I hope you guys back in the UK and Ireland had a great Bank Holiday. On Monday I was inside the mothership! It was my first visit into the arena for the first full run-through of the first semi-final dress rehearsal. It is (familiar theme here folks) much smaller than in previous years. The magic of television will make it appear much bigger, but it is rather bijou. That said it is *awesome*. DR (the host broadcaster) have constructed a fantastic stage and arena. My photos will not do it justice (as usual!), but they will at least give you my view of the action, and you will like what you see on the telly during the week.
A key area of the auditorium this year is the green room for the artists. Much like in Baku 2012, all the participants will sit in the arena to await their fate. Cruel maybe as it offers nowhere for them to hide after their performance, but it adds a little something to the proceedings for us. Then again it has dramatically reduced the size of the audience. Looks good though…
So here we go, my thoughts on the action today. There are a few gaps in my photos, which may or may not be directly linked to my interest in the songs! First to perform for semi-final one was Armenia…
01. Aram MP3 – Not Alone (Armenia)
This is a confident opener from Aram MP3. Taking to the stage alone, with no gimmicks this is a very good start, and as I mentioned in my pervious posts, it is the early favourite with the bookies. Should have no problem in getting to the final. But is it a winner?
02. Aarzemnieki – Cake To Bake (Latvia)
This is a fun, feel-good song in the arena. Terribly catchy and clap-along. Vocals were a bit dodgy in places, but you will enjoy the energy from the performers, and be tapping along too. I hope it gets through.
03. Tanja – Amazing (Estonia)
This is perhaps the best choreography of this semi-final. The singer Tanja is more than ably supported by a male dancer, both of whom give if full welly in terms of physicality. No doubting that the backing singers (largely out of view) are picking up that slack in terms of vocals! That said, a really good performance that should see it through to the final. You might notice that Tanja bears a whiff of resemblance to Charlotte Church, or is it just me?
04. Sanna Nielsen – Undo (Sweden)
This is perhaps the best vocal of the semi-final, probably the contest. Vocally perfect, this is an incredibly assured performance. Yes, you will have heard a ballad of this kind many times before, but this whole package is so polished that it should challenge to win the whole thing, if it is to be a ballad that wins this year.
05. Pollapönk – No Prejudice (Iceland)
Not my favourite song before I saw it performed today, it is actually well polished and I like the song better now that I have seen it. The best things about the song are the energy of the performance, and the theme of the lyrics – no prejudice. Listen very carefully to the lyrics, and there is a subtle narrative about social, political and sexuality discourses happening around Europe at the moment, and how everyone should be more tolerant. Yes, we know who it is being aimed at! Good on Iceland for raising the issue in a quirky entry that probably won’t make it to the final. If it doesn’t it will be the first time since 2008.
06. Hersi – One Night’s Anger (Albania)
One of the songs to refresh your drinks and refill the snacks and nibbles to. The singer Hersi performs on a plinth which I think resembles the stern of the Titanic. I can imagine Kate and Leo on there, you know – their hearts might go on, but in this contest I don’t think that this will.
07. Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine (Russia)
Politics at Eurovision? Russia are carrying on regardless with a very well polished performance from their Russian twins, who are – it has to be said – more than ably assisted by their backing singers. Oh, and a see-saw. It will probably make it to the final, whilst many might not want it to – for reasons that are anything other than of the twins making.
08. Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire (Azerbaijan)
A great song from Azerbaijan – but no picture from me to accompany my review! Azerbaijan have a fantastic record in the ESC since their debut in 2008. Constantly sending strong songs, but often overshadowing them with gimmicky stage theatrics. This happens again on this occasion, see what you think when you see in on BBC3 this Tuesday evening.
09. Maria Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock (Ukraine)
Probably amongst the worst lyrics of the entries this year. That said, Ukraine also have a great track record – not that I think that this is their best effort. In some circles there is the suggestion that this will do very well, due to the situation between Ukraine and Russia. It’s a good effort – with a man on a hamster wheel that will, in all honesty, distract you from the song, and the lyrics. Sympathy ain’t going to make this win, but it will boost it through to the final.
10. Axel Hirsoux – Mother (Belgium)
This song won the Belgium national final with a landslide victory. Axel is performing an impassioned ballad about his moher. Fair play. Pity that, for me at least, there is a weird disconnect that feels quite creepy. When you see the live performance Axel is shadowed by an interpretive dancer – presumably the incarnation of his dead mother? I don’t get it – but see what you think. I can’t see it getting to the final, unless the national juries reward Alex for the passion in his vocal performance.
11. Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul (Moldova)
This is hair raising stuff! You will see singer Cristina give it some welly, so much so that she rips out her own hair! That’s what I call committing to the moment! I don’t think we will see it in the final.
12. Valentina Monetta – Maybe (Forse)
This is the third time in three years that Valentina Monetta has represented San Marino. Good on her for keeping the faith. I really like the song. People here with me in Copenhagen think that I’m mad, but hey – that’s the subjective nature of this whole experience! It would be in my personal top ten, but it’s probably not getting through. You will like the literal visual interpretation of the lyrics at the start of the song: Valentina is the pearl in the shell of which she sings. A good effort, for an old-school ballad (written by winning composer and Eurovision legend Ralph Siegel – who you will see tickling the ivories on stage), but the draw won’t help it make it through – there are better songs still to come.
13. Suzy – Quero Ser Tua (Portugal)
Aah, if the prosecco has kicked in by song 13, you will be out of your chair and reliving those memories from back in the day – do you remember the Lambada? There are flavours of that in this fun song. After a string of ernest balladeering this is a breath of fresh air – if not entirely contemporary. Good on Portugal for giving us a moment in the sun. Let’s hope that there isn’t rain heading towards their parade. It does have a lot of front, nothing to do with the weather – you will see what I mean, particularly from the male backing performer…
14. The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm (The Netherlands)
Performance of the day for me, and one of my favourites this year. This is quietly assured, understated and classy. A great song for television – you guys will get the nuances better at home than we do in the arena. I would hope that this sails through – and that Radio 2 start playing it next week! I love it!
15. Sergej Ćetković – Moj Svijet (Montenegro)
A charismatic performer with a twinkle is his eye, and the first appearance of a figure skater on the stage since 2008. No, really! This is a great song, staged very effectively. Surely going through to the final.
16. Kállay-Saunders – Running (Hungary)
Lastly, Hungary have a song which deals with themes of domestic abuse. It’s not easy to represent that through the staging and the impassioned choreography from the backing dancers. Too subtle or too much? There is disagreement here. See what you think. A great song that should make it to the final.
* And Relax *
So that’s your lot for semi-final one! What a great show. Have we seen a winner yet? Well, we haven’t seen ‘our Molly’ yet…
As I left the dress rehearsal after the run through of the songs the interval act took to the stage…
Overall I really enjoyed the semi-final dress rehearsal. On Tuesday my euro-chums and I will deliver our ‘napkin of death’ to see who we think will make the final. Be sure to do your own so that we can compare – and you can always share your thoughts here on the blog. Remember, only ten songs can make it through…
By the way, this post is titled after the winning Danish entry from 2000 – the really quite awesome “Fly On The Wings Of Love” by the Olsen Brothers. Fab stuff…