Welcome to the Kyiv! Words by Hass Yusuf, images by David Ransted. This blog will be constantly updated throughout the day.
After all the ups and downs, we’re finally here in Kyiv – and yes, it’s happening! I was here back in 2005, where Kyiv was Kiev. The city is fab as usual. Big roads and very green. And friendly people.
The theme for this year is Celebrate Diversity. Not that’s there’s much diversity in this year’s contest, but the sentiment is there. Most of the songs are sung in English again, and there are very few non-white faces. And let’s not mention wheelchair users… but, hey, we get 42 different nationalities!
Here at the Press Centre in downtown Kyiv (or on the outskirts). We’re getting visuals here from the stage at the Press Centre, but no audio yet.
Robin Bengtsson from Sweden is on first. His treadmill is working which all adds to the slickness of this act. Personally, it’s not a favourite of mine – we’ve heard the same song loads of times, but originality is over-rated of course. This could be a contender for the top prize.
Anyway, the procedure is that the first rehearsals are always closed to the press, but we watch all the action on loads of screens in the Press Centre. The Meet & Greets will start later on. It’s a big Press Centre, but not many journalists yet – rehearsals started a day earlier than usual which threw many people off – but not us of course! We’ll be here 24/7 covering all the action for you. Not that we except much action, but you never know with Eurovision! There are lots of security guards here, so they’ll sort out any trouble-makers.
Robin’s on stage again – but still no sound. This is a great opening for the show though. His song is called I Can’t Go On. Don’t believe him – he’ll be at it all day.
Yahoo — we now have sound. Yes, all very slick. The song is growing on m now. The act is excellent and really helped along by Robin’s backing singers/dancers. The stage looks very good by the way, but all the focus was centred on the performers.
Georgia is up next with Tamara Gachechiladze (or something like that) singing Keep The Faith.
Tamara is a flame-haired beauty and really sings the song with a lot of passion. But someone forgot to tell her that you had to wear your proper stage outfit for these first performances (so the camera can get the correct colour control), so she’s a bit dressed-down in jeans and such. The song is a bit repetitive – you certainly can’t forget the title – but the graphic backdrop is very nice – very organic in red and white (the colours of the Georgian flag of course). This is one of the acts where the backing singers are hidden away in the back of the stage, which is a bit of a shame. I imagine this might struggle to get through to the Grand Final – but a powerful performance will always help.
Tamara is having another go – this time she’s wearing a red cloak which she dramatically flings off! We like things like that in Eurovision-land. Close-ups reveal a good set of teeth.
Australia was meant to be on next but have swapped with Albania, so on stage next is Lindita singing World. As with all female Albanian singers, Linita has a powerful set of lungs. Powerful lungs for a powerful song. It’s a impressive ballad, but really needs a great performance by Lindita on the night to qualify for the Grand Final. Lindita has also ignored the dress rule but she was wearing very pointy stilettos that looked like they could go through the stage. Close up reveals she’s still got her tonsils.
And here’s Isaiah from Australia all dressed up in a trench coat and looking grown up. He’s singing Don’t Come Easy. It’s an impressive ballad full of teenage angst. They’re using his face as a backdrop – don’t see that often. Young Isaiah is standing on a revolving round platform. Let’s hope it doesn’t accidentally speed up!
Treadmills, revolving platforms – Eurovision keeps the props industry going. And LEDs. And fabrics. And let’s not forget glamour.
Next on stage is Blanche from Belgium. This is one of my favourites. Let’s be honest though – this is struggling on stage. And Blanche’s vocals aren’t all there yet. She just stands and sings with a few arms movements. It definitely needs more work. Hmmmm… this has gone from a potential winner for one that may struggle to qualify for the Grand Final. Now that would be a great shame as the song is excellent. Anyway, Blanche was attempting to sing City Lights. Her backdrop was perhaps too bright for a song that has dark overtones. I’m feeling rather sad…
But here’s Montenegro to cheer me up! Now there’s camp and there’s camp. And this is camp! Slavko Kalezic performs Space. Slavko appears on stage with his massive protrusion that he swings round and around – his hair-piece, you of the dirty minds! He also wears a long dress that gets ripped off to reveal glittery legs. And then there’s the see-through blouse. His vocals need a bit to be desired, but he knows how to own a stage. At least it’s lively!
Time for my favourite song of the contest – Finland! Norma John perform Blackbird. It’s a wonderful dark and sad song but beautifully performed. it’s about a relationship break-up. Who needs happy songs all the time? There’s a lot of angst in the contest this year.
Normal John is the name of the duo – but’s she’s not Norma and he’s not John! They are in fact Leena and Lasse.
The staging for this act is similar to the one in their national final. It’s all dark and moody with a dark blue and red backdrop. This, in my opinion, is the best Finnish song ever. Leena has some powerful vocals and the piano concerto part by Lasse is inspired. It’s gives the end product a really unique sound. How very, very fab.
Next on stage is another favourite of mine – Azerbaijan. Dihaj sings Skeletons. Another happy subject!
So… how to describe this performance – I think post-modernism claptrap on steroids is reasonable! Most of the song is performed in a closed box. Dihaj is wearing a shiny trenchcoat next to a ladder. On top of the ladder is a man with a horse’s head. The box is eventually dismantled. Don’t ask – just enjoy!.
Weird and wonderful! It should be remembered. And to be fair Dihaj does perform it well. She’s very dramatic – a sort of silent movie glamour queen. And it’s good see her backing group on stage as well – being equally dramatic.
Only in Eurovision.
Portugal are the last to perform today. The singer, Salvador Sobral, is actually ill with heart problems so won’t be rehearsing. Standing for him is the writer of the song – his sister, Luisa. The song in my opinion, is the best Portuguese entry ever. It’s a lovely gentle ballad with a fab melody. Luisa sings the song in the same way and mannerisms as her brother. It would still be my favourite song from Portugal if she sang it! It’s a bit of a sad song, but beautifully arranged.
Time to for some Meet & Greets
Robin from Sweden. He hasn’t seen much of Kyiv yet, bit loves all the golden-domed buildings. He’s enjoying meeting all the other performers. He thinks the stage is really cool. He was very much into his motor sports when he was younger, but had to decide when he was about 17 whether to stay in sports or music. Lucky for Eurovision he decided to stick with music. Motor sports are dangerous so he didn’t want to appear on stage with a broken leg!
Because Sweden has done so well in recent years he doesn’t actually feel any pressure to achieve a great result – the country can withstand a non-mega successful entry. But he thinks his act with the treadmill will stand out.
He’s quite famous in his home town (obviously), so much so that they named a pizza after him – “Robin Special’ – fillings include French fries, meat and loads of other stuff. Yummy.
His favouites entries this year are from Denmark, Belgium, France and Portugal. He thinks the stage is a good size – not too huge and small enough to feel close to the crowd.