- Songs 1-5: Montenegro / Czech Republic / Belgium / Belarus / Sweden
- Songs 6-10: Armenia / Andorra / Switzerland / Turkey / Israel
- Songs 11-15: Bulgaria / Iceland / FYR Macedonia / Romania / Finland
- Songs 16-19: Portugal / Malta / Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Voting commences / my picks
- Results of the televote
The BBC commentary, as is usual now for the semi finals, comes via Paddy O'Connell and a huge-flower-wearing Sarah Cawood (kay-wood).
Starting with a montage of behind-the-scenes type footage, including President Putin, we dissolve to letters flying around a city. I presume the city is Moscow, but the way they've filmed it it could be any number of generic American cities as turn up in random movies. I was kind of expecting Red Square, the Kremlin, etc. Or is that too much of a cliché? ☺
This indented section is nerdy - feel free to skip it. The recording this year was done by my little PVR because I was at work during the semifinals. A full widescreen picture was recorded to a Quicktime-like version of MPEG4 (640×480 resolution - is there nothing that can record a full PAL frame? even the Neuros OSD can't!). As my computer has no internal codec for this, it was transcoded to Motion-JPEG. I watched the contest from the MP4 files using MPlayer. The pictures were then taken from the Motion-JPEG version using VirtualDub, and then rescaled to 16:9 aspect using PhotoImpact5 and saved as regular JPEG images for the purposes of this review.A full moon. A narrated eulogy with planets and stars. You might start to get an idea of exactly how big the auditorium is. Apparently 20,000 people. Wow, that's the collective population of everything within, like, a thirty mile radius of my home! Big birds fly around, the story goes on, and on. The bird is actually quite impressive. I guess after the Greek host, and the 2008 Olympics, it is now de facto that an international televised event such as this should include something flying.
Why am I telling you all of this? It's because the pictures are a slightly lower quality than I'd have liked. Ever so slightly fuzzy (CVBS input, not S-video) and some artefacts in motion and areas of similar colour - look three pictures down around the male presenter's hair, and also at the background of the Swiss entry...
Six minutes later, the hosts arrive. Names as per the caption below. They are with the girls from the flying bird. Apparently there will be different hosts, so far undisclosed as to who, for the grand final. It'd be funny if Putin himself stepped up to the job.
Hahahaha! Oh my God, it was the Tolmachevy sisters! (go check out JESC 2006 review) They shout too.
Tonights zany hosts - she is pretty, in a Bond-girl sort of way. The blue shoulder pads are weird, but the lace not-quite-bridal outfit is actually really nice.
He is... uh... maybe three decades out of style?
Finally, time to begin the contest. With Montenegro who went first last year too.
If you are wondering about the pretty brunette with the fluffy hair that appears in between songs, it's a Russian model. A Miss World (former? current?).
Actually, the postcards between each song are pretty nifty. There's Miss World looking gorgeous with fluffy hair (as shown above). Then there's a montage like some sort of bizarre Radio 2 advert, which contains a lot of elements from the country in question. You'll need to be up on your capital cities to spot them all. Then we have Miss World with a city on her head. And finally, a word in Russian... so when Kate Bush sings about "Babushka", she's singing about grannies. Well, whatever... ☺ Anyway, it's all pretty nifty, and it is a nice gesture that the postcard relates to the country about to perform instead of short promo videos of the host country. I think the last country to promote itself was Finland with those cute little vignettes. Serbia did the studio-based thing with the entrants on "Serbia's Got Talent" (or so it seemed).
Bloodeeee hell! Got a wide shot of the auditorium here. I've seen televised rock concerts in smaller venues than this!
I always think that the transition between pop and opera is a rather uneasy one, though tonight Malena pulls it off. She's talented, good looking, uses a billion watts with the stage on full illumination, weird dress, weirder masks later on... it's the first song of the night that I think ought to pass into the final.
If, however, your concept of opera is fat woman screeching, then the only thing you'll get from this is... being full-bodied is not a pre-requisite.
See what I mean about full illumination - that must have been eye-melding to watch live. I bet for those parts the audience would have looked like the cast of Blues Brothers... who'd have thought you'd need shades, in Moscow, indoors!?
A chat with Jade Ewen, the British hopeful. Probably covering an advert break. I bet the proper ESC transmission had something vastly more interesting, even if it was just the two hosts snogging...
I'll tell you what - Spain was allocated to be able to vote in this semi-final and they decided they couldn't be bothered. Bang goes any reliably decent result that might have been awarded to Andorra.
BTW, our Geri-alike is actually Danish and was in the 2007 Melodi Grand Prix.
The annual bitchfest is homing in on this one as Hadise is Belgian-born to Turkish immigrant parents. Should she represent Belgium or Turkey? Given we've had Estonians for Switzerland and Canadians for Switzerland and very probably Martians for Switzerland as well, I'm not entirely certain it really matters that much. At least Hadise has kept the Turkish cliché and is on to a fairly-winning formula. I say fairly for this is no Sertab (2003), we aren't looking at a winner. But it will qualify and it ought to do fairly well.
Problem is, while I'm sure many people want peace and the majority of us don't want to see the pain and suffering making lead news items day after day, those in charge are megalomanic idiots and if they should ever see sense then there's always going to be a loner with designs on being a megalomanic twit just waiting to blow something up and derail the whole thing.
That said, I think it says something that this isn't a one off call for peace from Israel's people, this is what, the third this decade? I just hope those in power on both sides of the Gaza Strip (etc) are listening. For the Israelis have taken a piece of Palestine and set up home there. Right or wrong, it happened. It's like Northern Ireland. The way forward is to deal with what is now, not with what was once upon a time.
This song is performed in Israeli and Arabic.
Wow! Lovely barrel-crab from a louma.† I'll tell you what, the technical aspects of this broadcast are pretty impressive. For those who think that the Russians can just about manage to make a working tin opener, they're putting out the sort of material we'd expect if America was hosting the contest. It's all larger than life and subtely mindblowing. [oh, and about the tin opener comment, Mir might have been an old heap of .... but it outlived Skylab so nerr!]
† - that means a shot that spins around the performer more than once, from a camera mounted on a crane.
Another really quick visit to the Green Room (that isn't) after we've had the hosts making a joke (and finding out that Natalia doesn't drive (and look, she's changed her outfit!)). If these are inserts for ad breaks, they're short ones. Makes you wonder why they bother.
I think I'm sniffing a rat in the Balkan diaspora - when has Romania been a Balken country? You might get away with saying the absolute teeniest southernmost bit is a stone's throw from the Balkans, but Romania itself?
This year? Nul pwah. The music is soft rock meets techno, he raps with something of a lack of inflection, and he is wearing a baseball cap back to front. The girls perform their hearts out, but... come on, name me one rap number that has done well in the song contest? It's one of the genres that just doesn't work.
Oh... It's apparently about homeless people. Not that you'd get that from the lyrics. It isn't a "Runaway Train" where the message is pretty obvious, it's too generic and non-specific.
Paddy does some backstage stuff, and when meeting the hosts, Andrey says "I hope your commentator is not going to make mean jokes about us". You see the damage that Sir-Flippin-Terry has done? I hope Graham Norton will be more polite and tactful. Okay, okay, that's a lot to hope, I know. But I think it will take a lot to beat how downright rude Tel was last year, saying about the party feeling in the Green Room (quote) it looks like the kind of party I wouldn't go to if I was on my death bed (unquote) is unforgivable, and that's only the stuff I noted down!
Want to picture her? Okay, squish Kelly Osbourne and Katy Perry into the same body, then make her as cute as Maneki Neko. Traditional music, perky performance, it's all a bit Wizard of Oz. I'm not convinced it's a winner, I'm not sure the band is experienced enough, but you can't get the Portuguese down (even after last year's lacklustre result) and they all seem happy and perky... I would be really shocked if it failed to find a place in the final. Again, it's a song. That's what it is about. Goodness, don't tell me in 2009 we're going to start to get back to the basics of what the ESC was originally all about?
Moray described this as "first ever ESC song to have accordions and charm in the same three minutes". Need I say more?
One hell of a performer. One hell of a power ballad. It's a small shame that it quickly becomes repetitive, but never mind, if Malta doesn't pull it off this year, we all know Chiara will be back. I think her personal mission must be to win Eurovision!
Okay, so here are my picks:
After a recap of the songs, Russia reminds us how happening a place it is. ESC, UEFA, Miss World, Ice Hockey World Championships... I guess it's been a good year for the Russians.
I wonder what everybody else is watching as we do this little time out. Why-oh-why is the BBC wasting our time yacking to Jade? There was a half-hour 'special' on earlier in the evening, and it isn't as if we can vote for our own entry! Yes, we're all very proud to have a song worthy of points from somewhere other than Ireland and Malta, but really, why don't we instead pop a bottle of champers for the demise of Wogan. And about half a decade too late, but I guess better late than never.
Now for a little preview of what's to come. Greece and Norway. Hot tipped to win. Svetlana for the Ukraine keeping up with all you might think about Ukrainian girls from previous performances.
Of the pre-quals: France is, French. Russia's pop song. German swinger. Leona Lewis. And Spain represented by Annie Lennox?
Okay, here we go. It's virtual envelopes, not real ones. Maybe they didn't trust these two with actual on-set props? ☺
Well, I like Andorra.
In the time it has taken me to write this, I am thinking seriously about whether or not to swap my top two entries. I'll need to listen to both again, but if I could give the award at this exact moment in time, it'd go to Portugal, while maybe half an hour ago it would have gone to Iceland. The thing is, there's no joint winner possibility and both are equally good in my opinion. So if you don't mind I'll award them both '11' points. ☺
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