Stockholm blog – Day 1, Monday 2nd May

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And so it begins! Here we are in Stockholm! Live from the Press Centre! Reporting is Hass Yusuf, editor of Vision magazine, and David Ransted, assistant editor and photographer. This blog is being constantly updated throughout the day.

The press center is nice and big with decent number of large screens. And the wi-fi is working – what more do we need? And we even have free tea and coffee. How very civilized.

The first rehearsals are a closed set, so we can only watch everything from the press hall – once second rehearsals start we can all go down to the stage area. From what we can see the square stage looks quite impressive. Lots of bright lights and all that. I’m quite easily pleased.

First off we have Finland. Out comes Sandhja with her funky Sing It Away. And she’s wearing a funky light blue jumpsuit. She’s making good use of the stage and is joined by five backing singers all dressed in black. It’s a nice lively performance to start the show, but by the end of Semi-Final One there’s a danger that it might be forgotten – as so far there’s nothing outstanding about the act. But Sandhja performs well and looks very confident. Oh, and she’s wearing earrings to kill for – if you like big round ones that is.

Next is Greece. Argo sing Utopian Land. I’m looking forward to the staging of this act. The first run-through is always for a sound check, which we’re not privy to, so just waiting to hear the performance from the stage as well.

This is one of those Marmite acts – you either love it or hate it. And I… love it! I think. So far we’re just getting visuals – no audio yet.

But it appears to be a very lively performance by the Greeks. There’s a nice mixture of traditional folklore music and modern hip-hop about the song. Let’s all go and have some fun they suggest. I’m all for that. And so far everyone seems to be having fun. I would have more fun if I could actually hear the performance. Has someone forgotten to push a button or something? I won’t complain yet.

Well too late now – off go the Greeks. Let’s all pretend that the vocals were perfect.

Still no sound – but on stage we have Lidia Isac from Moldova. She looks likes she’s having fun. And is joined on stage by an astronaut – or in that part of the world, a cosmonaut. The title of the song is Falling Stars, so there’s probably a connection there.

We’ve just been told that there’s a problem with the link from the stage to the press centre. So glad someone has noticed! But we mustn’t moan. We’ll get a chance to hear these acts again in the next few days. But it is nice being here.

Hold on – we have sound. Go Moldova, go! Lidia appears to be in good voice. And that cosmonaut is a nifty dancer. This is a decent electro-pop number and again another lively performance. The backing singers are hidden away behind the stage though. I always think that is a shame. They probably get all excited being part of Eurovision, but then they hear that they can only be heard and not seen! And they’ve probably spent £100s (or Euros) on new outfits! All a bit of a cheek if you ask me. We should start a campaign. But then again, let’s not start causing trouble for the EBU – this is only the first day after all.

And next on stage we have Freddie from Hungary singing Pioneer. We only got a snippet of sound again – but he definitely knows how to sing. Freddie is well thought of and he sings his song with a lot of passion. Well that was an entertaining 30 seconds – we don’t have any sound or vision at the moment. Time for cup of tea.

Anyway – the Meet & Greets have now started. Sandhja from Finland is first up. Besides being a Finn she has Indian heritage as well. Her great-grandmother was a well-known Indian singer from Ghana who really inspired her. She likes to keep up traditional values from both her heritages.

 

Sandhja from Finland is having fun

Sandhja from Finland is having fun

Sandhja is also a trained nurse and kick-boxer. As a nurse she worked in a dementia unit and would often sing to her patients.

Even though she wrote the lyrics to her song she still gets inspired by them – have no fear is her message. Just for it. Well she’s certainly done that!

She admits that Eurovision is all new to her and described herself as ‘Eurovision virgin’ (very rare person over here) and is amazed about the intensity of some of the fans – she gets a lot of energy from them. Her backing singers are all friends of hers and wants to show a bit of ‘women power’ on stage.

She is very supportive of Finnish art and culture and tries to show that in her act and outfits.

Everything is coming fast and thick now with rehearsals being performed at the same time as press conferences, but we’ll do our best to cover as much as possible.

The Croatian singer is now on stage. Nina Kraljic sings Lighthouse. The performance is quite static – but that’s the charm of the act. Nina just stands there along with her backing singers and sings her heart out. There’s also an impressive costume change. Her initial outfit is, well organic in nature – and nearly takes up he whole stage!

Back to the Meet & Greets:

Four members of Argo were at the Meet & Greet for Greece. With a similar theme to Croatia, their song also suggests never to give up. They sing their song in the Pontian dialect – originally from the Black Sea area. The acts features the Pontian lyre and tabor,

 

Argo from Greece are enjoying life!

Argo from Greece are enjoying life!

The inspiration for the song comes from real life.

They changed their name of the group to ‘Argo’ because it means ‘ship’ in Greek – and they added more members to their group. And like Jason and the Argonauts – they’re searching for their own Golden Fleece – a Eurovision win! I wouldn’t that. It’s about Eurovision headed to the south and east again.

And talking heading east – after the Armenian rehearsal that’s were heading so far! And all I can say is ‘wow’! Iveta Mukuchyan sings LoveWave – and any super-hero fans will love this. Iveta is dressed in a swimsuit-like outfit with fitting cape. Her super-power is to draw you in to win Eurovision. And she may do it – especially as the special effects will delight the Eurovision audience.

Missed most of the Dutch rehearsal – but Douwe Bob singing Slow Down looked like good fun – as Country & Western style songs go.

Back to Meet & Greets:

Lidia Isac from Moldova came across really well. She gave the press her rendition of Edith Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien. It was her French teacher that inspired her to start singing.

Lidia and her cosmonaut.

Lidia and her cosmonaut.

She was very upset that Romania was forced out of the contest. She actually invited their singer, Ovidiu Anton, to perform with her – but hopefully he’ll be back after Romania pay their EBU fees!

The theme of his year’s contest, Come Together, fits in well with her act she says. It helps promote love across the world. Who says Eurovision is superficial?

Freddie from Hungary just oozies charm. As a kid he was very introverted thinking he was a ugly – and all the usual teenage angst. But he was able to relax by writing poety – and by extension, lyrics to songs.

It was a surprise to him that he actually became a singer – as he was hoping to become a basketball player until he was injured.

It's us who should be giving Freddie the thumbs up.

It’s us who should be giving Freddie the thumbs up.

He didn’t really follow Eurovision, but was surprised how popular the event is when he went on a promotional tour to Tel Aviv.

He says the Come Together theme really fits in well with his entry as the message is similar.

The Eurovision stage and immense audience doesn’t scare him – he just wants to promote his country to the best of his ability. And who can ask for more?

 

 

 

Nina from Croatia said her rehearsal had to be very personal. Even though she’s going to sing to a huge international audience, she’s going to imagine it’s just a small bar!

It's all smiles from Nina.

It’s all smiles from Nina.

She says her song, Lighthouse, expresses her feelings in a spiritual connection. A symbol of hope is really needed.

She’s not a big fan of social media. She things Facebook and the ilk just ruins proper communication.

She’s on record as saying too many rehearsals can dilute a performance. So I asked her how she feels about the constant rehearsals that Eurovision demands. She says that Eurovision is such a big project that she gets why everything has to be perfect.

 

 

Things at the press centre are now closing down, so will be back tomorrow morning with info and pics for the Meets & Greets for Netherlands, Armenia, San Marino and Russia. Plus views on the remaining acts for the rest of Semi-final One.

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