It will be a bumper weekend for fans of Nordic Eurovision, as both Finland, Iceland and Norway get their selection processes underway. Finland was the first off the starting blocks tonight, having chosen 3 of the 5 participating artists to go on the grand final to be held on the 12th of February.
The show was brought to viewers from YLE Tohloppi studios in Tampere which gave us an intimate setting for the first of the finnish heats. Tom Nylund & Jaana Pelkonen welcomed us along with a very enthusiastic audience to the first of this year’s heats. The studio staging was stunningly decorated with a backdrop of what appeared to be thousands of stars and swirling LED light curves, a beautiful backdrop for tonight’s show. The show quickly progressed to the serious part of the night, the expectant entrants.
Song number 1. Automatic Eye – I’m Not The One Who’s Sorry
(Pete Murto/Jonas Olsson/Heikki Hiekkasalmi/Antti Aalto/Lauri Uusitalo)
Automatic Eye entered the stage to a wildly excited audience, dressed in what can best be described as a casual emo style. From the opening of their number, the crowd were clapping along and thouroughly enjoying the performance.of their punk-pop number. Thrashing guitars and flashing lights added to the energetic vibe the group omitted. Good camerawork managed to build up a rapport with the singer, although depsite a punchy chorus and a blistering guitar solo halfway through, the song suffered from a slightly lacklustre vocal performance. Well recieved by the crowds, the group left the stage triumphantly waving and punching the air.
Song number 2. Marko Maunuksela – Synkän Maan Tango/Tango From A Sombre Country (Mika Toivanen)
Marko was the next act up, casually dressed up for the occasion in a dark blazer, white shirt and trilby, helped by his 3 female backing singers dressed in sharp little black dresses. The number started with the stage bathed in darkness, serving to set the scene. Tango kicks in immediately, giving the act an unmistakeably Finnish flavour. Intense looks into the camera also helped build the atmosphere of the song. The stage was bathed in various shades of blue, with underlit flooring proving very effective. The all important key change came towards the end, of what can best be described as a competent if somewhat static performance by both Marko and his backing singers alike.
Song number 3. Johanna Livanainen – Luojani Mun/My Creator (Johanna Livanainen/Edu Kettunen)
Johanna was next in line, dressed in a slightly outdated frilly red dress, which did her no favours! Her song was a soothing ballad, quite anthemic accompanied by 2 guitarists, a drummer and a pianist. The song opened nicely enough, with a simple piano intro, and the layered female vocals in parts was a nice touch in addition to Johanna’s convincing vocals. The young singer didn’t make much use of the stage though, preferring to stand still and sway as she crooned her number. She seemed to be thourougly enjoying herself. Lacking oomph, but still a nice simple song with a slight country/lullaby feel that became somewhat anonymous following the first two acts of the night.
Song number 4. Jonna – Puppets (Jonna/Miika Colliander)
Dressed in what can best be summed up as military meets ballet (black jacket with military hat and red tutu), Jonna performed her song accompanied by 5 dancers, obviously meant to represent the theme of the song, puppets, with similar puppet choreography. Modern in feel, with a poppy beat, the song goes into flamenco mode halfway through, with one of the dancers providing a spoken bridge as Jonna was stripped of her first costume and lo and behold, a white version of her costume appeared! What Jonna lacked in vocal precision, she more than made up for in enthusiasm and gusto. Obviously another crowd pleaser. Great camerawork covered Jonna and her dancers from all angles, the red and black theme was also captured by effective stage and floor lighting.
Song number 5. Cardiant – Rapture In Time (Antti Hänninen/Lauri Hänninen)
A blistering opening to Cardiant’s song. The band entered the stage dressed in dark colours to complement the heavy sound of the song. Flashes of thunder and a stage bathed in turquoise provided the backdrop for their act. A rocky, gutsy tune, which although supposedly sung in English was very incoherent in places. The singer clearly struggled in some parts, which made this one of the weaker numbers of the night. There was no putting a dampener on the audience however, as they thouroughly appreciated Cardiant’s efforts as yet another electric guitar solo started to growl. The crowd were whipped into a frenzy as singer Erik Karhatsu thrashed his hair around. The vocalist bounded across the stage energetically and made good use of the floor. Perhaps the best received entry of the night.
In keeping with the 50th anniversary of the first Finnish entry at the Eurovision Song Contest, former Finnish representatives Carita Holmström, CatCat, Fredi, Virve Rosti and last year’s Kuunkuiskaajat introduced the five acts of the evening. Pre performance shots showed the artists preparing for their stage entrances. Each act was interviewed as they made their way backstage. Jaana did a great job of making chit chat with the artists in the green room.
The interval act was kept nice and simple, provided by Mr. Lordi (2006), Viktor Klimenko (1965), Marion Rung (1962, 1973), Ami Aspelund (1983), Anneli Saaristo (1989), Carita Holmström (1974) and Katri Helena (1979, 1993) all telling of their own personal experiences when representing their country at Eurovision. Sharply dressed Janna and Tom then reentered the stage in red and black outfits complementing each other perfectly. The voting was a short affair, lasting for approx 5 mins, with both hosts and audience counting down the final 5 seconds. A blond and black haired male duo, obviously a parody provided an oddball comic insert while
the votes were then collated.
The suspense was clearly tangible as both hosts stood on stage together with all acts. Each act had to endure a novel way of finding out their fate – they had to go centre stage to put their hands on a lightning orb, which then gave the signal as to whether they had gone on to the final as the plinth under the sphere lit up red if the act was unsuccesful. Johanna was first to find out, and was jubilant as she was told she’d made it through. Cardiant continued the positive vibe as they also found out they were among the top three. Automatic Eye fared worse however, and their disappointment was hard to hide. Jonna also was visibly dismayed at the sight of the plinth turning red, leaving Marko and his singers jumping and screaming in the background for joy.
Although both Automatic Eye and Jonna missed out on a direct place in the final, their hopes still lie with the jury and the chance of being awarded a jury wildcard.