Semifinal 1 Technical Rehearsal – view from the arena

This is Fine

So me and him climbed the steps to section A6, sat behind two big press cameras, climbed some more steps, didn’t sit behind two big press cameras, and assessed.

It’s definitely a technical rehearsal. Some nice gags in the presenter script, and a fair few that fell flat either in the joke or in the delivery. This is fine. Not everything has to make the final cut.

An opening act of Foureira, Saade and Chanel felt a bit unfair on Silia Kapsis. She isn’t better than those three, but she doesn’t need to be. Not in this game.

Serbia have done as much as they can to overcome the draw of doom, and they’re not out of the race. Lithuania’s fine, but…

Ireland is SPECTACULARLY good. It’s staged in a way that beautifully picks up the ebbs and flows of the song, and as long as Bambie’s on top form for Friday and Saturday this has some potential to be a breakout contest winner.

First of the big 6, and UK slightly disappointed me. They’ve done some really strong work in building the little world to perform in, and I think they’ve undermined it by coming out of the box and on to the main stage for the finale. Some of the work in the box is extraordinary though.

Back to the contest. Ukraine’s a strong performance and while I continue to not really get it, it’ll be somewhere near the top of this bit.

Poland would, in some contexts, worry me. The line between artistic and silly is a fine one, and seeing this staging in its entirety I’m not sure that they’ve not crossed over it. I think it’s ok for Saturday – it might be in for a rough time when it gets there.

Croatia has a couple of flaws, one of which is easily fixed and one not so much so. A little pop-pop-pop of flash-bangs two thirds of the way through looked a bit weak, though much of the pyro will singe your eyebrows through the television. I was more worried in general by the camera shots – the balance between “him”, “them” and “everybody” needed to be a lot more firmly skewed towards “him”. It didn’t quite have a fully coherent vision.

Iceland is skewered by going on straight after it. It’s got a gert big hydraulic platform, but it can’t lift the song. It’s in that “it might qualify because 10 of them have got to” zone, but really it’s only an inflatable trumpet and a leather jacket short of being Embers.

Back to the big 6 and I’m not even kidding any more, Germany must have recreated the This Is Fine meme deliberately and this is actually a superb piece of absurdist comedy. If it’s not deliberate, I can only apologise.

I’m going to treat Slovenia and Finland as a pair. I think Ireland’s pissed on Slovenia’s chips, and then Slovenia and the producer-led running order which produces a nice flow of differing tempos, energy levels and states of undress has pissed on Finland’s. “Oh you’re pretending not to wear trousers how exciting two minutes ago there were five people on stage pretending to entirely in the nip”. I thought Finland was safe in this bit. It might not be. I thought the camera angles were off for several of the gag moments, and there’s kind of no point without them.

My eyes were glued to the screen for Moldova as I thought they’d done an Aminata on it. Pretty logical for a song literally called In The Middle, and for about 90% of the shots Natalia was on that vertical line through the middle of the screen. And for some of them she wasn’t. I was confused.

I think Sweden was next. It was very clean.

I turned to m’ learned friend midway through Azerbaijan and said “You know what this is? Cheap.” Then the giant glitter hands arrived on stage for the last 30 seconds or so. The visuals were more interesting than the song and the visuals weren’t that interesting.

Australia’s staging wasn’t as accomplished as I’m used to from them. The start was nice and atmospheric, but by the end I was feeling very aware of how big the stage is this year. There was nothing there to really connect to. 10 of these 15 have to qualify.

Portugal. A couple of interesting camera effects, a clear artistic vision at least, a song that’s as dull as ditchwater that I still can’t recall a note of, and a writing team that’s glaring at me because they want to go to dinner. This goes through reasonably comfortably.

Finally Dirty Den Watts, the country that was dead for years but got better. Still think this could have represented Monaco in 2006-and-a-half and come 14th in the semifinal, but without being able to pinpoint anything I can say about it I think there’s enough wind in the sails to carry this over the line. It won’t enjoy itself on Saturday though.

Right. Dinner, before they eat ME. Errors and omissions will be fixed later if I spot them. Back later with the live blog.

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