I had already been in Belgrade for 24hrs and had a very eventful first day and it seemed that my second day would be more of the same. I had a full agenda – attending the press pentre, the first dress rehearsal of the first semi final and the official parties for Malta, Belarus and Bulgaria. There was just so much to do and see that Charlotte Perrelli's comment about Eurovision being a "circus" was probably the most accurate description you could give it.
My first stop of the day was at the press centre. Teresa from the Czech Republic was outside the Sava Centre giving a television crew an interview followed by an accapella performance of her entry, "If You Wanna Have Some Fun". I was impressed with her vocal as I assumed that she wouldn't be very good (this was to be proven true later). After her interview I was able to have a photo with her and she told me that she was “very excited about the competition and that she hoped that she would do well”.
While this was going on, Diana from Georgia and her entourage – all decked out in Georgia flags and Peace Will Come t-shirts – were holding some sort of vigil. Diana was taking the Peace Will Come aspect very seriously, by releasing doves as symbolism of peace as well as organising a Peace Will Come march through Belgrade. She told me that it is her dream to perform a concert in London.
The big news at the Press Centre was that Jessica from No Angels is ill with a virus – but we have been assured that she will be well enough to perform in the contest. Judging from the vocals I had heard from them in their rehearsals, they really needed to get her back as they sounded terrible.
Next stop was the Belgrade Arena to watch the first dress rehearsal of the first semi. My inital reaction to the stage was “wow”, as it looked fantastic - the theme of the “confluence” really works.
After a dull start with the first six songs, the contest really going going for me with Azerbaijan. Their performance was exactly what Eurovision should be – completely over the top. The theme may be a cliché, but it really did work. Slovenia were next, with Rebeka performing "Vrag Naj Vzame" with a colour scheme of lime green, silver and purple. This performance reminded me of some elements of Kate Ryan’s back in 2006 as there was so much going on that Rebeka didn't seem to know what she was doing and didn't look very comfortable.
The beautiful Maria from Norway gave a stunning performance of Hold On, Be Strong which was a very simple and subtle compared to the previous two. The stage looked breathtaking, with lots of lights behind her twinkling like stars. Maria's vocals were perfect and she looked so pretty.
Isis Gee came next with a great vocal, despite some very strange facial expressions – I was initially worried to see if this qualified as I thought at the time, with Norway and Poland side-by-side, they might cancel each other out.
Ireland was one complete hot mess on stage and like I said when I reviewed it on my podcast for ESC Today, the song and performance is everything that is wrong about Eurovision. For me, Dustin the Turkey is just one joke that I don't find funny.
Gisela for Andora singing Casanova was a big disappointment for me as I really lied the song when I first heard it. The performance was a bit of a shambles as her backing dancers and singers looked like they didn't know what they were doing and Gisela's vocals were quite weak.
One of the highlights for me was Bosnia’s Laka, with a fantastic performance which is crazy but really cute. I think that this is the song that has grown on me the most out of the competition. While its not right at the top of my list with Iceland's Euroband and Norway's Maria, its definitely in my top 10.
Armenia's Sirushu looked beautiful in her fringed dress and gave a great vocal performance. I was impressed that she didn't have any female backing vocalists to help her out which I thought was a brave move.
Finland's song and performance was Lordi part two – without the gimmick of the masks. I'm not a fan of rock music so I didn't enjoy it at all.
Dima Bilan, back for Russia, gave the most self-indulgent performance ever. It started with him lying on the stage dressed in white like he is some kind of god. It’s a shame that his vocals are so bad that you cannot understand what he is singing, despite it supposedly being in English.
Kalomoria’s Secret Combination is another performance that had everything – including a dance breakdown. My personal favourite part was the pop-up book that opens up to reveal a huge heart – talk about interpreting the words of the song literally!!
The evening saw me at the official party being held for Malta, Belarus and Bulgaria. Ruslan from Belarus had boxes of CHOCOLATES with his face on them to give away as promotional items – I wondered if it was a deliberate attempt to sweeten people up to sway the vote. Bulgaria seemed to go for the gay market at the party with their fierce vocalist Joanna camping it up performing You Make Me Feel Mighty Real and a 90s dance megamix of Corona tracks – AMAZING!
Sadly Malta’s Morena didn’t raise her game and gave a disappointing performance of Vodka and Casanova (her other entry for the Maltese national selection). Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse for her she put a complete downer on the evening by performing Knocking On Heaven’s Door - WHY?!
Ani Lorak from the Ukraine turned up and completely stole the show by showing Malta, Bulgaria and Belarus how it should done with a tight, professional performance of Shady Lady, which put the performances we had just watched to shame. Another big buzz was Dima Bilan showing up to perform Believe in support for Belarus – although I don’t think there was actually any support at all for Belarus, it was Dima doing a bit of extra promotion for himself.
After the show I mingled with Teresa from the Czech Republic who told me that “she loved the fact that this competition brings everyone together” when I asked her what made a winning Eurovision song she replied "If You Wanna Have Some Fun" – I had to admire her confidence.
Evdokia from Cyprus told me that she was a Femme Fatale herself, and when asked if she had a favourite song she declined to single anyone out by saying “Many”. Fortunately there are many, many good songs”. Yet again, I partied the night away to the Eurovision hits past and present until the sun came up on day three.