Eurovision Semi-Final #1 Recap

Before I start the recap from last night’s Semi-final, here were Jen’s predictions for the result, which she made right after the performances were over:

  • Montenegro
  • Czech Republic
  • Sweden
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Israel
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Malta
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina

Jen wasn’t confident in her Czech pick, but thought it was gimmicky enough to go through.  She picked Finland because “Lose Control” is already a dance hit in Europe, and honestly, if I had known that, I probably would have picked Finland over Andorra.

Jen also picked Iceland based on the quality of Jóhanna’s performance.  I have to say, she was really good (as was the staging… except for the animated dolphin flying through the sky).  The song had done nothing for me before, but, like Norway’s Maria Haukaas Storeng last year, Jóhanna won me over.

In the end, we both got eight out of 10 right.  Here are the results of the first Semi:

  • Sweden
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Israel
  • Iceland
  • Romania
  • Finland
  • Portugal
  • Malta
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina

The really disappointing thing for both of us was that Montenegro didn’t go through.  It’s a great song, and Andrea Demirović sang it well.  Also, her backup dancer was fantastic in a completely campy way.  Words can’t describe it, so just go watch it. It’s worth it.

Speaking of things that words can’t describe, the opening number for the show was this big fairy tale story about Russian kids who learn to fly from a phoenix that they later help defeat a dragon. The narration was done by an American, although I have no idea who.  I’m pretending it was Sam Waterston.

The vote-tabulation entertainment was a Russian military choir singing traditional songs while Russian dancers did traditional dances. It was very Soviet, actually, but to Russia’s credit, the tank and the MIG that were on stage were painted in festive colors.  The tank, for example, was pink with flowers on it.  t.A.T.u. showed up at the end, and the best part of their performance was that the military choir sang back-up for them.

When the show began, the first thing we noticed (because it was hard to miss) was that the stage was enormous.  While the performers are closer to the audience than they have been the past few years, they are also dwarfed by the width of the stage.  Moreover, the video screens behind them are as long as the stage, with additional ones that tower over the performers.  If the graphics behind flashed on the screen are too busy, as they often were, performers can easily get lost.

In fact, some of the performances that stood out were ones that made minimal use of the video screens.  As mentioned, Iceland did well with just clouds and the occasional dolphin as a backdrop.  Malta’s Chiara had nothing but a starfield.  In fact, she didn’t have back-up singers, which was a brave, but effective choice.

On the other hand, Turkey’s Hadise and her female back-up singers and dancers were dressed in red (the males were in olive), and they performed in front of a red video, so they all got completely lost.  That Hadise sucks at belly dancing didn’t help.  On the other hand, she made it through, because, well, she’s from Turkey.  Only Dustin the Turkey as an entrant would keep Turkey from getting out of the Semis. And even then I’m not sure.

Both the Semis are being hosted by model Natalia Vodyanova and TV host Andrey Malakhov, and they of course were charmingly cheesy. Unlike the backstage reporter, whose name I didn’t catch, who was so skeezy that at one point, he actually made one of the Belgian back-up singers visibly uncomfortable.

Anyway, Natalia and particularly Andrey had the gregarious enthusiasm you’d expect from someone at a karaoke bar with a belly full of vodka.  They had a lot of jokes, but because English is not their first language, their timing on the jokes was just terrible.

They were more funny with their off-the-cuff banter during the announcement of the finalists.  The best part: when Israel got through, Andrey said, “The most political-correct song of the Eurovision 2009 goes to THE FINAL!” Brilliant.

Former Eurovision contestant Alsou and “media personality” Ivan Urgant are the hosts of the Finals, so I’m going to miss Natalia and Andrey when they’re done hosting. Fortunately, we’ve got one more night with them tomorrow.