We gathered in the #esc chat on Friday and Saturday night to watch the live-on-tape performances that the official Eurovision YouTube channel shared in two broadcasts hosted by Krista Siegfrids (see the embedded links below). This was a chance to see the way the 2021 songs would have been presented during the shows in Rotterdam in the event of the artists being unable to participate due to Covid quarantine or travel restrictions – the latter, of course, being exactly what happened to poor Montaigne from Australia. So what did we take away from the experience? Here are ten insights we gained!
Performing on a smaller stage than in Rotterdam helped some entries. Tornike from Georgia, for example, looked more relaxed and less lost in a smaller studio setting, and sang more steadily as a result. And ROXEN from Romania, while still having to cope with being flung around like crazy, at least didn’t have to do so across the full length of the Rotterdam catwalk, getting even more out of breath as a result. Conversely, other entries evidently benefited from having more room to move into – Eden from Israel and her dance crew looked particularly boxed-in in the studio they used, for example.
While there had been concerns about delegations not being entirely transparent during the recording process, given the distance between EBU HQ and the filming locations, there were no obvious signs of anything dubious having occurred. Indeed, there were several instances of bad notes and less than optimal vocal mixing (hello Cyprus!) in the takes used, suggesting that some countries left behind some even less optimal moments in their two unused performances.
The entries that won national finals provided some of the fewest surprises, since their live-on-tape performances were mostly recorded on the national final stage, in some cases on the same night or the next morning. There were a few signs of that in one or two of the artists’ eyes, to be honest – a little too much prosecco during the show, or not quite as much sleep as they’d have liked…
Some of the familiar props were missing, especially the bigger ones. Not a great shock, given there were strict instructions as to what was and wasn’t permitted during these recordings and they were done with two months left until the actual contest. That meant no giant moon hovering over Blas like a threat, for example – shame. Meanwhile, Gjon’s Tears delivered a very similar routine and camerawork to last week, just without the Escher staircase structure we saw in Rotterdam. And, of course, there was no green screen for Greece! That made “Last Dance” a far more conventional performance – which some of our chatters preferred, while others found it to be quite ordinary.
Malta developed a completely different concept between the live-on-tape performance and Rotterdam. Tonight we saw a solo Destiny performing in black against a simple backdrop showing lots of the lyrics of “Je me casse” – not a dancer in sight, and a distinct feel of “going through the motions hoping this’ll never be used”. Knowing what we know about the tweaks the Maltese team continuously made to “Chameleon” in 2019, it’s easy to speculate about just how many different stagings they came up with for Destiny in the meantime before settling on the final version that took her to 7th place at the contest.
Destiny wasn’t the only one in a different outfit – several delegations clearly made their final choices later, from Manizha saving her huge mobile outfit from the first verse until the actual performance at ESC, through to Albina from Croatia and her dancers giving us a black look rather than the Starlight Express tribute act we got in Rotterdam. Whereas some, like Daði and the gang, were wearing extremely familiar outfits – and yet…
…Iceland can be very thankful their Covid cases didn’t strike sooner, because the at-home performance of “10 Years” was filmed in a weirdly dark hangar of a room and lacked a lot of the camerawork and fine-tuning that even their second rehearsal in Rotterdam possessed. Hard to imagine that recording scaling the heady heights of fourth place in the voting. By contrast, while we would never wish illness on anyone, Poland might actually have benefited from having to use the backup recording of “The Ride”…
Flo Rida was notably absent, and yet we heard him loud and clear during the Sammarinese live-on-tape performance. No one miming to his part, no one on stage even pretending to be a rapper – not even the stand-in who joined Senhit for the first rehearsals in Rotterdam before Mr. Rida landed in the Netherlands after his bikini contest appointment. Were the EBU really willing to treat that entire section as a “backing vocal” and hence one that could be happily prerecorded? That seems… potentially contentious.
The United Kingdom and Ireland were also conspicuous by their absence, having declined to allow their live-on-tape performances to be shown. Inevitably, this led to considerable speculation as to why. It could be that they were very basic recordings with none of the staging ideas we saw in Rotterdam and (like Destiny’s video) with a distinct “will this do?” feel, and their publication was deemed to have been beneficial to nobody. Or maybe the opposite is true, especially for Ireland: Imagine if Lesley Roy simply singing “Maps” to camera, with none of the cardboard sets and conveyor belts of Rotterdam, resulted in a much better vocal and visual performance? You can see why the delegation might be keen to keep that fact quiet if so… It’s all speculation, of course, but made inevitable by the rather unsporting decision by the UK and Ireland not to participate.
And finally, on a more positive note: The fan recaps, which we first encountered in last year’s “Song Celebration”? Still adorable.
All in all, it was an interesting viewing experience and one that we’re glad the official channel saw fit to share with us – it’s not something they had to do, although presumably some broadcasters would have voluntarily released the videos at some point anyway, so this was a clever way to avoid a potentially awkward drip-feed while also placing a full stop at the end of the long, long 2020-21 ESC cycle.
And now for the next step in our reemergence into the real world. PED, what PED…?
What else did you notice in the live-on-tape performances that you found interesting? Let us know in the comments!