The Fanning Verdict: Day One at Eurovision 2021

I’ll be here throughout rehearsals to tell you what I thought of what was going on and gathering up the official clips in one easy to digest place. Enjoy – and fight me if you want.

Keep in mind, everything from the press feed was heavily watermarked obscuring a lot of what was going on. And if your favourite song sounds or looks rubbish, this is why they rehearse.

Lithuania

What I saw today was very much a repeat of what was on offer at the Lithuanian national final – The Roop dressed in yellow (including an eye-watering high-wasted trouser) backed by geometric graphics in shades of purple, black and white. The dance moves haven’t changed, and I still think he’s more than a tiny bit off-putting when gurning in the chorus … and there’s an ill-advised dance into to the camera near the end. Thanks to fairly neat vocals and a crisp backing track, we’re still very much on solid ground in terms of qualification.

Slovenia

Ana is dressed in a mother of pearl pantsuit offset by a flappy cape that she works whenever things get a touch dull – and that’s quite often. The background starts as an eclipsed sun before bursting into golden stars, the earth seen from space and (for some reason) what looks like the Grand Canyon at sunrise. There was a lack of artist-camera contact, particularly during the mumbled first verse with Ana only truly coming to shiny-faced life as she calls out to sing along during the pre-recorded gospel singing. She looked very lonely and ‘Amen’ still seems a waste of a decent voice.

Russia

Manizha is incredibly charismatic, the staging and ideas thrown into three minutes are impressive and there’s a promise of pyro. So why did this first run-through seem so flat? She starts on stage in a huge dress that wheels around a little as she mugs to the camera before emerging in a red jumpsuit, leaving her coat of many colours to sit around like abandoned church jumble. The backing screen features empowering slogans, wonderful graphics and ends with a wall of (presumably) Russian women. There’s a touch too much dizzying spider cam footage right now, but that can be fixed. The backing vocals sound far more together and somehow softer. All told, there’s a bit too much going on here, added to a song that crams so many ideas into a very short time. For me, it didn’t work.

Sweden

Tusse is in red (with blingy full-lenth gloves much like my late mother wore to dinner parties) and alone until after the first chorus when four backing vocalists appear. The staging is best described as basic, relying on a virtual plinth for Tusse which starts out white before turning red. The backdrop uses what’s already feeling like this year’s trademark gold pinpricks of tumbling light – although at one point, an impressive line up of additional backing vocalists appears adding to the idea of a million voices – something that would have lifted the performance were they allowed to linger a while longer. It’s a competent vocal, and an overall safe song. The sort of thing I’ve heard so many times at Eurovision. Not a winner. Not a loser. It passes me by more than it should.

Australia

As you most likely know, Montaigne won’t be in Rotterdam and has pre-recorded her performance. It was played through for the hall to set up technical gubbins, but we’ll get to see more later in the week. Ahead of that, here’s a sneak peek.

North Macedonia

Vasil Garvanlie takes to the stage, all in black and lit from the side, and then a beam of light takes aim at his heart along with on-screen effects suggesting a performance very much ‘made for TV’. As the lights go up, his outfit starts to look more like batman’s cape, until the climax when it’s revealed to hide a panel of mirror tiles that look incredibly like something created in lockdown by someone with an awful lot of time on their hands. Performance-wise, Vasil held back (and even missed the odd note), but it’s early doors. I still can’t see this going anywhere.

Ireland

The Irish rehearsal took an age to reach the Press Centre, causing much huffing and not a small amount of puffing. What we saw on the feed was hard to judge as much of the staging and effects were not visible, just rough placeholders. Lesley was in dark green, allowing her to merge into the backdrop (much like Mans Zelmerlöw was, and she’s using the same staging team). The official website warned everyone not to judge the staging just yet – though obviously there was much wailing from those watching. She wasn’t in bad voice, helped hugely by the pre-recorded vocals, and there’s an awful lot of walking about and treadmill action and needing to hit many marks. Could win the whole thing … or crash and burn. There are way too many eggs in this pudding.

Rebuilding Alexandra Small

Image Credits: EBU / Andres Putting .