I am so glad I flew out here to experience Eurovision live. The people, the facilities, the energy -- it's so much more than just the three shows. The people working here are charged up. The reporters are all fans. And the acts from each country are having the time of their life.
And while each country, the act and the fans, clearly want to win -- the competitive aspect is mostly absent. I've heard a lot say they hope to win. But I've heard more say they're thrilled to be participating. And I have not heard a single person discuss wanting to beat other acts or countries. This vibe is part of what makes ESC so special.
I'm unusual in that I have not watched any of the acts. Not their YouTube clips, not their practices, nothing. So I went to watch one of the rehearsals to see what it was like. It spoils the experience -- big time. (This is not the dress rehearsal, but the earlier ones.)
First off, you are watching the mechanics around the presentation. It took them a minute just to get Moran Mazor's dress spread out properly. The arena floor instead of fans is sparsely filled with people setting this up, so the cameras become very obvious as they move as they're the only thing happening on the floor. (They did have about 20 fans a ways back on the floor cheering.)
Then Moran Mazor started singing and she is so amazing that it pulls you in. But then there's those damn cameras moving all over the place. And there's a lack of energy because you have this gigantic arena, and it's mostly empty. It takes a vibrant audience responding to the singer to fill the arena. So you only have half the experience of the live show.
And there's a pause after she finishes, and then they do it again, clearly changing what the cameras are doing a bit. And Moran Mazor does her part, but she is not putting everything into it. It's more that she's saying her lines and posing to measure the shots. It's useful for figuring out their pacing, but it's not a presentation that grabs you. Seeing someone walk through their performance degrades the experience for later.
I was very impressed with the cameraman who shoots on stage. He manages to walk across unobtrusively, and gets an absolutely perfect running shot close up as he is moving across the stage. But the bottom line is while I'm glad I saw one dress rehearsal, I'm glad I saw only one. Oh, and if you thought Pastora Soler was amazing last year (she was!), you will love Moran Mazor.
The Press Conference
Following the rehearsal is the press conference. The Israeli one started with the music video:
Which was immediately followed by the question to Moran -- "is that her boyfriend." She replied (all quotes here are from memory) "no he's not, but I have a good argument why he should be." Later she was asked about the meaning of her song and she said it was about finding the person you were meant to be with. She was asked if she was still with the guy she wrote it about and replied "unfortunately, no it didn't work out." And she then added that she's available.
Ok, personal rant. How on earth does someone like Moran not have a line of guys available? She's clearly smart, talented, pretty, nice. I have three daughters in their 20s and all I can say is guys that age are idiots.
I asked if the constant repetition of the song and practicing the act meant that she would not be able to provide her most intense performance when it was the live show. She replied that first the practice was needed because she had to be comfortable with the stage, the cameras, the position of the other singers, etc. And second, that the charge from the live audience brings out the emotional intensity from the singer.
I think both are good points. The act has to be totally comfortable with the environment to best use it and not have any negative impact from anything unfamiliar. And yes, when it all clicks, the feedback from the audience is key to getting the best performance. Here's hoping that all works well for her.
You never know if someone is being honest or if they're just really polished on telling a compelling personal back story. But Moran came across as genuine. And that fundamentally she enjoys singing and is thrilled to be there. She closed out the conference doing a cover of Loreen's "Euphoria." Loreen does it better but it was quite good and was a nice gesture to the host country.
I also caught part of the Iceland press conference. They sang another song (not their ESC one) at the conference -- they're good. Nothing special about their Q&A except that it was clear they are still very much a local group from Iceland. It's nice in today's world where so many acts are European, or global, (or even worse -- trying to appear American) that here at ESC many of the groups are very much a native act from their country. They are trying to appeal across Europe, but Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson is 100 percent Icelandic.
When I was leaving I happened to be walking next to one of the members of Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson's group. Talking to him he was clearly thrilled to be participating in Eurovision. To be able to sing in front of 150 million people was incredible to him. I asked if he thought they would win and he replied that it would be nice. But clearly to him what was so super cool was participating and being able to play their music. Again, this primary job being participating is part of what makes ESC so special.
Everyone here appears to speak fluent English. (Thank goodness as like most Americans, I only know English -- and "ein bier bitte" in German.) It's nice to see a common language that everyone can use to communicate. Talking (usually) brings people together. And it makes for a single Eurovision community.
It is so nice to talk with other ESC fans. I spent ½ hour talking with Deban (fellow wiwibloggs writer) and it was wonderful. Not just for what was discussed, but having the discussion. Back in Colorado my family and friends tease me about liking ESC (and think it's only watched by teen girls here), but there's no one there to talk with about it.
I was told on check in at the press center that there's only one other reporter from the U.S. here. Greatest music contest in the world and America is oblivious...