The hill’s aren’t yet alive with the sound of music…

How difficult can it be to get from departure point A (Southport), to destination B (Vienna). Erm, well extremely, as it happens! Prior to departure I had a frustrating Sunday afternoon trying to check-in online via the Brussels Airlines website. I cannot recommend their user interface! After a little bit of user error on my part I successfully managed to check-in for my connecting flight from Manchester to Brussels. Sorted. However, could I then book to get from Brussels to Vienna – no! Arriving at Manchester airport yesterday the problem was solved – I got the boarding card for Brussels to Vienna at regular check-in desk – simples! I thought that was me done with worrying about travel arrangements for the day. Erm, no!

I then had to get through Brussels Airport to my connecting flight. International connecting flights are usually quite straightforward to navigate, aren’t they. Erm, no – not here. With a window of just over 70 minutes to get from the plane to the gate there was a rather long wait for the bus taking us from the plane to the terminal, and then I was greeted by one of those queues that you see when you go to amusement parks like Alton Towers. You know the drill: you turn the corner expecting to see the Oblivion ride, for example, only to be faced with hundreds of people standing as far as the eye can see in front of you. Not what you need when you have such a short transfer window!

Many people, myself included, were slightly bemused when staff wearing ‘Happy To Help’ t-shirts told us that there was no queue jumping allowed, even if you have a 70 minute transfer window. Absolutely shocking! Well, you might have guessed how it played out – and yup, it doesn’t end well. Eventually made it to the gate – but too late.

This is a first for me – I have never missed a flight before. I’d probably be feeling a little more chilled about that but I was meeting my good friend Professor Brian Singleton at Vienna airport to catch our taxi to the hotel. It was also the plan for us to get to the arena for the first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final. Well, that didn’t happen! A five-hour layover in Brussels airport, saw me will eventually get me into Vienna about 5.30pm local time.

The hotel is comfy and I have a balcony! We are not staying in the centre of Austria, rather on the outskirts and quite near to the arena – which will be a bonus on the three evenings this week we will be there. Getting into the city is easy thanks to great subway links. We did venture out last night for dinner, which we had near to the Cathedral.

So, a long day for me yesterday, and unfortunately my friends, I have no pics from the arena and the first dress rehearsal. What I have done is to review the runners and riders for the first semi-final, which you can watch tonight (Tuesday) on BBC3 at 8pm.

01 Moldova

As I said during my panel at the recent 60th Anniversary Conference for Eurovision held at Bafta a few weeks back, familiarity breeds popularity. We warm to some songs more quickly than others because we’ve heard it before, even though we haven’t (if you see what I mean!). This means that, once again this year, there are songs that have a whiff of other well known songs. For some it will be a bonus, but for others it might be a case of ‘heard it all before, don’t want to hear it again’ (you might remember the German entry from 2013, “Glorious” sounded a bit too similar to the previous winning song in 2012, “Euphoria” – it sank without a trace).

You will find our first song of 2015 rather familiar. Think Liberty X and their song “Just A Little”, and you’ll be bob on. It’s an up-tempo song, not a bad start.

02 Armenia

Armenia had a top five finish last year, and they might have been hoping to repeat that success in 2015. I can’t see it happening. In fact, I think it’s a hot mess! Nice idea to bring the six singers together from five different continents, but I just can’t warm to the track. Like a few songs this year, it’s a bit of a mash-up of different styles. Sadly it doesn’t work for me.

03 Belgium

Ok, bad experience in Belgium’s main airport today, but that said, this is a really good song. You will like the quirky performance style of our man Loïc Nottet, but the song is catchy and should do well for Belgium. I think it sounds a bit like Lorde’s “Royals”. One of the more contemporary songs on offer this year, and it should get to the final.

04 The Netherlands

I’ll have a consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant, consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant – please. And that should give us the name of our Dutch singer, Trijntje! She’s singing a laid-back mid-tempo song, with a few ‘new country’ shades in the mix. It’s an easy listen, and catchy – partly because of the repeated lyric “why-why-i-i-i, why-i-i-I”. I hope it gets though. After a runners-up result last year with the fabulous Common Linnets, it would be good to see The Netherlands consolidate their good run of the past couple of years.

05 Finland

This probably what you might consider an anti-Eurovision song. Finland has gone a bit punk on us, and with a track that doesn’t make ninety seconds. For some the fact that the bands are a group of musicians with down’s syndrome is a bit of interest. The betting odds say it’ll get though – I’m not so sure.

06 Greece

This is the fist time that Greece have sent a ballad to the contest since 2006. Ordinarily they have been a shoe-in to make it to the final. I think this is a tricky year for them, as there are much better ballads in the mix, and essentially in light of a pretty bland song, Maria might just be seen as another pretty singer in another pretty frock. Mind you, if it has a wind machine…

07 Estonia

Seven songs in and we get our first real contender to win the ESC this year. Whilst there are eight couples/duets in the contest this year, this is one of the top three (with Lithuania and Norway being the other two). A good double-hander from Elina and Stig will see them sail through to the final. It’s one of my top five of the year, probably top three.

08 Macedonia

Our first slightly ethnic entry of the year – and it finds Macedonia on familiar ground, onto which “Autumn Leaves” are falling. I like it, and think it will get to the final- nothing else sounds like it in this semi, so that will help. Although I hear from Brian that the song has had a remix and so I might have to rethink.

09 Serbia

Bojana’s song has one of the more ‘heal the world’ sentiments from the crop of songs this year – Russia will be on similar ground later in this semi-final. This song is all about beauty coming from inside, and all that jazz. It’s kinda inspirational and uplifting lyrics might chime with some, but the track is another mash-up of styles and it builds oddly for me. Serbia sat the contest out last year, and failed to qualify in 2013. Not sure that they will again this year. But if the sentiment connects, then it might.

10 Hungary

Boggie (all too close to typing bogie there!) is also tickling our socially conscious buttons with “Wars For Nothing”. A breathless and light vocal, mixed with the folky-vibe might be a bit too subtle set against some of the more powerful songs. It was top five in the final for them last year – that won’t be the case in 2015.

11 Belarus

A bit of a slow build for this song – perhaps a bit too long. A bit of a pedestrian song, which should actually be called “Thunder”, as that, rather than the title “Time”, gets more of a mention and is the real lyric hook. Some handclaps and a bit of a fiddle towards the end doesn’t save the song. Could well be taxi for Belarus…

12 Russia

Ok, setting aside all of our concerns about Russia’s political agenda and human right issues, this is one of five songs that will be battling to win on Saturday night. You want power? You want ballad. You’ve got it – it’s a power ballad. I’d say it’s the most powerful of the lot! (it’s carpets, it’s madness, it’s carpet madness!). From the rehearsal footage I viewed online via it’s a great vocal, although the staging looked a bit dull. Yes, it was only rehearsal footage and tweaks will be made I guess. You might baulk at the all-too-obvious message from Russia this year – love us, and we love you – “a million voices” singing together. Well, not all the voices are similarly minded, so it will be interesting to see how the voting goes on Saturday night. I can’t see the expert juries marking it down, and a top five finish looks highly likely, with some giddy fans thinking it might just win. Well, for me it wins the battle of the ballads. Carpet madness, indeed! 😀

13 Denmark

And the award for the best act this year goes to this lot – Anti Social Media! Great name. A familiar theme once again for this song, as you have heard its type before. I’m channelling McFly for this one. Nice harmonies, familiar melody and tempo. They have sharp haircuts and sharp suites, and I can’t see any reason why we don’t see this again on Saturday night.

14 Albania

Reminds me of the song “Apricot Stone” from Oslo in 2010 – but at a slower tempo. Might be one for you to refresh your drink and top-up the snacks! Nice, but nice doesn’t win Eurovision.

15 Romania

My dear friend and colleague, Ruxandra, has doubts that her home country will make it to the final this year. If they don’t it would be a major upset, as Romania are one of the ‘bankers’ each year. Well, they might need the diaspora vote from around Europe, because it’s not one of their best entries.

16 Georgia

We end the first semi-final in fighting spirit with the first of two songs called “Warrior” this week. I actually prefer Malta’s effort on Thursday, but this is a spirited song and performance, and if it’s staged well then it should go through to the final on Saturday night.

So, there you have it, the first batch of euro-hopefuls ready to entertain us all tonight. Later today (Tuesday) I will be at the press centre to watch the final rehearsal for tonight, so I’ll update my review based on what I have seen, and not just what I have heard, so check back later for the sights and sounds of ESC 2015. Your local euro-pundits will also meet later to do our ‘napkin of death’. That will determine who we think is going through and who we think is going home. Who will be on your list? Why not leave me a comment with your top ten!

Stay tuned for more later…

2 replies on “The hill’s aren’t yet alive with the sound of music…”

Any news on those famous Viennese pastries and cakes? Do please give us an account. Plus the liqueurs, whipped creams and coffees!

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