As many of you will know, I delivered a conference paper at the first Eurovision conference back in February 2008. It took place in Volos, Greece, and for the first time academics from around the world got together to discuss the many fascinating ways of studying the ESC (I know – go figure). It was an excellent experience for me, and not to gush too much, a life changing one for me personally. How nice to be surrounded by a healthy perspective on all things Eurovision, whilst at the same time an opportunity to indulge in our many various levels of Eurovision interest and fandom. That conference was the genesis for me sitting in this press centre in Belgrade sharing my experiences with you. My conference paper was on the branding of the ESC since 2004. This year the national (host broadcaster) theme sees the Eurovision as a ‘confluence of sound’. Now, if you ask anyone what on earth this means you’ll get puzzled faces, so it’s ironic that there is no getting away from the logo and the strap line – indeed the photo above is what I’m looking at as I type. It’s all to do with this…
According to the official program, the concept of the confluence of sound comes from the confluence of the two rivers within Belgrade – the Danube and the Sava – which, apparently, creates a third energy ‘and a creative platform on which the genesis of the visual concept for the ESC in Belgrade takes place.’ So that clears that up, right?! You will notice on Tuesday night that the stage design reflects this theme – and the two rivers meet to provide the performers with an opportunity (in many cases we saw in the dress rehearsals today) to walk what looks like a catwalk. So there we go (and see below). Anyway, Karen and I arrived at the press centre today at the crack of noon. Karen had done a live radio interview with RTẾ’s morning Tubridy show, so with the time difference (we’re 1 hour ahead) we made our way via the free local transport to the press centre. As I have already indicated, Karen is very well connected with the Irish delegation, and no sooner had we arrived than she had been accosted by reporter Gareth O’Connor to do a piece to camera for a news item that will be on the Six O’clock news on Tuesday evening on RTẾ. Karen caught the action… waistcoats are back, back , back in Belgrade…
My picture of Karen shows how this blog is going meta-media! She’s too cool for school – look at her with her shades on…
After that unexpected media moment we headed to the press room to work on our copy – Karen for her articles, and me for this blog. A couple of hours later (after I’d cracked how to upload the pictures for the previous posts) we had another light lunch and headed for the arena for the first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final (there are three in total for both semi-finals ). Can you spot the confluence of sound in the stage design…
And yes, as you might be able to see from the photo above, the arena for the late afternoon dress rehearsal was half empty. We could tell that this might have been the first chance that the presenters had had to do a run-through as they were a little wooden, and there were a few technical errors that interrupted what should have been an ‘as live’ run through. Still, there was lots to enjoy – and the good thing from my perspective was that there are more songs that I like than can progress to the final – of the 19 songs only 10 from each semi-final can progress to compete for the Grand Prix de la chanson Eurovision. There were outstanding performances from several countries:
Boaz for Israel (my showbiz mate) offers a refreshingly straightforward performance, where the song is central to the performance.
Norway was vocally strong – but, whilst it’s a great song, it’s perhaps not a eurosong.
Bosnia and Herzegovina got one of the best reactions from the audience. The song is great, and he staging is absolutely barking – the performers wear wedding dresses, there is a washing line, and the female singer looks like Helena Bonham-Carter in Sweeney Todd!
We may also have seen a winning performer today – Dima Bilan for Russia. He is in-it-to-win-it, with such a swagger to his performance (he’s on his knees at one point – looks like he’s literally begging for votes), and is joined on stage by a figure skating Olympic champion (no really!) and, most exciting for some, a 400 year old Stradivarius violin (no, REALLY!). The song is a little dull for my liking, but in terms of a Eurovision package it’ll sail through to the final and will finish top 3 for sure. That said, I am the kiss of death when it comes to judging this Eurovision lark – expert indeed!
And if you’re after a bit of eye candy, Greece have sent an Greek American singer, Kalomira who is a cross between Britney and Christina, so for the proposes of the blog we’ll call her Britina. Great song, great performance – and sure to be in the final for a top 10 finish.
So, that’s my pick of the crop for the first semi-final, which I’ll be seeing again on Tuesday night. You can see it on BBC 3 at 8.00pm. I have really good seats to the left of the stage, so keep your eyes peeled. Now if I could only find a big foam finger… Last note from Monday in sunny Belgrade was my live radio link-up for BBC Radio Merseyside. The Billy Butler show were keen to get my feedback on the first semi-final, and we talked at length about the UK entries of the past and the UK attitude to Eurovision. They liked me so much they I’ll be doing another interview for their breakfast show later in the week.
Once again, Karen caught me in action…
Like I said – waistcoats are back, back, back… and that was day 3 in Belgrade!
2 responses to “Let the rivers run…”
Fantastic! Let us know which day you’re on the breakfast show then we can all tune in again, see you on the telly tonight hopefully, front row on the left of the stage (sound of harps!) 😀 x
Isn’t the catwalk thingy known as an ego ramp?? I’ll watch tonight to see who makes the most of it. Looking forward to Dima on his knees already. Nobody coming out of a piano this year then?
Looking forward to more photos of shmoozing!