Stockholm blog, Day Three, Wednesday 4th May

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Vision editor Hass Yusuf writes the words and assistant editor David Ransted supplies the photos.

So, here we are with Day Three – though it seems much longer!

Let’s begin with the Meet & Greets from yesterday.

First up was Gabriela from the Czech Republic. Gaby seemed very relaxed after her first rehearsal.

She started singing at the age of 13 and even had a band then!

She’s been working very hard to improve her vocal chords.

She states that the ‘arena’ is her home and feels relaxed on stage and her mission to relax everyone.

Her challenge is to try and reach the final, which her country has yet to do.

She feels she’s more of a rock singer and with her performance she fulfills an ambition to sing a movie-style theme tune with her entry.

She gained a lot of experience when she joined up with the famous American band Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Eurovision is a totally different experience. Obviously it’s much better!

The Come Together theme of Eurovision this year suggests to her that she has great support around her. She may need that support if she fails to reach the final – and hopefully she will with this impressive entry!

Minus One from Cyprus said some adjustments will have to be made in the next round of rehearsals, but are happy so far.

The group is well known for singing cover versions and Alter Ego is their first original song.

Minus One from Cyprus

Minus One from Cyprus

Their mission is to make a small nation very happy! I’m sure they’ll make a few others happy as well.

I told them that their entry was the best ever Cypriot act ever – which got a big round of applause. But I did say that there was nothing Greek about it. They said that they style of rock music doesn’t always blend its way to include the bouzouki!

Zoe from Austria just oozed charm and sweetness. She was definitely a hit in the press hall. She works very hard with her father, who himself is a well-renowned musician – but he says that she’s in charge!

She says that the audience and their reaction give her lots of positive energy and love. She gets all emotional when she hears other people singing along with her.

Zoe from Austria

Zoe from Austria

The reason why her song is sung in French is that she was educated in a French school, so seemed very natural to her.

A treat for the press was an acoustic version of her song.

She wants everyone to realize that Eurovision is a contest that promotes peace.

Juri from Estonia was virtually unknown until he won his country’s Idol show. He says Eurovision is a fun experience and is amazed that he doesn’t get stage fright. He just wants to enjoy himself on stage.

He feels that the song really fits his character.

Juri from Estonia

Juri from Estonia

The whole deck of cards/Casino Royale idea was introduced to make full use of the effects available to them on stage.

He had a very high voice as a teenager, but was very happy when his voice broke.

Regarding the Come Together theme, Juri says that it’s important to think about each other – that should be the theme for 2016.

Samra from Azerbaijan wants her song to help people be more kind to each other. She feels that the song is about her life – everyone has to find their voice.

Her first rehearsal wasn’t perfect for her so will make improvements in due course.

Samra from Azerbaijan

Samra from Azerbaijan

There was an amusing question asked by an journalist – he’s sure that Samra sings “Gotta take America” – should the States be afraid! First Eurovision – then the world. She should go for it!

Highway from Montenegro were amazed by the quality of the sound and lighting on the stage. They were satisfied with their first rehearsal – they felt that their act expressed the energy of the band.

Their song was actually written in 1994 by the famous Croatian composer Skansi.

Highway from Montenegro

Highway from Montenegro

Their influences are The Artic Monkeys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Depeche Mode.

They sang an acoustic version of their band – which to honest sounded better than the hard rock version!

Greta from Iceland just needs to tweak things from her first rehearsal. The Come Together theme is important to her as it inspires Eurovision to be a festival and celebration of life and music.

Greta from Iceland

Greta from Iceland

Since she was last in Eurovision in 2012, she’s been working with the Disney Corporation with much success. Disney is of course one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.

Her song explains that we shouldn’t give in to negative thoughts in our everyday lives – especially in social media. We all should bear some responsibility for what we says on-line, Facebook, etc.

She says that the visuals are important – really wants to convey a sense of shadows.

The Meet & Greet for Bosnia, featuring Dalal & Deen, Anna and Jala from Bosnia was all about promoting peace. Deen is back after first performing at Eurovision first in 2004 and is feeling quite emotional. We learned that 20 years ago he was virtually a refugee in his own home living for five years in a basement. Dalal had to escape to Croatia. That would explain the barbed wire wall at the beginning of their act – but there is hope as they leave it behind and unite together in peace.

The group also blasted the hypocrisy and so-called democracy that were experiencing in Europe at the moment with the refugee crisis.

The performers from Bosnia

The performers from Bosnia

Their act took about nine months to orgainise. Originally it was just going to be a duet with Dalah and Deen, but then Deen invited Anna Rucner, an old friend, to join them. Then their producer thought it might be interesting to add a bit of hip-hop to the act, so Jala was invited to join hem as well.

Ira from Malta said Eurovision has changed a lot since she last entered the contest in 2002 where she came second. When she won this year’s national final, she was asked by the producers if she would actually like to change her song to something that might offer more appeal to Eurovision viewers. So she recorded 16 different tracks. Walk On Water was the clear favourite.

Ira and her dancer from Malta

Ira and her dancer from Malta

I asked the Head of Delegation that even though had hosted the Junior version of Eurovision before and would be doing it also again this year – and that the fact that Ira is a favourite to win this year – does the small island nation have the infrastructure, technical ability, etc, to actually host the main show. Naturally the answer was very positive and Malt would guarantee a great contest with all the facilities needed.

Frans from Sweden came across a charming young man. Just your typical teenager really – just trying to adjust to fame. He’s still studying so has to juggle his education with his music career.

Frans from Sweden

Frans from Sweden

He’s really looking forward to appearing on the final and is just taking everything in his stride.

Doing the preview rounds he really enjoyed spending time with the UK entrants Joe & Jake – well they’re all roughly a similar age. Probably talking about girls, booze and football.

For him the Come Together theme is that everyone is invited to a big party!

Right. On to today, where the first half of Semi-Final Two are performing their first rehearsals.

Justs from Latvia is the first act. He’s alone on stage – but makes good use of it, walking around and remaining static when necessary. I didn’t rate this song highly before, but Justs performs Heartbeat superbly. He really draws in the audience. This could actually do really well.

Justs from Latvia flies the flag

Justs from Latvia flies the flag

Poland performs next with Michal Szpak singing Color Of Your Life. Michal looks like a Musketeer, but with black fingernails. Well we can all paint our fingernails black, but growing all that hair might represent a struggle to many of us!

Michal from Poland has too much hair

Michal from Poland has too much hair

It’s a very classical act – with Michal centre stage and in the background, a piano, cello and strings giving an impression of a stylish act. It’s all very nice. This is highly rated.

Time for Switzerland. Rykka sings The Last Of Our Kind. The performance starts with Rykka letting off steam – really! And she’s now got light blue hair. Plus she’s also performing barefoot – which could be a lucky omen, as we’ve had at least five Eurovision winners performing sans shoes.

Rykka from Switzerland is proud of the flag

Rykka from Switzerland is proud of the flag

She’s trying very hard to own that stage, but the song probably demands more than just one singer on stage despite the title of the song. Oh, here come the pyrotechnics. Not exactly a memorable performance alas. But it is a song that grows on you.

Only managed to catch a minute of the Israeli performance, but what I saw sounded excellent with nice simple imagery. Hovi Star sang Made Of Stars.

Don't surrender Hovi!

Don’t surrender Hovi!

The Meets & Greets re now conflicting with rehearsals on stage, so something has to give.

Ivan from Belarus had a great rehearsal singing Help You Fly. This is another act that relies on special effects – but nothing to over the top. The wolf makes another appearance – first in the Cyprus and now in the Belarus act. And there’s even a bit of tasteful nudity at the beginning.

Ivan the wolf man

Ivan the wolf man

The effects really bring out the song and leave a good impression.

Also leaving a good impression is Sanja Vucic from Serbia performing Goodbye (Shelter). A nice understated act – that relies on Sanja’s fabulous vocals. And it’s good to see the backing singers getting a bit of the limelight. There’s something very Amy Winehouse-ish – which isn’t a bad thing!

All smiles from Sanja of Serbia

All smiles from Sanja of Serbia

On next we have Nicky Byrne representing Ireland singing Sunlight. Nicky is joined on stage with a band, but his backing singers are off-stage somewhere lurking in a corner.

Nicky from Ireland needs no introduction!

Nicky from Ireland needs no introduction!

Nicky of course was part of Westlife so has a lot of experience – and it shows. The act is somewhat understated, but at least all the action is focused on Nicky.

Let’s talk about of the Meet & Greets that have happened today.

Justs from Latvia was up first. He says everything is going smoothly – everyone is happy and professional. Besides winning his national final, this is by far the biggest stage that he’s been on. But he’s pretty relaxed about it – he’s used to it already!

After Eurovision, he just wants to carry on furthering his career, performing to bigger concerts and producing more music. He’s not really nervous on stage – meeting the press is more awkward to him!

He can easily interact with people as he began singing as a 15 year-old in the streets. He would miss his Maths class to goo out into the sunshine and perform to strangers. He enjoyed making them smile.

After a few disappointing years, Latvia are trying very hard to succeed in the Eurovision project again – as happened last year when Aminata came sixth.

Next up was Michal from Poland. He admitted that his rehearsal wasn’t perfect because he’s a bit ill at the moment and that’s upsetting him.

His idols were David Bowie, Marilyn Manson and especially the great Freddie Mercury.

He’s album was dedicated to his mother who unfortunately passed away a year ago.

He would love to do a duet with Tina Turner and one of his favourite Eurovision songs was the winner from Turkey (2003) by Sertab, who impressed Michal with her energy.

His sister is an opera singer living in Italy who advised him to just be himself here in Stockholm.

To keep his voice fresh he’ll be drinking plenty of water with honey, and raw eggs.

Someone asked if it was important for singers to compete in contests – after all singing isn’t a sport. Michal says that you can learn a lot from competing and experiencing other sounds.

Rykka, representing Switzerland, looked very relaxed. She has reinvented herself a number of times. I asked her if it was important to reinvent yourself as a performer. She replied that she has to keep on evolving. I also reminded her that as she performed barefoot it might be a lucky omen as five previous Eurovision winners have won without wearing shoes. She says she quite clumsy and wants to feel the earth. Though in this case it just the stage floor.

She says that passion for her music is her strongest feature.

Back to rehearsals where we find Macedonia on stage. Kaliopi has one of the best voices in the contest. It’s a very traditional performance – she just stands and belts it out – helped by her singers and band. She sings her song, Dona, with great intensity. She really has a special quality to her voice and her professionalism and experience really stands out.

Kaliopi likes her flag!

Kaliopi likes her flag!

 

Time for Lithuania now, where we find Donny Montell performing I’ve Been Waiting For This Night. Well the wait is over young man! He’s so happy that he also performs some acrobatics! He’s a brave lad. Even though Donny is on stage on his own, he still manages to fill up the stage with his presence. He’s got form, as he represented his country previously in 2012.

Donny for Lithuania looking cool

Donny for Lithuania looking cool

The last act of the day is from Australia – and one of my favourites! Dami Im sings Sound Of Silence – one of the best songs in the contest. Dami is dressed in an interesting white outfit and spends most of the time on a box and moves along with some special effects. But it’s her great voice that really stands out. Bravo!

The beautiful Dami from Australia

The beautiful Dami from Australia

We’ll report on the remaining Meet & Greets in tomorrow’s blog. It’s been a longer day than usual as we’ve had ten countries performing. Back tomorrow with Slovenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ukraine, Norway, Georgia, Albania, Belgium. We should’ve had Romania as well, but alas not. :(

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