Tel Aviv Blog: Day 7, Friday May 10th

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Shalom from Tel Aviv. This is your OGAE UK team reporting ‘live’ from the press centre at the Expo Tel Aviv. Hass Yusuf is back reporting, along with additional reporting and social media stuff from Danny Lynch, and Robin Scott who is kept busy with photos and videoing stuff.
DISCLAIMER: Typos and such are bound to happen as we write along, so just go with the flow. And remember that preemptive text hates foreign words!

Before we start on today’s activities, on Monday might the Mayor of Tel Aviv held a welcoming party at the city docks. The drink flowed freely and the food was plenty! Everyone was entertained and former Israeli star, Shiri Maimon (Israel 2005) gave a mini concert. Here are some go the moments…

Ooh, err…
Shiri Maimon
These Brits get everywhere!
Ditto
The Iceman Cometh…
Victor (Estonia) and Serhat (San Marino) check out the betting odds of them getting through…

Anyway, today we’ve got the second rehearsals for the remainder of the participants of Semi-Final 1, the first half of the Semi-Final 2 countries – and the first closed set rehearsals for the host and Big Five – which of course includes the UK – hurrah!

We’re not on until early evening, but try to keep calm and carry on. Fingers crossed for Michael Rice who will be performing Bigger Than Us. Let’s hope he goes big with this press crowd. They usually cheer if they’re impressed with something – and deadly silence if they don’t. We should however remember that everyone is a critic. This place is full of psuedo-experts telling us who will definitely win, who’s got no chance, etc. Phah, we all know that Iceland is going to win.


Anyway, today will involve a lot of running, to and fro from the arena, press hall and press conference room. We’ll do are best to cover as much as possible, so let’s go…

Greece start off the rehearsals today, I have high hopes for Katerine Duska. She looks and sounds fab – and you can’t go wrong with silver eye shadow. They make full use of the six-member limit of people on stage – it is a great act – but the camera work towards the end was fairly dreadful – hopefully they’ll sort that out. The whole act is full of colour – especially pink, yellow and white. The more I hear the song, the more I love it. It’s one of those songs that you’ll appreciate more when this year’s show is done and dusted.

San Marino on next is a lot of fun – saw it live at the arena. It’s a lot of silly old-fashioned routines, which lovers of chic will love, but the juries will probably hate as it’s not serious enough – as if that should matter! Entertainment-wise Serhat is right up there.

San Marino rehearsing

Arena observing was interrupted by video tour of the press area, which hopefully we can upload later.

But did manage to see Armenia perform again. It was OK – Srbuk is a powerful singer, but the act hasn’t got a special kook to get it out of its semi – but quality-wise, well done her!

Armenia on stage

Ireland are steadily improving. Sarah McTernan looks more and more comfortable, and the whole act is very bright and uplifting as opposed to the previous act.

The imagery of Moldova continues to impress – but with the sand-crafting distract from Anna Odobescu’s powerful performance? She looks fab in white by the way.

Next on is dead cert to get through to the Grand Final – and has every chance of winning on the night – Switzerland. Luca Hanni gives a top-notch performance helped along by an effective group of backing singers and dancers. The whole imagery is somewhat simple compared to others, but it’s perfect for the act – all in effective black and red. She Got Me is a perfect dance number that is going to do really well.

Didn’t get a chance to watch the next few acts properly – alas even we have to eat. Food in Tel Aviv is generally very nice – but we’ve got nothing decent available to us at the media centre – but you can’t go wrong with chips and salad!

But quickly, Latvia and Romania sounded fine – the former has a really nice beat about, but the latter can just beat it. Is that too mean? Well the good thing about Eurovision is that we all love different things.

Take for instance, the next act – Sweden. John Lundvik is a great performer, and many think it’s a winner. All I’ll say is that at least Sweden know how to out on a good show (and a great country to visit), but I really have no desire to listen to Too Late For Love constantly. Pity us poor press people having to put with listening to songs that we hate over and over… Luckily Germany are on last today so an early exit is possible. Was that too mean again? Anyway, good luck to the Swedes – not that they’ll need it as they’ve got a very classy act.

Sweden’s John Lundvik at his press conference

Austria are on next with the lovely PAENDA with a very understated act. Limits sounds like a very difficult song to sing – you have to get the right sort of angst in your voice to tell the story properly – but the Austrian manages it really well. And performing on a platform gives her better stature. And I do like her simple (visible) tattoos and blue hair. And speaking about tattoos, no doubt China won’t be televising again…

Austria’s PAENDA at her first press conference. Photo by Danny Lynch.

And now it’s time for the final six songs for the contest – the host nation and Big Five.

First up is Israel. Kobi Marimi performs Home. And boy, does he perform it. Many Israelis I’ve met are disappointed in their entry – not sure why as it’s a powerful and emotional ballad. Kobi is joined on stage by five backing vocalists (not that he needs any help), and besides a shower of light, the background imagery consists of shard-like structures reflecting images of Kobi on them. Kobi himself has left that ill-fitting in his video at home and has replaced it with a dapper morning jacket.

France are next on the schedule where we find Bilal Hassani performing Roi. A message is being sent here – be proud of who you are and what you look like – be happy within yourself. That explains Bilal’s backing dancers – one is an overweight ballerina and the other conforms to what society considers the ideal look – though even she isn’t ‘perfect’ as she uses sign language. It certainly is a great sentiment. Bilal is dress in white showing off his midriff – and of course his blond wig. Very interesting routine that will resonate with many.

Next we have Miki from Spain performing La Venda. This is a very up-tempo little ditty where we find our singer in his two-storey house having a party – mind you it’s not much of a party with just five of them, but the explosions of colour makes up for it. As usual there seems to be a party crasher – in this case it’s a robotic humanoid balloon… (don’t ask). Not sure how the relays to the message of the song – get real and open your eyes, but it maters not. Best not to read too much into these Eurovision songs.

There’s been a lot of negativity towards this song for its tradition genre, but who doesn’t like a good ramba or Latin pop? There certainly a lot going on, and some of the camera work is a bit dodgy – but it’s difficult to keep up with everyone as they dance and prance throughout the stage – it’s almost exhausting to watch. I won’t get the urge to get up and boogie though, but you younger types might. This may do better than people expect. Destined to be a summer hit for eternity… Thank you Eurovision.

Next up we have a country that is tipped for the top – Italy, where Mahmood will be performing Soldi. Mahmood is very casually dressed with turtle-neck t-shirt under his Top Man shirt. He’s joined by three male backing dancers – helped along by statements in English flashing across the the backdrop such as “It hurts to be alive when you lose your pride”. Everyone in the press centre are clapping along when needed. This is a very moody and emotive performance. Many say it’s Italy’s best entry since returning to the contest. Some of the graphic images can be described as menacing – especially where you have, all in silhouette, a towering figure looking over a vulnerable child – all very sad.

And as a confirmed lefty-pinko liberal-Guardian reader I approve of the final statement – “Money can’t buy you love”. It’s a powerful performance that will produce a powerful result for Mahmood and Italy.

Finally the wait is over as next on stage we have the United Kingdom where Michael Rice will be performing Bigger Than Us. Go big Michael, go big! Well you can’t go bigger than the universe – as that is a theme of the background effects. Hopefully we’ll go where no Brit has been for many a year – a position on the left hand side of the scoreboard.

Anyway, after a false start, here we go again… Michael emerges in a mist all in black and white – and dressed all in black with a leather jacket. He’s in good voice and moves around the stage where he’s joined by five vocalists all dressed in white (who look like they were beamed onto the stage). And if that wasn’t enough we have some misty pyros going off.

It’s not a bad first run through. And there were loads of claps in the press hall – and not all by Brits.

The second run through was much better! He looked more confident and connected with the camera better as he walked along the stage. We mustn’t forget that these are first rehearsals where any problems can be ironed out. But the lad knows how to perform and puts a lot of energy into the act. No props from the BBC this year – not really needed with Michael voice – that fills up the whole arena!

Overall, Michael is going in the right direction. Let’s be brave and positive!

And finally, the 41st song – from Germany. One would say they’ve saved the best till last. Not in this case however. Anyway, S!sters perform Sister. Two unconnected female singers start off singing at opposite ends of the stage, meet up in the middle then start screaming at each other. It’s all about sibling rivalry. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone as these two lack any chemistry between them no matter how lovey-dovey their press shots appear. But on the positive they both look and sound good. At least the act ends on a positive message – sisters reunited with respect and love. Yes – love your sister. And if you haven’t got one, love someone elses.

And that’s it for today. Back tomorrow with the second rehearsals for the remaining Semi-Final 2 countries. Be strong, we’re nearly there.

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