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Tel Aviv Blog: Day 1, Saturday May 4th

Greetings from Tel Aviv! Your OGAE UK team of Hass Yusuf (reporting), Danny Lynch (social media and additional reporting) and Robin Scott (techno stuff) are here for the whole duration. We’ll attempt to keep you updated as things progress, add in photos throughout the day, etc. But before all that: DISCLAIMER: Most of this blog is being produced ‘live’, so the occasional typo or mistake may happen!

Here we are in the press centre at Tel Aviv just a short distance from the main arena where all the action will happen.

Tel Aviv is so far looking fab. Very expensive – so those of you coming over make sure you sell the family silverware.

Right – as of writing, it’s only a few minutes from the start of everything. Today we have the first rehearsals for the first half of Semi-Final 1.

First up we have Cyprus. Tamta is performing Replay.  Tamta is looking very sexy in a silver sparkling swimsuit with high-heeled thigh boots and long sleeved black gloves. She must be going out on a date. And she’s trying to out-do Kylie with her posterior. She’s joined on stage by four male dancers dressed in black and wearing hats. I would tell you more, but we have to watch these first rehearsals on a big screen in the press centre. And so far we only have visuals – no sound…

Tamta from Cyprus at her press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch

She’s now been given a leather jacket to wear. She had better watch her step – those high heels look dangerous – and you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those. Or maybe you would. We’re not here to judge. But all those dancers end up falling over near her feet…

Well visually it’s a great start to the contest. The stage looks very impressive – loads of flashing lights and all that. The design for her act features a few modernistic Grecian columns. She’s doing another run-through… ohh, hello…what are those dancers doing? Why, they’re ripping off her jacket! At last she’s free to strut it all about! And strut she does with sultry looks. This is all about sex isn’t it? But it looks a bit creepy and menacing to tell the truth. Maybe it’ll improve once we get some sound. But so far the organisers don’t want us to hear anything. But regardless, this should get through to the Grand Final.

But it looks like we may have sound for the second act. They’re spoiling us. The Czech Republic have decided to push in and rehearse second. Lake Malawi will be performing Friend Of A Friend. The song starts off with the lyrics, “Can you hear it?”. Yes we can! Hurrah!

Lake Malawi from the Czech Republic at their Press Conference. Photo by Robin Scott.

This is a very clever performance – interesting use of TV effects and colour. It’s got great camera work with lots of cuts and snappy editing. Its beaty Britpop sound makes for good listening. The group’s frontman, Albert, knows how to work the stage and camera – he’s a bit of a mover, prancing and dancing around – it’s easy to do that when you’re skinny as a rake.

The act allows all three members of the band to get air-time, so to speak. They’re all wearing nice jumpers. We would show you, but no photos are allowed of these first rehearsals. Anyway, this should get through to the Grand Final. The Czechs have definitely found their mojo in recent years.

Time for Finland now. Well known DJ and producer Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman will be performing Look Away. Sorry Darude but we’re going to inspect you carefully. Sebastian makes good use of the stage and ends up on his knees to show all the angst. The guys are joined on stage with green-clad female dancer on a small column –but she suddenly appears on the big screen submerged in water. Then she comes back on stage gain. Not exactly sure what the connection is, but in Eurovision you should just go with the flow. Pun intended. Actually it’s all about excepting the truth and realities of life. But the truth of the matter is that this might struggle to get past the semi.

Next we have Poland. The four-woman group, Tulia, are performing Fire Of Love (Pali Sie). It’s a rather ethnic performance with the four girls basically stand around dressed in red outfits and rather fetching golden headwear. They’re also veiled – are they getting married or are they widows? It matters not as this is an unusual offering – sung in the style called ‘spiewokrzyk’, which means ‘white voice’ or ‘screaming singing’. Yeah, there is a lot of that.

Tulia from Poland at their press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch

Now if you like Eurovision performances more laid back and understated, then Slovenia, who are on next, is for you. Zala Kralj & Gasper Santi sing Sebi (Self). They just stand close together – invading each other’s personal space – she sings and he plays the guitar. And that’s about it really. It is a nice gentle performance though. The chemistry is good between the duo but its gentleness might get lost among al the other frenzy acts.

Zala and Gasper from Slovenia at their press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch.

The press conferences have now also started but they over-lapping with the rehearsals – we’ll get to both in due course, but for now we’ll concentrate on the rehearsals.

Up next on stage we have Montenegro with the six member group D mol singing Heaven. Dressed in white they start off standing apart, get together in a circle, then spread out eventually getting back together again. It’s a bit of a mess honestly with the camera work all over the place. The song is decent enough – an emotional saga about falling in love and being in heaven. All members of the band get their moment of glory. But alas it will be short and sweet.

Good harmonies though – but let’s see if their second run-through is any better. Their stage director is now with them telling them what to do – how to stand, where to look, etc. Now, we know these are first rehearsals, but usually we expect them to have practiced their act before arriving to Tel Aviv. This doesn’t bode well. But it does get better with the next run-through.

It’s now time for Hungary. Joci Papai, is back again, this time singing Az En Apam (My Father). Joci is alone on stage, but the graphic backdrop is simple and effective – a giant image of his father’s face and then joined by other images of middle-aged fathers. Joci himself walks on a golden path barefoot. This is really am impressive soulful ethnic outing paying homage to Joci’s father and his Romany roots. Joci got through to the Grand Final last time and should do it again with an even better song.

Next up with have Belarus where we have ZENA singing Like It. ZENA is another performer wearing thigh-length boots -– but the rest of her outfit is quite organic. It’s an upbeat performance with her dancers going beyond the call of duty – somersaults and all that. Quite honestly there isn’t that much more to add. It’s decent enough, but it’s not going to stand out enough to really stand out. ZENA looks great though and she knows how to belt it out – but will Europe actually like it? Maybe – as ZENA may appeal to the younger crowd – she’s only 16 years old. And she was in Junior Eurovision as a singer and host.

ZENA from Belarus at her press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch.

Finally on stage today we have Serbia where we find Nevena Bozovic performing Kruna (Crown). Nev looks quite stunning in her black outfit and knows how to bring out the best in this rock ballad with ethnic overtones – but it’s another performance that does rely on the special effects – of which they are much impressive this year. But you can’t fault her performance – she deserves to be in the Grand Final.

Nevena from Serbia at her press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch.

And that’s it for today. Back tomorrow with the second half of first rehearsals for Semi-Final 1.


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