"I don’t know what I’m doing tonight" Tooji sings. Well, we got a completely diffferent impression in the hall, as Tooji turned in an extremely confident and impressive rehearsal. But would the moves affect his vocal performance?
We didn’t have to worry about what we had in store from the Norwegian entrant Tooji this year. Despite his relatively little experience with performing he came across as an artist fully in control and able to rise to the occasion, delivering what is expected of him.
It wasn’t exactly one iof the better visited rehearsals so far – mainly Scandinavians in the hall to see him take to the stage, but they were extremely enthusiastic. Stay begins with the clubby electro synth vibe booming out as Tooji emerges from the shadows through smoke or dry ice. He is wearing the same outfit that he wore for the Melodi Grand Prix final, namely a greenish coloured top with hood and a short sleeved black leather jacket over it, the outfit topped off with black pants. His four dancers are dressed in similar black streetwise garb, pretty non descript. There is also one single backing singer, he took his position to the far right of the stage.
The backdrop for Stay is quite complex, featuring metallic elements which rather look like blinds at a window that are opened to reveal what looks like a bright orange sky with clouds behind. The blind imagery seems to roll over the huge screen and when Tooji sings the lyrics that lead up to the chorus, flashing red and white lamps intersperse with the other morphed background effects, in time with the rhythm of the song. The backdrop is nicely complemented by spotlights beaming down alternating between red, white to orange, aslo in time with the song.
The dance routine to Stay is highly stylised – very precise, slick and tight and it was fairly obvious to see that they had put in a lot of practice to polish up the number. It is a pretty demanding routine that almost leaves you out of breath trying to keep up with all of the moves, not least the spectacular acrobatics that set the number going, when one of the dancers somersaults in fron of Tooji. Both Tooji and his dancers give their all, with a very slinky, sensual performance. The Prince of Persia as he has been known seems very comfortable on stage with some great interaction between him and his female dancers in what is a very passionate show.
In the hall, Tooji’s vocals were fine with the first two run throughs – we have seen better, but it was perfectly acceptable. The vocals clearly improved on the third run through, with a powerful sound and Tooji’s interaction with the audience before he launches into the the last run through of the chorus where he asks the audience if they are ready works well. Although the act is heavy on choreography, the stage seemed a little to big for the Norwegian team, with relatively few close ups of the photogenic singer and more sweeping camera shots in order to pick up on the dance moves. This is the main criticism that needs to be addressed. More importantly, one of the vital elements which he had in his first rehearsal a few days ago were the blinding pyrotechnic effects which come into play right before he launches into the final chorus. All that happened on stage today was that there was a short pause which left Tooji looking pretty static – there is definite room for improvement.
The overall sound of the song comes across very well with a successful mix of modern dance beats infused with oriental sounding elements that carry well in the hall. It is a commercially appealing number which packs something of a punch, and despite criticism is a strong song more than capable of standing on it’s own two feet. Providing Tooji manages to deliver as good a performance as he did on the last run through, Norway should be a fairly safe bet for making it from their semi to the final. Well done Tooji, you did Norway proud today – keep up the good work!