Rehearsal Roundup: The 2015 Big 7

Rather than trying to scamper around and live blog all the rehearsals, we’re simply doing one post per Semifinal to wrap up the goings on. These roundup posts summarize everything we have learned since the songs were selected by their respective countries, including the promotional live performances, the draw, and two rehearsal impressions. We’ll be doing separate posts for Semi 1 and Semi 2.

The Big 7 had their second rehearsals earlier today, and we have a clearer view of how Saturday night’s Grand Final is shaping up.

I want to hate Il Volo from Italy so much, because I hate the kind of PBS pledge drive pop-opera they peddle. But I find that I cannot: they sound really good. The staging is clean and simple so that all eyes are on the three heartthrobs. Italy may give Sweden a run for its money yet.

Austria is keeping the staging it did at its national final, presumably with the flaming piano on display when it is absolutely necessary to light a piano on fire. It’s a solid, respectable staging for a solid, respectable song that should give the hosts a solid, respectable result in the voting.

For those of us with no attention span whatsoever, there’s Spain. It’s not so much that there’s one staging concept, more like three staging concepts. It starts off vaguely Catholic, then it gets all Xena warrior after the costume change, and concludes with a pas de deux. Hopefully, it all will make sense in context for the home viewer, because without the proper camera angles it looks a bit confusing. Edurne is a vision, though.

Germany goes for a literal staging, with black smoke wafting behind Ann Sophie as she sings. She looks fabulous in a black pantsuit and her hair up on a bun, it’s all quite sophisticated. But we’re not sure it adds up to much in the end.

United Kingdom is essentially recreating its promo video on stage. It’s cute up to a point, but I can’t escape the feeling that the “fun” of this song feels forced. They have a large dual staircase on stage with an art deco feel, and light up costumes. The staging is cluttered, so the UK will need a lot of effective camera work to ensure Electro Velvet isn’t swallowed up. Alex Larke is sounding better than Bianca Nicholas, but the backing vocal “d-d-d-dance!” is quite grating.

France has come up with a very effective staging that puts Lisa Angell downstage while the backdrop takes us on a driving tour of a war ravaged city. The final verse reveals four drummers, supplemented with an army of similarly-dressed drummers in the backdrop. Lisa is a confident singer and in great voice, dressed simply in black. It’s going to be a textbook example of how a performance and staging can elevate a rather lackluster song.

Australia has given us a cheap-looking staging with lampposts and a fast-moving skyline on the backdrop. Life moves fast in the big city, I guess. We are similarly unimpressed with the costuming, with backing singers pulled from the cast of Rent and Guy Sebastian ready to walk in the Summer Olympics parade of nations. However, it’s impossible to be dismissive. Guy Sebastian is a winning performer with a feel good song, and we find ourselves rooting for him.