Select Page

Follow our rehearsal blogs:

Visit our Eurovision chat:

Find us on social media:

The View from Israel: Whеn the stars align then I’ll be thеre

by | May 5, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured

The View from Israel: Whеn the stars align then I’ll be thеre

by | May 5, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured | 0 comments

It’s that time of year again, and while many things have changed – Eurovision is in Sweden this year, we have a whole new set of songs and performers, and I’m no longer in San Francisco! – the View is still more or less the same. Well, probably less: we’re working from a set of two 30-second videos per country, one from the hall during the first round of rehearsals and one from the television feed, taken during the second rehearsals. Each country was also limited to ten official photos per rehearsal, but lack of information has never stopped us fans from overreacting and overthinking every single rehearsal, and it’s definitely not going to stop me from writing what is probably too many words based on not much to go on.

However, I’m not entirely unreasonable, and therefore this little rehearsal overview is divided to two posts, one for each semi-final – including the automatic finalists that are slotted to perform on that night. So get your drink or snack of choice ready, and hey ho, let’s go!

Oh, look, it’s the Cypriot Former Entrant Tribute Show! The inspiration is everywhere, from the song itself to the choreography to the hair color and even the backdrop with its underwater feel (quite possibly the only safe thing to borrow from Andromache’s performance). Fashion-wise, Silia has been downgraded to a much simpler costume compared to previous years – though she still has sequins, because it’s obviously illegal to go to Eurovision without that – but I feel like the comfortable simplicity makes sense for a teenager, and the white color and clean lines mean the routine contrasts the dark backdrop well.

The highlight, of course, is the tribute to last year’s Cypriot arms, ahem, Cypriot entrant. This is presented through the medium of the backing dancers, who start the routine in T-shirts and end up – in what is a recurring theme this year – very much not wearing what they started with. Dan Shipton, the staging director, clearly knows his audience.

Silia Kapsis rehearsing Liar for Cyprus at the First Rehearsal of the First Semi-Final at Malmö Arena

Have you ever done anything like this before?
(EBU / Corinne Cumming)

Serbia, for whatever reason, decided to dedicate their staging to the last time they sent a female ballad, back in 2019. They had the checklist ready, after all: Dark stage? Check. Dark dress? Check. Circular shifting shapes showing on the LED floor around the singer? Check. Smoke? Check. Black jagged rock backdrop? Check.

Setting an outdoor night scene in nature fits the song, though, and Teya Dora has an actual prop and not just a video backdrop. She also has a chorus I’m capable of remembering, which is a definite plus compared to 2019. That one even qualified before proceeding to do pretty much nothing in the final, a trajectory that is not entirely unrealistic here.

Every once in a while when I write these staging reviews, there are countries I basically almost skip over entirely, because if you’ve seen their national final staging you’ve seen all you needed to see. These countries are usually Sweden and Norway. They are usually not Lithuania, but there’s a first time for everything!

They had a concept that worked in their preselection and no reason to change any of it, only make some upgrades now that they’ve gotten a bigger sandbox to play in. My only disappointment was that there are still no lightsabers in sight, but that’s just me. Do I get this performance? Not entirely, but that’s hardly the point. I try to use the tiny bits we get from the EBU to see if I learned anything new about the entry and its staging, and in this case, not much to learn I still have.

I have absolutely no idea what to do with this song, but this is the most interesting and imaginative staging I’ve seen from Ireland. I still feel – like in the national final – that the entry is a bit too much concept and not enough song, but if you are going to commit to a concept, this is the way to do it. There’s a story and a visual idea and it’s translated using every possible method, from the costume and make-up to the tight camerawork and stage lights. It screams “what did I just see?” – and then it also literally screams too, just for good measure.

Ireland, Eurovision 2024 rehearsal

Acid rain from your finger prints
(EBU / Sarah Louise Bennett)

Death, taxes, and Ukraine nailing their staging. There are not many guarantees in life, but we can always, always rely on that. Other things we can always rely on: the concept of subtlety is not something Ukrainian stage directors are familiar with. Why take a risk and merely hope your audience will get your message when you can just make absolutely sure that they do? This staging goes for an emotional punch in the gut, and it does everything it can other than an actual punch in the gut to achieve that effect.

Ukraine is even multitasking here and advocating for recycling by digging Victoria’s stage prop out from whatever storage unit it was in and giving it a new lease of life. All of which is a chance for Jerry to enact her inner Simba and a very realistic chance to do better than Victoria’s 11th-place finish.

Poland narrowly avoids being the first “what did I just watch?” of this semi-final because Ireland exists, but only narrowly. For something that is a very light pop song, there’s a whole lot going on here. I rewatched the rehearsal clip approximately 75 times (give or take 70 times) and I’m still unclear on the geography and timeline of this and how we get from one frame to the next.

Going from the keyword “tower” to a life-size chessboard might be a bit of a leap, but at least it’s a visually fun one, and possibly enough to distract the viewers from Luna’s questionable vocals.

I don’t know what it says about me or this song that I have heard it several times, I even liked it when I did, but having not watched the music video I only discovered this week that there’s a cat? What do you mean, there’s a cat? How did I not know there’s A CAT?

Probably because this song is fun, but everything about it – the lyrics, the singing, the performance, the staging – is absolutely chaotic. How can anyone find a cat in this asylum where Baby Lasagna raised a cat?

I had no idea what the performance was supposed to tell me in the national final, and I still don’t. Maybe it just wants us to jump and prance along, I don’t know. I wish it had a bit more visual identity and a complete concept, because you need to be a very charismatic performer to successfully carry an incoherent staging, and I don’t know that he is that. Maybe when he stops being a boy and becomes a fully-grown lasagna, but not quite yet.

Croatia rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo

Anxiety is draining, getting up is growing old
(EBU / Sarah Louise Bennett)

There’s no nice way to say this, but it feels like the Icelandic delegation decided it wasn’t even worth trying beyond a creative brief of “can you make it look decent?” And decent it is, mostly because Hera is wonderful, but also a little bit because if you’re going to pick a really boring staging, you can at least make it warm and well-lit compared to everything else in the line-up. It’s professional and performed well, but as a whole this does little beyond existing for three minutes.

In a semi where Ireland is performed by a witch, Slovenia has cornered the banshee market. If Iceland was the most normal “standard old-fashioned Eurovision” staging you could imagine, Slovenia takes us comfortably back to “what is even going on?” territory – a question I do not, in fact, have a good answer for.

I assume it is supposed to be a metaphor that no one will get because the song is in Slovenian, but what they will get is a whole lot of choreographed (almost) nakedness and a very memorable three minutes! I’m not entirely sure if it will be memorable for reasons that aren’t nude modern dance recital and a lot of in-tune screeching, but still: memorable, which is better than unmemorable, I suppose.

Slovenia rehearsing for the Eurovision 2024 Song Contest

You better know she’s dangerous, she is unforgettable
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Come on, fess up. Did any of you have “baby Windows coming out of an egg” on their bingo cards before this season? No? Neither did I. But if we had to witness the birth of a new operating system, we at least also got the heir to the kingdom of the pyroskirts. Two for the price of one! What else can we ask for, except maybe a song and better fashion sense? Not much.

I might have watched only 30 seconds of this, but I don’t need to watch it in full to know that it is going to be three minutes of absolutely ridiculous nonsense – and whether that is a good or a bad thing is entirely down to personal taste.

The problem with countries needing to save money that it sometimes means they end up taking the one thing that was remotely interesting in their NF staging and dropping it, because apparently bringing five real-life Natalia doubles to mimic what Natalia is already doing is an unnecessary expense.

Without it, though, we’re stuck in the middle with only one Natalia, one violin, and some very detailed backdrop art that desperately tries to make this into something that is at least a bit interesting visually, but mostly just makes it look like the entire performance takes itself way too seriously.

Natalia Barbu rehearsing In The Middle for Moldova at the First Rehearsal of the First Semi-Final at Malmö Arena

You let me walk alone
(Alma Bengtsson / EBU)

Congratulations! We have a winner in the “most literal prop” competition which none of us really asked for. There’s a giant black pair of hands, so when Fahree stands there singing “hold my heart in your hands”, he gets to be a literal representation of that line. Clever, that.

Azerbaijan also decided that color is unnecessary when so many shades of gray exist, so why not just try and see how many can go into the costumes of Fahree and Ilkin! (The correct answer is “too many”.)

Australia has managed to achieve the mathematical impossibility of making every effort to finish last in the semi by actually putting in zero effort. It would be an impressive paradox if it wasn’t also so unfortunate. “One Milkali” is a nice song that has interesting performers who bring so much fascinating personal history and heritage into this, and yet the end result looks like a group of relative strangers who all happen to have an interest in music and accidentally wandered on stage for a little unplanned jam.

They at least seem like they’re having fun doing that, I’ll give them that. But otherwise? The staging is a remarkable feat of adding absolutely nothing to the song and even managing to make it less interesting. It’s going to be the toilet break song for a lot of viewers, not because it’s bad, but because it does everything it can to just be an unintrusive background music track.

Australia in rehearsals

Stop, don’t say that it’s impossible cause I know it’s possible
(Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

In spite of what I said about Australia, I don’t know what’s worse: being forgettable but looking like you’re having fun and not taking it too seriously, or being Portugal. There’s clearly a lot of effort, work and thought gone into this performance, but there’s little to show for it. No joy, no memorable bit of melody or any other reason to pick up the phone and vote for this one.

Welcome back, Luxembourg! It’s been a while since you’ve last been here, but let me share a secret with you: it has never been a great idea to have your performer wear clothes that are the same colors as the background. Portugal, for all its faults, is at least strikingly visible against the dark stage, but this? When you called the song “fighter” I don’t think you meant my eyes fighting the TV screen to just manage to see what you guys are doing on that stage! You have a cute song and singer with an equally cute performance, and I’d love to be able to actually see any of it.

OK, I know that this year we are getting the performances of the direct finalists in between the other songs, but like many Eurovision fans I resist change (plus I’m also too lazy to look up where they fit in the running order), so they get their own little corner here instead.

United Kingdom
Every year, there’s at least one country we look at and say: “you know what, if it was sent by this other country, we would judge this completely differently.” It’s true, really, but we’re humans who’ve seen the UK set the bar so low that it’s hard not to be impressed when they manage the trifecta of a more than a decent song, performer and staging at the same time. In that context, seeing a staging that is entertaining and creative from a country that, within the last decade alone, either didn’t quite bother or thought the stagings for Electro Velvet and James Newman were a good idea? This is pretty mindblowing.

Yes, I do know that only two years ago the UK actually finished second, but that was literally the one year where all they needed was to put a man on stage, let him sing, put a camera on his face and basically try to not ruin it too much for him.

But back to the topic on hand. There’s an actual staging! With a concept and a spark and something that can actually be interesting for viewers! It’s not without its risks though: I wouldn’t blame anyone who felt this was going a bit overboard in terms of sexual gestures, as the threshold of what we’re comfortable with is a very individual thing.

The way it’s shot, at least what we could see of it, seems to honor the host Sweden by doing what Sweden is so good at: completely ignoring the stage and doing your own very tightly framed thing. I don’t have enough faith in British stagings yet to trust that the full three minutes won’t overdo the clever camera tricks and make the experience of watching it too dizzy. Either way, I always applaud it when countries manage to do something that feels different from what they’ve done before and even in general. It might not work, but hey – there’s only one winner, might as well throw the hat in the ring and come out swinging.

UK rehearsals, Eurovision 2024

I’m up in space, man
(Alma Bengtsson / EBU)

There’s apparently a rule somewhere that dictates that German entries can’t have more than two back-to-back years with stages and/or costumes that aren’t black or at least dark. And even then the last time that happened was a decade ago.

Seeing that the last time they sent a young guy with a nice radio song with a dark staging and dark clothes went down so well (hey, he did get double the points that Jendrik did the previous year!), Germany decided to repeat that recipe for success this year. They did, however, figure that maybe the staging needed to be a bit warmer, and proceeded with lighting half the stage on fire, as one does – spending what I assume was the majority of the budget on that. But there’s at least also a cage, a trash bin (I think?) and an armchair, because nothing says being on the run more than singing (very well) about it while standing still next to an armchair. You’re about 12 years too late for that one.

I am glad to report, though, that based on the photos at least, Isaak also has actual backing singers, and they apparently remind Isaak that self-preservation is good and running away from the fire is an excellent idea.

In the past, I’ve written many times about the Swedish habit of ignoring the hard work of the hosting countries in designing and building a stage and just doing their own thing. What I didn’t take into account is that they don’t discriminate – they also ignore their own hard work in designing and building a stage just so they can end up doing their own thing up there, too.

“Their own thing” here turns out to be the same thing they did in Melodifestivalen, and if you don’t remember what that was, well… isn’t that ironic? Not to mention a fun way to end this first View for the year. Join me later in the week for more…

Sweden rehearsing in Malmo

I went to Hell and back, to find myself on track, I broke the code
(Alma Bengtsson / EBU)

Visit our Eurovision Chat!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting, you agree to our privacy policy.

You might also like:

Visit our Eurovision Chat!

Follow us:
Share This