Words by Hass Yusuf, images by David Ransted. This blog will be constantly updated throughout the day.
Only one more week to go for that Italian victory – or even better – a British one!
Today we have second rehearsals for the remaining Semi-Final 2 participants and their press conferences.
But first let’s catch up on the Meet & Greets for the Host Country & Big 5.
The first Meet & Greet was for the host country, Ukraine. The lead singer was representing the band
O.Torvald, though the PR tried to take over everything and get in into all the pics. I’ve cropped her out. Some people have no shame. Anyway, the band were really happy with their first rehearsal and impressed by the technical quality of the production. Eurovision has always lead the way of television production. The band want to invite everyone for a huge party when the show is over. Sorry chum, I’ll be ready to head back to London after over two weeks here! Their song is about nostalgia – having a good time when they were younger, making good use of time – y’know, the usual thing. They were asked if they felt out of place being the only rock band in the contest? That didn’t really bother them, they just want to produce something special. Our message to us from them is that want our dreams to come true. In which case Eurovision 2018 will be in the UK!
Francesco from Italy packed out the press conference room – more so than the host country – and it’s easy to see why. Everyone wants to see the winner! He was pleased to see “lots of monkeys” (there were a lot of gorilla masks – he didn’t mean the press were monkeys. Or maybe he did the cheeky sod). It’s difficult to see Italy not winning, but nothing must be taken for granted, and Francesco realises that. He doesn’t really want to dwell on the subject. The inspiration for the song was his interest in Eastern culture, and the idea of the gorilla on stage was inspired by Desmond Morris’s famous Naked Ape book. He describes his song as catchy but with deep comment. He didn’t want to sing his song in English, because it sounded more natural in Italian. Too right, this lax language rule is denying us many interesting sounds.
Manel from Spain has far too much hair, the little tease. He brought his guitar with him – apparently he’s never with it. He’s guitar that is. He was pleased with the first rehearsals, but need to make a few camera angle changes and apparently more close-ups are needed. On him of course. He’s biggest inspiration is Ed Sheeran – he would never have started singing or playing his guitar if it wasn’t for one of our biggest stars. He was asked if he thought it was fair for Spain to go straight into the Grand Final. He said that it actually had its disadvantages as his entry would only be heard live on stage just once. When asked what he would do for his lover, he replied he would do anything for love! Ah, bless. He actually sand a few verses of our entry, Never Give Up On You, so the lad has good taste.
Germany featuring Levina were next to speak to us. When asked about Germany’s really bad results for the past two years, she said it didn’t bother her. She was happy and optimistic. Was Eurovision a risky thing to do? Yes it was, but Eurovision is still a great experience she replied. No risk, no fun she said – and was overwhelmed to represent her country. The genre of a song shouldn’t matter – it should all be about the song she said. And to make the point she beautifully sang her entry just accompanied with a guitar. She came across as a really nice and intelligent person – and a great singer too boot! She also had a lot of production experience, as she did everything herself to get her first EP released.
Our own Lucie Jones was on next. She’s a right hoot – with a lovely sense of humour. I asked her that since she started her Eurovision adventure a few months ago, has she ever stopped to think, what she’s let herself in for? She said absolutely not, she’s loved every minute of it. She got a bit of a surprise with her last rehearsal when the pyro effect that was meant to be behind her, actually went off in front of her! She said that on stage you always have to get used to mistakes, but just carry on. Her friends and family will be in Kyiv to support her. She revealed that she’s getting married this year to someone she met at boot camp while on X Factor. Eurovision has made it easy to meet many new friends and performers. As a youngster she was a great Eurovision fan, and even went in costume to many Eurovision parties. The Head of Delegation revealed that they were very pleased with the production of their mirror-chard prop. They couldn’t get it done in the UK, so it was produced here in Ukraine. Lucie is a great ambassador for us, so let’s wish her a lot of British luck.
The last Meet & Greet was for France. Alma is a very charming young lady. She couldn’t wait to experience the whole Eurovision experience and stage. There’s still a lot to do on stage hahange.as she sometimes seems to disappear among all the effects! In the past she has said that she likes performing to small audiences as it feels more intimate, but Eurovision with its 200 million viewers gives her a lot of strength – but the jump is huge! Her new album has topped the iTunes chart. She’s an open-minded person and has travelled a lot around Europe and says that Eurovision has opened borders for her – as she can now sing in French outside of France.
Back to today.
Just been to my morning visit to the arena. Netherlands were on first, with a really nice performance from O’G3NE sisters. A very understated and old-fashioned performance. The siblings are all dressed in sparkly black outfits.
Hungary is on next. Joci looks very serious on stage, but he’s always smiling when he’s off it. This is by far, the most ethnic-sounding song of the contest, so it really stands out – but in a good way. Could do without the rap though. It’s good that the act is using a little island stage among the standing fans.
Time for Denmark. Anja has a nice voice, and her red dress is back. There must be a serious wardrobe budget! Anyway, this is a very understated act. Anja’s on her knees getting rather dramatic banging her hand on the floor. You tell ‘em girl. Though I think this might struggle to go through to the Grand Final – there’s no great hook to it.
Ireland is now on. Young Brendan is back on his hot air balloon and dressed all casual in black and white. It’s a very understated act with nice vocals and images, but if you are going to stand underneath a hot-air balloon, it should at least take off at some point! Hardly “dying to try”… but Brendan is trying his best! Our good friend Monty Moncrieff suggests that the balloon won’t fly off because Brendan’s sucked in all the helium!
It’s time for San Marino and let’s head back in time to disco-land. It’s a nice performance by Valentina and Jimmie, all dressed in sparkly black and white, but it’s not the sort that juries like (probably jealous of Ralph Siegel’s success), and might struggle with the public vote as well. That would be a shames as I would like to see Valentina in the Grand Final again.
Croatia is next on stage, and here we have a full set with all six participants getting air time. The star of the act is of course Jacques who sings pop and opera at the same time. He joined by three backing vocals, a cellist and a violinist, so get a good show. Jacques is wearing an unusual outfit – a leather-like zipped jacket to go with his tux – and jogging bottoms – all of which emphasizes the two aspects of his entry. Personally I love it. It makes great TV and the song is great, if you like pop opera.
At his press conference, the whole band entered the stage singing, setting the right mood of the act. Jacques is a very engaging and entertaining personality. The stage is beginning to feel like ‘home’ to him. They still need to start out a few details such as camera angels and Jacques needs to smile a bit more. The sunflowers in his graphic backdrop was something he insisted on because their a positive floor always pointing to the sun giving hope. He promised that he never realised that the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. The Ukrainian flag is represented by the blue sky and yellow sunflowers.
I missed Norway stage but at their press conference Joakim (JOWST) and Aleksander said they made a few changes for their second rehearsal – they changed some graphics and Aleksander had to move a bit more. But they really are focussing on their performance now – especially Aleksander who has to show the right emotion and body language to help along the lyrics. They were the outsiders to win their national final, so anything could happen at Eurovision’s Grand Final.
I also missed Switzerland on stage, but at their press conference they mentioned that the visuals were now in place. The pink and yellow colours involved in the stage were very important to convey the message of the song. Those colours aren’t usually shown in prominence. They’re meant to convey freshness. Their whole act is meant to convey a sense of magic – to be able to fly away – a sense of merging the surreal word with folk art. Fair enough.
Naviband from Belarus are such a happy couple , and that really shows in their act. While they perform the entire song in the small confines of a boat, they still manage to convey a lot of energy. The graphics also help convey the message of their song. It’s such good fun, and the folksy sound gives this act a nice edge.
Young Kristian is looking quite intense on stage singing for Bulgaria. But he”s sounding great (for just a young voice). He act demands a lot of hand movements to go with the effects. This is well-reguarded and is expected to do really well. Despite his young age, he’s had more experience than some of this year’s performers. Looking at the expression on his face he does look a bit tense. He’s obviously really trying to focus on the whole act. He has to compete with all those visual effects that are trying to upstage him.
Lithuania is back with their funky contribution. This may be too avant-garde for my tastes, but plenty of people will enjoy this sort of sound. But probably not those watching Eurovision. Nevertheless the lead vocalist stands out in red outfit and let’s give a mention to the gospel-like backing singers.
Koit and Laura for Estonia are now on stage. Let’s see if they’ve improved Koit’s dress sense. Yes, they have. He’s now wearing a glittery dinner jacket that suits Laura’s elegant white gown far better. The couple start the act wide apart eventually meeting up and falling in love. This definitely is one of the best songs in the contest and excellently sung.
Finishing off today is Israel. Just introduced a journalist from The Sun newspaper to the delights of Eurovision (her name is Lucy Jones!) with David Elder. Took her to the arena to see Imri perform. And a nice job he did. And the graphics are a great way to end Semi-Final 2. This should do well for Israel.
That’s it for today. An early finish for once! We’re back tomorrow with Ukraine and the Big 5 second rehearsals.