelmerlov sings Heroes. How can this possibly lose? It ticks all the right boxes: a great song, great effects, great singer, great act, etc. While it may not be my favourite song of the contest, this will capture the imagination. Basically Mans performs his son with various animated characters and effects. But they don’t distract from the song, but rather enhance it. I don’t particularly want to go back to Sweden so soon, but it probably can’t be helped!

SWITZERLAND are next on stage.
Melanie Rene sings Time To Shine. There’s a nice woodland background with this song and Melanie wears a nice chiffon cape. She’s joined on stage by four drummers. It’s all bright lights and wind machine really. It looks great on stage but the song is very so-so. It’ll be difficult for this to progress to the final I feel. But the Swiss usually produce favourites for me, so I would be happy for this to do well.

And next we have CYPRUS. John Karayiannis sings One Thing I Should Have Done. What an impressive performance this was. Subtle and very under-stated. The act starts off in black and white, slowly emerging into colour. The background effects then splash out in tune with this gentle ballad. John had the right personal and vocals for this song. Excellent. Hopefully the viewers will remember it when voting – it’s up against some rather loud offerings. And let’s hear it for people wearing black-rimmed specs.

But in the meantime Azerbaijan had its Meet & Greet. Elnur got a good reaction when he first saw the stage. He was pleased with the performance but need to iron out a few things. The dancers tell a story. The female wolf is trying to join the rest of the pack, but is being rejected by the male. The message is that we should stick together. He says Eurovision and himself have changed since he last appeared in Eurovision in 2008. He wanted to play tribute to one of his biggest influences, Freddie Mercury – and also to the lost talents such as Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson and Whitney Huston.

Thumbs up from Elnur of Azerbaijan. This gesture seems to be a theme of posing for photographs...

Thumbs up from Elnur of Azerbaijan. This gesture seems to be a theme of posing for photographs…

At the Icelandic press conference, Maria seemed a bit shy. She got a lot of experience performing as one of the Von Trapp children on stage in The sound Of Music. The meaning of her song is getting out of darkness and into the light – and the courage needed to do that.

A lovely smile from Maria of Iceland.

A lovely smile from Maria of Iceland.

On stage we now have SLOVENIA.
This is one of my top three songs of the contest, so I love it! Maraaya sing Here For You. But to be honest the stage show is a bit lack-lustre. I feel maybe the stage is too big for this song. But anyway, vocalist, Marjetka, sounds perfect in her white gown and headphones, why hubby, Raay, plays the piano. On stage they have a dancer air-playing an electric violin. And that’s about it really. Can’t say I even noticed the backdrop. But the song, sounding all marvellous and 1960ish, is top-notch!

POLAND is the last act on stage.
Monika Kuszynska sings In The Name Of Love. Monika has to use a wheelchair and on stage it’s covered by her long outfit. This is a mid-tempo offering with nature being the main theme of the backdrops – all greens and pink. She accompanied on stage by a pianist and three backing vocalists. It’s quite nice and understated, but perhaps the show needed something a bit brasher to end the show. But nevertheless, this is very sweet and nice. It’s getting late now – back tomorrow with the last Meet & Greets.