ESC 2022: Post-Rehearsal Reviews – First Semi-Final

Please note, even though I am posting these brief thoughts after the jury show, I am basing them entirely on the short, official clips uploaded to YouTube.

I find it difficult to say anything definitive here because the clip is from the end of the song, so we’re missing the higher impact of the chorus. The colour scheme has shifted away from the black and red to blue and pink, with Ronela in white, which I don’t think matters as much given that choreography is the main focus here.

Similar high-energy vibes to the national final performance, only bigger and more colourful (somehow?). The lads have done the hard yards with the preview parties and reaching out to the fans — Latvia’s first qualification since 2016 definitely is on the cards and they’d totally deserve it.

One of the acts affected by the technical issues around the rotating sun, Monika will have to rely upon her vocal skills and charisma if she’s going to qualify. The sea of sparkles behind her certainly helps to bring the old world vibes of her song, but it remains to be seen how long they can keep the camera angles interesting. I don’t want to rule her out yet, but I’m worried.

If you’ve checked out my song rankings, you’ll know that this one is dead last. No shade on Marius, he has a strong voice and performs this well — the song just sounds too dated and is in a genre I don’t have much time for. However, given the performance, which is no-nonsense and makes effective use of projections, I can see the appeal for juries and an older televote demographic.

Much as I like this song, the giant disco ball does it a disservice by breaking up the band. I’m hoping we’re not going to see the camera run around it for the full three minutes, as I already felt dizzy from 40 seconds worth. This was always going to be a long shot to qualify, and unfortunately I don’t think they’ve done themselves many favours with this arrangement.

It’s easy to say that given the geopolitical situation, Ukraine is going to qualify regardless, but they’ve added a couple of nifty things to their staging: the one that stands out the most is projections of the band’s silhouettes as they sway before the chorus. The focus is mostly on the members, who all have their own thing to do, so the background almost seems superfluous.

A mini rock concert with lots of pyro and fierce colours. Even though the song is dated, the musicians are experienced professionals and I suspect there will be a fair amount of middle-aged fathers watching who will perk up when this comes on. Any hope this has of qualifying will rely upon this demographic picking up their phones.

Slick and minimalist, which we’ve come to expect from The Netherlands over the last few years. The copper colours keep the performance from becoming too dark (S10 is wearing a black outfit), this will be one for the juries first and foremost, it remains to be seen how well S10 sells this to the public.

It wouldn’t be a Zdob şi Zdub performance if it didn’t feature a wild palette of colours, and the addition of folk duo Advahov Brothers hasn’t done anything to tone this down. I’m not sure I’m particularly taken by their outfits or the kaleidoscopic patterns on the LEDs, but if there’s one country that somehow makes it to the final provided they send something zany, it’s Moldova.

Not a huge departure from the national final, but moving to the satellite stage was the right move. The focus should be on the mood these singers create, which the smoke and solemn lighting successfully amplifies. You could almost make the argument not to bother with the main stage at all.

Clearly an act which would have preferred to use the sun sculpture as an LED rather than for lights, Mia’s pink dress is striking and probably the best part of the performance. I’m not sure that the dancers spreading themselves so thinly across the stage works well.

Similar staging to the national final, with big blocks of colours on the screens at the back of the stage. Also an act which would have preferred not have the sun as a black rainbow, but I think it effects them less than some of the others. This is one which might just surprise us, it has high-energy without being a bit out there like Norway and Latvia.

One of the fan favourites which will need all the fan votes it can get. At least they tried to keep Pia and Lumix together rather than having him scratching away in the background. While their “halo” might seem a bit restrictive, it certainly means the rest of the stage is completely irrelevant, as they’ve managed to make their own stage. This should end up helping rather than hindering them.

The way this is lit captures the sunrise theme in the song’s lyrics, which is a great improvement on the national final. This has quietly been gaining momentum as the song which might beat the odds and sneak into the top 10 from this semi. If it does, it’s well-deserved.

With a stage that looks like a restaurant being swallowed up by a lava stream with its melting chairs, there’s no performance quite like Greece this year. They’ve kept the lighting to a simple blue and white in order to allow as much focus as possible on Amanda’s vocals, especially that falling “die” note (you know the one). It works.

When the highest impact your song’s going to have will be the performers themselves you don’t need much more, but Norway have added some pyro for good measure. From the clip I’m not sure if much is going on behind the sun, but I don’t think it matters either way.

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Armenia would try to bring an actual house prop on to the stage to match up with the song’s video, but instead we have a bedroom with lots of paper on the walls. I can’t decide whether this is too messy (did everything have to be covered in paper?), but this certainly is one of the more memorable performances and no doubt why Armenia is now considered a very likely qualifier.