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Live: The first dress rehearsal of the Second-Semi Final

13 May 2009 at 21:33 CEST

The theme of the Second Semi-Final was that of comedy, and some of the stereotype images still associated with Russia. The show opened with a traditional Russian band and orchestra cat the side of the stage playing their own version of several Eurovision Song Contest songs, together with a group of dancers dressed in traditional costumes. The songs played including Nel Plu Di Pinto Di Blu, Waterloo, Ding a Dong, Diva and Believe. There were large matrioshka Russian dolls on the stage, which were having graffiti sprayed on them. Dancing brown and white bears then appeared, not real ones of course, and at the end of the sequence, the dancers revealed a banner spelling Eurovision 09. The LED backdrop had falling leaves and flower patterns

Hosts Natalia Vodyanova & Andrey Malakhov then emerged, Natalia wears a glittery silver dress and Andrey a black dinner suit with a black bow tie. The show is now about to begin with the first song. Croatia's Igor Cukrov and Andrea open proceedings with their traditional melodic ballad. All performers are dressed totally in black, except for Andrea who starts in black only then to reveal a white dress. Expanding flowers grace the LED screens. A vocally strong and visually artistic start from Croatia.

Next up are Ireland. Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy are dressed in black and pink. Flashing spotlights are at the back of the stage and the set is dark. The performance went down well and the girls were clearly enjoying their time on stage.

Latvia are the third country on stage, Intars Busulis worked the camera well in his song which is directed at the annoyance of being stuck in traffic jams. Intars wears a blue jacket and shirt with a red tie. There are two female backing vocalists dressed in white/grey colours and a guitarist and keyboard player accompanying.

Time for Serbia and their larger than life character Marko Kon. Marko sports a yellow jacket and grey suit with red checks. He is joined by three male dancers and one female and an accordian player. The set is impressive with an expanding accordian on the LED screens, together with lots of cartoon men moving their arms from side to side.

Poland, in contrast to the three previous uptempo songs have Lidia Kopania next with her emotional classic power ballad. Lidia, as she has all week is selling the song very well, it is an emotive performance. Three backing vocalists are dressed in white and two ballet dancers complete the line up. The LED screens depict a flowing waterfall. Lidia wears an elegant grey dress for the Semi-Final.

Hot favourites Norway next. Alexander Rybak is dressed in black with a white shirt. Three backing dancers perform traditional routines. Two female backing vocalists are dressed in pink and maroon dresses. The set is highly impressive, Norwegian wooden houses lit at night, with a night sky displaying the moon and stars and fireworks. Pyrotechnic effects also meant that there were fireworks on stage too. The reception was good, although there were a small number of people actually booing the performance.

Christina Metaxa of Cyprus has three lit white square platforms are on stage, two occupied by backing vocalists and one by Christina herself. Three backing vocalists appear at the side of the stage. Christina is dressed in white and is barefoot. Her platform rotates during the song. The LED backdrop depicts an enchanted forest. This performance certainly has the cute factor and went down well in the hall.

Slovakia return for the first time since 1998, and have a very classy performance from Kamil and Nela. A pianist and cellist accompany them on stage, and the whole performance has a classic theme. There are many lit candles on the LED backdrop. Kamil wears a black suit with stripes, Nela has a very elegant long white dress. Slovakia were extremely strong vocally and well received in the arena.

Denmark's Brinck has his full band on stage comprising of three guitarists,a  drummer and keyboard player. He is dressed in jeans with a black waistcoat and white shirt. The set is again dark, with flashing floodlights, white illuminating stripes and trees. Again pyrotechnics are used at the end of the song and this too pleased the audience.

Quartissimo featuring Martina represent Slovenia. During set up, there were problems with the runners, and a lengthy delay setting up the stage, in particular the canvas windows which Martina and the musicians appear behind, much to the dismay of the floor manager, who was far from impressed with the situation. Quartissimo break from the canvasses first of all and move around the stage playing. Martina remains behind the canvas, sings the first chorus in Slovene and returns to English for the remainder. The guys are all wearing grey suits. Martina wears a long cream beige coloured dress. Martina breaks from the canvas towards the end of the song. All in all, a very good performance considering the disruption.

After Slovenia, we return to the hosts who give a brief explanation of how the televoting works. Hungary's Zoli follows. Zoli appears in black to start with, and then has his outfit torn off to reveal green trousers and a rather loud multi-coloured vest. Three dancing girls dressed in pink, red and yellow follow Zoli's slick moves around the set. The backdrop has a disco feel, and the words Dance With Me are displayed.

The land of fire next, Azerbaijan. Aysel and Arash are  joined by three dancing girls. They have a platform stage of their own, which they start from. Real fire and pyrotechnics are used to great effect, and the LED screens have fire and flashing lights. Arash has a white shirt and trousers and Aysel a white dress with a splash of purple. The crowd gave a warm reception for the Azeri performance.

Loud cheering greeted Sakis Rouvas arrival on stage for Greece. Sakis has a lit platform on the stage, he is dressed in a white polo shirt and white trousers. Sakis glides across the platform throughout the song. Four backing dancers join him. Sakis leaps from the stage at the start of every chorus. The platform raises at the end of the song. The LED backdrop has a city feel and skyscrapers. Greece enjoyed the loudest reception of any song today so far.

Sasha Son for Lithuania followed Greece. He is sat at the piano at the start of the song. Sasha wears a black suit and black hat. He is joined by one male backing vocalist and two female. After the first chorus, Sasha leaves the piano and comes to the front of the stage. The LED backdrop has piano keys and white lights. Sasha for the first time throws off his hat before the last chorus and reverts to the Russian language for the finale. The song ends with Sasha holding a lit flame and the word Hope appears on the LED screen.

From Lithuania to Moldova. Nelly Ciobanu has a national dress and purple boots. She is joined by four male dancers also in national costume, and a backing vocalist at the side of the stage. The performance is vocally immaculate and full of energy and vigour, as the audience are taught how to dance the Hora from Moldova. The LED screens have green and red images which resemble a patchwork or carpet. A huge reception for Nelly followed.

Time for another break now where the green room reporter interviews some of the artists. Albania follow Moldova, Kejsi Tola wears a ballerina style dress, has two female backing vocalists, two male dancers and a green man performing dance moves and acrobatics!. Vocally Kejsi is extremely strong, although sadly we never get to find out the true identity of the green man!.

Svetlana Loboda and her hell machines from Ukraine are up next. This is a busy performance. Svetlana has three male dancers wearing very little. She herself is dressed in a red skimpy dress and glittering long black boots. Expanding springs are on the LED screens. Svetlana moves to a set of drums near the end of the song, which has two Ukrainian flags at the side of it, and she procceds to play them. Again, fire and pyrotechnics feature, and the choreography is very slick and well rehearsed.

The penultimate country in the Second Semi-Final is Estonia. Urban Symphony have a very effective and visually stimulating performance. The ring which is usually suspended from the ceiling is lowered to ground level, leaving only the lead singer Sandra visible at the start of the song. Smoke and a wind machine are used for effect. When the first chorus is reached, the ring is lifted revealing the rest of the musicians and backing singers. Everyone wears blue sparkling outfits. Many people believe that this song and performance will be enough to qualify Estonia for the Final for the first time since the new system was introduced in 2004.

Rounding off the show are The Toppers from The Netherlands. They literally do shine on stage with their flashing glittery suits. There was a problem with the sound and microphones not working which hampered the rehearsal. The Toppers are joined by theree female backing vocalists all dressed in white. It is a fun performance and a crowd please. All of the performers hold lights in their palms and shine them intermittently. Fireworks, fire and pyrotechnics are used.

There followed a reprise of all 19 songs.

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