Since 1.30pm, a crowd of journalists, photographers and dedicated fans has been gathering outside the Telenor Arena, ready for the first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final of this year’s contest. The Press Centre is the busiest we have ever seen it, with many arriving just in time to catch the first live broadcast tomorrow evening, and there is definitely more of an atmosphere about the place.
The rehearsal has just started, right on time. It is good to finally see our three hosts on-stage! Haddy and Nadia, our two female hosts, look stunning in long dresses in aquatic shades of emerald green, (Nadia), and royal blue, (Haddy). Erik wears a smart formal suit. There introduction to the show is professional, warm and polished. On to our first song…
Sunstroke Project and Olia Tira: Run Away
The performance from the Moldovan act is once again energetic and lively, and will no doubt pick up a few votes, being an uptempo opening song. Olia’s vocals appeared very slightly strained at the beginning of the song, but she quickly settles into things well. The quirky outfits – and even brighter make-up! – work well with the youthful vibe.
Peter Nalitch & Friends: Lost And Forgotten
No Eurovision acts wants to come on second! Peter’s song seems quite flat, especially after the energy from Moldova. There is unfortunately audible laughter from the gathered media representatives in the hall when he ‘looks’ at the photograph in his hand – it is these spoken parts of the song which are proving to be the least popular! Expectations are not high for the Russian song, and even the introduction of a wind machine and falling ‘snow’ doesn’t seem to give this performance the ‘jolt’ it needs.
Malcolm Lincoln: Siren
There is something about the simple but quirky performance from Malcolm that works better on camera than in the arena. It is probably because Malcolm and his backing vocalists are very confident with interacting with the camera and creating some intimacy with the TV audience. There isn’t much that makes the song ‘stand out’, unfortunately, and the feeling here seems to be that it might be ‘forgotten’ in favour of stronger numbers.
Kristina Pelakova: Horehronie
Another confident performance from Kristina, who is also enjoying interacting with the cameras more than she has done previously. There seems to be more of a warm glow to the stage, and Kristina and her dancers perform their routine without impacting on Kristina’s vocals. The ‘traditional’, ‘folksy’ feel of the song is appealing and goes down well.
Kuunkuiskaajat: Työlki Ellää
The girls from Finland have a large proportion of the journalists still sat in the press centre clapping along, and apparently the same is going on inside the arena. The folksy, happy vibe of the song, along with an energetic, lively and fun performance is sure to make it popular with the voters. It is all very bright and charming, and the fact that the song is sung in Finnish actually seems to work in its favour!
Aisha: What For?
Aisha’s vocals seem quite strained today, and there are a few moments when the performance wavers between singing and crying out! It is definitely an impassioned performance, and the backing vocalists do provide strong support. Her peach coloured outfit works well against the relatively dark staging, and contrasts well with the black costumes of her backing singers.
Milan Stanković – Ovo Je Balkan
Milan’s song has definitely picked up a lot of fans over the past few days! Another lively – and very bright! – performance that seems to epitomise exactly what some sections of the TV audience think Eurovision is all about! He is definitely enjoying himself, and, according to our team member inside the arena, people were going crazy over it!
Vukašin Brajić – Thunder And Lightning
From within the arena, the staging looks amazing for Bosnia’s song. Vukašin is very competent and seems more comfortable performing to the audience in the hall than to the camera. his bright red shirt continues to work well, providing a dramatic contrast to the otherwise generally dark staging.
Marcin Mroziński – Legenda
Although vocally strong, Marcin’s performance isn’t very well-received in the arena. There doesn’t seem to be any ‘spark’ to the whole thing, even though he is clearly trying his best.
Tom Dice – Me and My Guitar
Tom Dice has emerged as something of a ‘dark horse’ in this semi-final. The effortless simplicity of the song and Tom’s relaxed but charming performance is appealing, and is very well-received both in the arena and here in the press center.
Thea Garrett – My Dream
Thea continues to give a strong performance, with very strong vocals, especially during the ‘operatic’ moments of her song. It is a very pleasant ballad, but there are similar songs in this semi-final which are more memorable with the voters.
Juliana Pasha – It’s All About You
There is great debate in the Press Centre over just what Juliana has done to her hair – it resembles straw matting! She occasionally comes across as a bit scary during the performance, but vocally, both she and her backing dancers are very strong. She is very relaxed on-stage and the song gets a good reception from the media assembled in the arena.
Giorgos Alkaios & Friends – OPA
Our team-member in the arena informs me that the Greek performance looks ‘amazing’! Apparently everyone is clapping and ‘opa-ing’ along to Giorgos! It was all certainly very well-received here in the Press Centre, (but there is a large Greek delegation in here today, too!) The general feeling here is that the Greek entry is a definite qualifier for the Grand final.
Filipa Azevedo – Há Dias Assim
Filipa’s song doesn’t get much of a reaction here in the Centre. It is once again a very passionate, heartfelt performance, but again, unfortunately, the vocals sometimes border on screeching!
Gjoko Taneski – Jas Ja Imam Silata
Gjoko’s rather scantily-dressed dancers once again writhe over the stage as he sings the song! There isn’t much support for the entry from within the arena, and the applause following the song is more polite than enthusiastic. This song is in a similar style to the song from Bosnia & Herzegovina, but the Bosnian song performance is more polished and appealing.
3 + 2 – Butterflies
3 + 2 are very emotive when delivering their song to both the audience in the arena and those at home. The ‘butterfly dresses’ really seem to divide opinion – some love them and their novelty, others think they are a little tacky, (and there is quite a lot of laughter from the crowd in the arena when they are revealed!) It is a visually attractive and appealing performance, though, and the vocals are strong from each of the members of the group.
Hera Björk – Je Ne Sais Quoi
Hera’s performance wraps up the acts in the first semi-final. Her voice is as powerful as ever, and she is one of those performers who seems to enjoy herself very much whenever she is on stage. There isn’t much movement during the song but the camera ‘hugs’ Hera, and she interacts well with it and the viewers – and voters – at home. The song is very well-received in the arena, and we can hear a lot of clapping when her number has finished.
We now have the usual re-cap of all of the songs in this semi-final, along with a reminder of the voting numbers.
There now follows a humourous short clip, which shows Erik guiding members of the international delegations around some of Oslo’s most popular visitor attractions. As soon as the delegations realise that they are being filmed, they all race towards the camera, waving their flags, posters and banners in an effort to show their support and gather votes!
Haddy is now wandering round the green room, introducing us to some of the contestants, (though because this is a dress rehearsal, there is nobody actually sat in the various spaces allocated to each country!)
The film that follows, which is introduced by Nadia, is a rather strange mix of sounds, sights and vocals from the competing countries of Europe. It starts off with what seems to be a ‘burping chorus’ before moving on to various clips, during which we see and hear choral, folk and rhythmic performances from various countries. some of these performers then appear on-stage and sing a song together which supposedly illustrates the impact of ‘all of Europe singing together’, and just how powerful it can be.
After the recent travel difficulties that resulted from the ash cloud over Europe, we are shown some funny clips of how some of the delegations – along with all the equipment needed for the show – arrived in Oslo, (including, apparently, the Dutch and Greek delegations skydiving in!)
Haddy and Erik remind us of some of the rules governing the performances that each country brings to the Eurovision Song Contest, particularly the one surrounding the minimum age of the performers. To emphasise this, they are joined by ‘mini’ versions of themselves – a boy dressed exactly the same as Erik, and a girl wearing a replica of Haddy’s dress!
The mock ‘results’ are now announced, with graphics of envelopes opening up to reveal the successful countries’ flags.