We have now seen on stage all the songs competing in the semi finals but what about the countries that automatically qualify for the final? This morning, we’ll have the chance to get a first glimpse of the songs from Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and newcomer from down under, Australia.
Will Italy prove the bookies right? Will Australia be the big surprise? Has the United Kingdom’s Marmite gone past its sell by date? Time to take a taste of the final!
Due to their young ages, 21 year old Piero and 20 year olds Ignazio and Gianluca, may at first not raise expectations but they have already achieved considerable success internationally. The trio make up Il Volo, a pop opera group that will forever hold the record of being the first Italian act to be signed up directly by an American record company and have already worked with international super stars such as Quincy Jones, Plácido Domingo and Barbra Streisand. Their song is sung in Italian and proclaims how a great love (the meaning of the song title in Italian) can take over a person’s thoughts, senses and beliefs. Il Volo took the ticket to Vienna and Eurovision after winning the prestigious San Remo festival, the alleged inspiration behind the Eurovision Song Contest. Quite fittingly for a trande amore, their San Remo win occurred in Valentine’s Day. Will Il Volo manage to also win Eurovision with Grande Amore on 21st May? The song is doing really well with betting odds, being currently found in second place behind Sweden.
Italy’s first stage rehearsal
Pierro, Ignazio and Gianluca are standing side by side towards the front of the stage. The song starts with a panoramic view of the dark stage – the background is lit in blue and some dark figures can be just made out.The rods framing the stage are then also lit in blue. There follows Gianluca’s part and a close up shot of the young singer, then the parts of Ignazio and Piero in succession. The trio are wearing matching dark suits with red sports shoes. Just in time for the chorus, the background gets lit brighter and we can know make out that the dark figures are in fact an arrangement of classical statuary, some of it Roman, some of it ancient Greek (the Aphrodite of Milos, a.k.a Venus of Milo is quite prominent in the arrangement) with moving clouds behind them. The group sound really relaxed, to the point of looking a bit casual, but are in good voice from the beginning – to start with, they sound less operatic than in the recorded version of the song. My impression is that there is just a little more focus paid to Ignazio and Piero rather than Gianluca. When the bridge is repeated for a second time, the stage lighting changes into ward yellow and there is an interesting camera sequence as the three singers deliver their parts in succession. There must be a bit of an issue with the sound level of their earphones as they keep on pushing them firmer against their ears and, at some point during the second run, Gianluca can be seen gesturing with his arms to the crew to turn up the volume. The presentation closes with another long shot of the trio. The imposing song shines through but I would have preferred to have seen some more oomph presentation-wise.
I Am Yours
Another male trio follows, this time representing the host country of this year’s Eurovision. The Makemakers is a rock music band named after the dwarf planet Makemake. The band members are lead singer Dodo Muhrer, bassist Max Christ and drummer Flo X. Meindl. Their retro sounding ballad has the lead singer proclaiming his love and commitment to his loved one. The host country is the only one whose place in the running order has been drawn already (the rest of the countries automatically going to the final do not know their running order yet) and it will be from 14th place that we will be seeing Austria this coming Saturday.
Austria’s first stage rehearsal
This is a no frills presentation. The stage is lit in purplish white to start with. Dodo is singing while playing his piano on the left, bassist Max is in the middle and Flo is playing the drums on a raised platform. Apart from the styling of the group, Dodo’s hat and white jacket with embroidered sleeves or Max’s long hair and moustache, the retro feel of the song is not accentuated with the way the stage is lit, either than the fact that the lighting is kept very simple of course. Even this ‘late 60’s rock TV tribute’ feeling is lost however when, suddenly, there is an overhead shot showing a crude impression of flames used on the LED stage floor. The stage changes into blue and, then, towards the end of the song, the lighting changes into bright orange and remains so until the end of the performance. Dodo’s vocals are a bit shaky during the first run but improve during subsequent performances of the rehearsal. The Austrian presentation feels like a party hostess dressing down in the name of hospitality so as not to overshadow her guests. Wait, I spoke too soon, there are actually quite some interesting effects used for the Austrian entry right in the end of the session during the last run: Dodo’s piano appears to be on fire which is getting stronger and stronger at the point when the stage floor is in ‘flames’ too while stardust is falling from the ceiling – this is actually a very effective feature for Austria – relaxed (despite being on fire) but effective.
Edurne is really popular in Spain right now, both as a singer but also as a TV presenter. One of her latest projects was recording the Spanish version of the soundtrack for the feature film Cinderella. Edurne’s song comes from a team of creators who, between them, have provided previous Spanish entries and include Peter Boström, the co-writer of 2012 Swedish Eurovision winner Euphoria. The song refers to ‘the daybreak, emotional instant before the dawn, and tells the painful story of a missed love but it is a quest to retrieve joy and see the sunrise again’ according to the song’s official press material.
Spain’s first stage rehearsal
This is a surprise. Quite a big one. Spain are trying to win at last. The presentation starts with Edurne in a red hooded cape over a semi-clad male dancer. Her voice is in tune if a little too gentle. As the presentation progresses, Edurne stands up and walks towards the front of the stage while the dancer holds the tail of her cape stretched in the air, then pulls it off Edurne’s body (let’s hope we will not have a ‘Madonna at the Brit Awards’ moment when the cape does not come off the singer and instead the singer is pulled off the stage) to reveal a long dress in light golden tones with a very long cut that reveals her legs. To put it shortly, Edurne looks stunning (or ‘guapa’ as the Spanish press keeps on shouting with excitement in the press centre – they are right). The stage starts dark with blue impressions of moving concentric ripples and then turns into warmer tones of yellow and orange; there are also projections of a tree and waterfalls in the background. During the song’s crescendo part, Edurne carries out a complicated choreography with her singer that, despite its high level of difficulty, is carried out effortlessly. The presentation finishes with the Spanish singer silhouetted by the light of a white spotlight behind her. A few notches short of epic, which I suspect was the presentation’s intention, but still a good effort from Spain.
London-born Ann Sophie actually came second in this year’s German national final. However, when the result was announced, the winner decided that he did not wish to represent the country in Vienna and suggested that Ann Sophie would make a good job instead. Ann Sophie has studied at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York. Her song is about realising the fact that a long-term relationship is not working anymore, expectations and dreams have not been met and that what is left is ‘smoke’.
Germany’s first stage rehearsal
This is really stylish. Ann Sophie does not only looks like Amy Winehouse, she also sounds like the late singer. She is wearing a trousered, one-piece tight black number with a gold wide belt around the waist, her hair pulled back in a bun and a single long earing on her left ear. There are four backing singers dressed in black on the stage, which is decorated by five retro spotlights casting yellow light; the stage is otherwise left dark. Indeed, the presentation starts with the singer having her back turned towards the camera and her head turned to the left and framed by one of the spotlights on stage. In the background, there are graphics of moving round shapes in yellow, white and black that reflect the shapes and colours of the round yellow heads of the spotlights. As one would expect, there is also a tribute to the title of the song with impressions of smoke shown a few times on the background. Ann Sophie looks really confident on stage as she moves to the rhythm of her song and she hits the big notes really competently. Well done, Germany!
Still In Love With You
Electro Velvet consists of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas. Alex is a primary school teacher by day and Mick Jagger by night as he is the lead of a popular Rolling Stones tribute band called The Rolling Clones; Alex’s mother is from Greece and, as a result, the singer. just like Polina from Russia, can speak Greek. Bianca on the other hand is yet another The Voice past participant in this year’s contest; her blind audition for The Voice UK was apparently seen over 250,000 times. Still In Love With You is described as an ‘up tempo electro-swing song’ and its tongue in cheek lyrics unfold as a dialogue between the two singers where they warn each other not to give into temptation or expose themselves to unnecessary dangers but instead stay put and be rest assured that they are still loved. The song was recently performed just before the opening of Eurovision’s Greatest Hits, the special concert put together for the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, and the act went down with a storm. It remains to be seen whether Electro Velvet will manage to recreate the same excitement when they perform on stage today.
The UK’s first stage rehearsal
There are two helical staircases on stage; Bianca is coming down the one on the left and Alex is coming down the one on the right. There are also two female backing vocalists at the bottom of Bianca’s staircase and two male dancers at the bottom of Alex’s. To start with, the stage is lit in yellow with Art Deco motifs shown in the background (a stylistic reference to the ‘swing’ part of the song). Bianca is in pink fringed mini dress whereas Alex is wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie. Their singing is good but the song is not demanding vocally anyway. At some point the light on stage dims and stage and costume details are picked out in multicoloured fluorescent stripes (a reference to the ‘electro’ part of the song perhaps). Alex and Bianca are interacting effortlessly and expressively with each other. There is an interesting overhead shot of Bianca and Alex looking up while the stage resembles a stylised flower as well as concentric hearts projected in the background for the song’s finale. Camera angles are still being worked out and, on a couple, of occasions, the singers are obscured by the backing singers doing their swing dance routine. The presentation becomes more exciting with each run as more elements are incorporated – there are even pyrotechnics used for the song’s finale during the last run. The UK entry this year has a novelty act feel about it.
Lisa Angell is an experienced singer who is competing in Vienna with a poignant song. The lyrics use descriptions of a destroyed village, one would assume also as a metaphor, to talk about cultures and ways of life that are being under attack. The overall message appears to be one of peace. Whether the lyrics of the song refer to recent traumatic events that occurred in France recently is hard to tell. Perhaps it is something that Lisa could clarify during her first press conference later today.
France’s first stage rehearsal
Hats off to France. Their presentation is great. The concept is simple but really effective. Lisa is standing in her blue dress (blue dress, hasn’t someone told her about the ‘curse of the blue dress’ at Eurovision?) alone on stage. Reflecting the lyrics of the song, there is a backdrop of a raged village. Later on, four drummers enter the stage accompanying the singer in her performance. The scenes of destroyed villages change slowly. The most effective part, however, comes when a whole formation of numerous arrayed drummers, dressed in the same way as the real ones on stage show on the background. This is a really beautiful presentation, that matches the song and gets an enthusiastic applause in the press centre.
After performing during one of the intervals in last year’s Eurovision, Australia is back and this year it is competing properly in the contest. Guy Sebastian, the first ever Australian participant in Eurovision, is one of the most succesful pop artists in his country with many popular releases such as six number one singles and two number one album in the Australian charts. His carefree, up tempo song is all about forgeting troubles and trying to make most of ‘tonight’. This is one of the most anticipated rehearsals this year.
Australia’s first stage rehearsal
This is funky. Guy is joined on stage by four backing dancers come backing vocals, two men and two women.The presentation starts with Guy singing the slower, intro part of the song. The Australian delegation, quite rightly, uses alternative camera shots and frames but the basic concept is that, to start with, the stage is quite dark and the focus is on Guy. As he gets into the fast part of the song, horizontally arranged spotlights from the back of the stage light up and we can now see a series of street lamps on stage and on either side of the impression of a moving road that is being shown on the stage floor (the moving road impression is not too dissimilar to the one used for the Netherlands last year). The same setting is repeated for the background and, as a result, the stage looks much deeper with the road seemingly vanishing in the horizon. Guy looks suave in his brimmed hat, blue jacket and light trousers and his vocals sound really good when he is singing – whether this is because Guy is tired or trying to save voice for the final, he often omits singing certain phrases even though he carries on with his choreography. Having said that, he genuinely looks as if he’s having fun on stage; his supporting dancers are doing a great job, too. The stage goes through different colour combinations, there are reds and blues, but it is all executed in a congruent way. There is also extensive use of white spotlights that ties the whole thing together. The presentation finishes in an explosion of yellow light. I think that this is a really good, fresh looking start in Eurovision for Australia. Since the very first run, the song gets an applause.