Good morning from a very foggy San Francisco! I am going to be your blogger for the last four rehearsals of the day, and if my foggy brain will allow me I might even be able to multitask blogging and pondering over my life choices – you know, the thing that caused me decide, “yes, I’m going to blog until 3am, sleep for a bit, then wake up at this ungodly hour to blog some more.” That’s dedication, people!
Anyhow: you know what to do. KEEP REFRESHING! You want to read my not-quite-awake-yet ramblings. Really!
Israel: Oh good! A star of David to start us off! This has never been done before! Arrrgh. Also, an unfortunate diplomatic incident has occurred when the Greek delegation discovered Eden had borrowed Medusa for her hairdo. “Get your own mythological creatures!”
Styling wise, I’m also not a fan of the tzitzit-chic the dancers have going on, although no clue how many foreign viewers will pick up on that cultural reference.
Either way, I’m sadly not impressed. Not that I was impressed with the song earlier, but I love Eden and was really hoping she’d get something to work with. Instead, the relatively dark staging and the busy dance routine, while well-executed, actually do her no favors and give her little room to shine on her own, and when your main event is a costume change, you know your creativity needs some work. The stage does get the bright neon-color treatment in the last part of the song, but even that isn’t particularly original considering the fact about third of the delegations have rediscovered that 80s neon look.
The vocals went from so-so to just fine during the rehearsal, and while it overall an ok package, everything considered, this is not a semi where a just ok package can do much.
Eden sounds way better in the second run, and is very much her adorable self whenever the camera is close enough to actually show her, something that just makes the rest of the staging really frustrating. Until 6 years ago, an uptempo choreographed routine was something Israeli fans could only dream about. But between then and now it seems little progress has been made in staging development, and still the best the Israelis can come up with is “let’s pick up some nice lights, throw a bunch of dancers with stalking tendencies in and call it a day”. There’s not much concept in this one beyond that.
Oh, Romania was supposed to start and instead we got the last minute of Israel again. I guess someone forgot who is up next.
Romania: Ouch. She was off key throughout the entirety of the first run through, which made it really hard to focus on the staging. It became worse as the 3 minutes went by, and if she doesn’t get THIS together, nothing about the staging will change that.
By the comments there I gather this has been an ongoing situation, which basically might make all my staging observations a moot point, but here we go anyway. I called it experimental theater in one of my posts, but it’s really just an interpretive dance that sometimes makes sense, and sometimes not so much. The set up is different enough to make you want to pay attention when it starts, but it doesn’t develop enough and coupled with the horrendous vocals there’s very little here to appeal to juries or audience.
The last part of the song has a nice little sunrise going on, but that’s not really helping anything except making what will be a muted screen come the semi final a little prettier.
It’s the second run, and this time Roxen’s amnesia as far as what the actual notes sound like started after the first verse and not right at the beginning, so, progress? Actually, the verses do sound better, but she just can’t sing the chorus and even slightly better vocals sound so uncomfortable it’s really hard to connect to it, especially with a theme – both in terms of song and artistic interpretation of it – that is purposefully angry and emotionally detached.
In theory, I appreciate both the music and performance style they were going for, but Roxen doesn’t have the experience or even the personality to pull it off.
They are running behind schedule, so even though we’re supposed to have Azerbaijan, we’re getting the last Romanian run through. The Vocals are slightly better once again, but not anywhere near what it’s supposed to be, and now we also have all the smoke effects, which mostly just hide the stage and dancers. And by this point it’s safe to say that it will take a miracle for her to be able to sing the last minute of this anywhere near the right key. Even when she manages to somewhat hold on to it before, the effort is just too much for her by this point.
Azerbaijan: Well, that was a bit of an odd mix of things. I like the colors and the ethnic touches of that, and there are quite a few nice visual moments in it – lights flashing and showing off the silhouettes of the dancers, the more rock-sounding bit at the end, a few interesting formations throughout. Efendi herself, while not being the best singer or performer out there, actually brought in more charm than I was expecting from her.
But there were two things in this performance that felt wrong, and both weren’t things I was expecting Azerbaijan – normally a proud member of the kitchen sink approach – to do. The first was having a pretty simple choreography. It would have been one thing if those were also the backing singers and they would have needed to concentrate on singing. And even that you could do more choreography than in a lot of this performance, where they basically stand and make you feel like it’s a huge effort to at least move a bit.
The other thing that just didn’t work was that their director seemed to get a lot of help from the person who directed Same Heart. Yes, please. Let’s have dancers and choreography, and then show it from half a hall away. That worked so well in the past. It looks like the only guidance the delegation provided was for specific moments in the performance and the rest is pretty random camerawork with too many wide and long shots, so it gets lost a bit and feels empty despite having quite a few people on stage. This needed a way tighter and well-framed camera work. The ethnic bits of it, both musically and visually, do give it something to set it apart, but Azerbaijan has done as little as possible to take advantage of that.
The last runthrough of Azerbaijan is generally more of the same, but being the Land of Fire, I guess fire is something they know and understand well, because being the pyro rehearsal this showed how to use pyros well for dramatic effect, and having pyros going off all over the stage during the last section of this made it come across way better and a lot more interesting than before. This also reduced the emptiness issues in this section – still true for the previous two minutes, but there’s a lot more to remember with all the effects in place.
Ukraine: As we wait for this rehearsal to begin, I should probably mention that we’re going to see a stand-in lead singer instead of Kateryna, because those are weird times where feeling under the weather means undergoing a Covid-19 test and staying away from the arena until testing negative.
This means that this rehearsal is all about using the time to get the staging and camera work right – although huge props for the stand-in singer who tackled a difficult song well. That aside, I thought after seeing the photos that I probably have no idea what to expect live, but apparently seeing the images before and having seen Go_a performing this before actually made it easier to visualize. There’s no visual trickery or crazy gimmicks, just a very very avant garde style which suits the band and the song. The speeding up aspect of the song is as effective as ever and contributes a lot to how dynamic the staging feels even without going all out – it’s about camerawork and the bizarre stage props which no one will know what they are but it just looks interesting enough to pay attention.
Knowing how charismatic Kateryna can be, I can only imagine it is more mesmerizing with her performing it.
The second runthrough is solid too, and gives me a chance to clarify my own words from above because I realize that saying “no gimmicks” where you have this odd looking decorated platform and neon rings and whatnot sounds like a contradiction. But basically, I meant that whatever you see on stage is there all the way through. There are no secret buttons that make magic happen and turn stage props to something else, there are no costume changes, no magic tricks. Just working with the style and items that are there throughout the entire three minutes.
Also, a tiny tidbit that works for the overall atmosphere of it – I appreciate how the backdrop has a television white noise feel to it, as it creates the right atmosphere for the song even if you don’t know that “Noise” is literally the song’s title.
We get a third run, and I want to dedicate the summary of it to the stand-in singer who is doing a great service for showing how important, complicated and helpful is the stand-in singers aspect of the rehearsals. We don’t often get to see it, beyond random youtube vidoes here and there, but taking into consideration the variety of musical styles in the competition, the fact that the stand in singer is clearly someone who is musically trained in the same style the band sings in made a huge difference when trying to get the most out of a rehearsal when you are missing an integral part as the lead singer. Her ability to perform this well and in the style of the song makes it easier not just for us bloggers, but for the production and the delegation to look at it and have the atmosphere working as it should, which otherwise would be much more of a distraction when trying to focus on what details still need work.
So yes, it’s an odd reality we live in, but for all I’m sad to have missed Kateryna – and we all hope it’s just a good ol’ standard cold – it did give us the opportunity to see a part of the process we don’t often get to see. You learn something new every day!
This is all for our live coverage today! We’ll be back tomorrow with Malta and a whole bunch of second semi rehearsals!