Well we were up and at ‘em first thing today, arriving at the arena for the second rehearsal of the ‘big seven’ – expanded this year to include guest country Australia. I haven’t seen any of the previous rehearsals, so it was good to finally be in the arena in the standing area at the front, to see the artists do their thing.
Like I mentioned yesterday, the press centre is much busier this year (this was 10.00am!)…
Entering the arena towards the end of Italy’s rehearsal, it sounded very good, the backdrop looks stunning, and Il Volo are suitably suited and booted. It’s currently second favourite with the bookies. I like the “popera” sound, and if you like a pop-opera crossover, like the similarly named (but ever so slightly older) Il Divo, then you will like this. I do, very much. The only issue I have with it is that full track (at 3 mins 40 seconds) has had to be cut back to three minutes, and some of the magic of the full version is lost. That said, if you’re hearing it for the first time then it’s all good, I guess. Back in 2011 France were the hot favourites with a similarly popera entry, and it didn’t do well. That was mainly because the male vocalist hit the wrong pitch from the start, and never really recovered (you could see the fear in his eyes!). Luckily, Il Volo will have no such worries – strength in numbers! Musketeers and all that…
Next up, Edurne for Spain. So much more than a frock and a wind machine for their staging of “Amanecer”. The song has flourishes of Madonna’s “Frozen” throughout, and is suitably epic. In the final this and Russia may count each other out slightly, but Edurne’s not giving up without a fight! Indeed, there is a rather interesting frock which will be discarded at some point in the proceedings, as will the male backing dancer’s top! It’s all very passionate, and there is an impressive section where Edurne is flung around by the backing dancer, and yet somehow her vocal remains impeccable! She’s got a strong core for sure! I hope it does well. Spain have found their niche in previous years, and songs and performances such as this have proved popular.
France is increasingly fancied in the press centre, and with the bookies. I think a bit of it is the effect of the euro-bubble. I’m not sure it will do as well as some expect. That said, the staging is visually very strong and Lisa Angell has a great set of pipes. What was great about her time on stage today was that, a) she only did a run-through twice (with most other countries doing three or four during their twenty minute slot), and b) she thanked all the technical staff for making her feel wonderful. Such generosity of spirit in a field of divas was probably very well received by the technical team.
Ann Sophie, representing Germany, was the surprise ticket for her home country. The original artist who was selected by the German public changed his mind on hearing that he had won, and so a slightly bemused Ann Sophie took his place. This was a very slick rehearsal, and she does a cracking vocal and confidently sashaying on stage. The backing singers are supporting her with great harmonies, and “Black Smoke” is a catchy pop song. I hope that Ann Sophie’s confident performance wins over the viewing public and national juries.
Australia have been invited to take part this year, as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations. As you might know, the ESC is hugely popular down under, and every year it is broadcast ‘as live’ the following evening in Australia – they even televote for their own amusement! This year they are active participants, and popular with the bookies. It’s a good song, and Guy Sebastian is another fine vocalist. Reminiscent for me of Denmark’s Bruno Marrs sound-alike, Basim. It’ll do well, but I really hope it doesn’t win, as I don’t really like the gimmick. In the event that they do win, originally I was led to believe that the country that finishes as runner-up would host next year. Now I understand that it will be held in Germany.
Host country Austria have a familiar sounding song to represent them this year – and the hometown advantage should buoy The Makemakes. There was a brilliant moment this morning on Austrian breakfast television, where the presenters, one by one, gathered around a piano to sing the song, and were later joined by lead singer, Dodo. All such fun for that time in the morning! I can’t imagine BBC Breakfast doing something similar! Great stuff from Austria this year. Where’s my hat and my hipster hair…
And, finally the United Kingdom were also on stage today. Electro Velvet did four performances, and got more polished with each turn. I gotta say that I don’t think that it’s our worst ever UK entry, as some have suggested. I think Josh Dubovie in 2010 was much worse, and Daz Sampson in 2006 was total cringe, and don’t get me started on Scooch in 2007! I do like listening to the song in the car, in the office, etc. It’s got as few good hooks, for me – if somewhat bizarre lyrics.
However, (repeating a phrase I have used all week), the staging is a bit of a hot mess. Yes, do the flapping and retro stuff, but don’t wrap it up with sparkly, flashing neon frocks. It’s all a bit too fussy. To repeat, I really like the song – my Dad even thinks that it’s going to win – but my hunch is that this package (song and performance) might cause it to fall flat, and unfortunately struggle out of the bottom five in the final. I am ever the optimist, as you know, but I haven’t emailed John Cater this week to set a bet that it will get into the top ten. And I’m not even going to do a Paddy Ashdown either way (top or bottom). Still, time for some tweaks, so let’s see, and remain ever hopeful that the performers are not made to feel like a national embarrassment – because they do deserve better than that.
So, even with a few doubts about the UK presentation, I really think that the Big 7 have a great set of songs. I have confidence in them all, but alas that’s not enough for these artists on Saturday night! I will see these guys again on Friday afternoon for the first run-through of the grand final line-up – and then we’ll know how they shape-up next to those entries that made it through the semi-finals… ‘citing! 😀