We continue to assess the Azerbaijani entries from the Eurovision back catalogues, this time looking at their live performances when they took part in the competition. For this we will take into account their ability to sing live, their stage presence, their chemistry with the audience and the staging of the song. Which of the eight acts will receive the highly sought after douze points and who will go home pointless. Read on to find out how each act fared and how this round of points impacts the overall scores. Remember you can vote in our poll to give your favourite act an extra boost.
Elnur- Hour of the Wolf (2015)
In this second outing at Eurovision for Azerbaijan, Elnur says goodbye to his 2008 partner Samir and goes it alone with ‘Hour of the Wolf’. The staging of the show sees a close up of Elnur’s face in front of a darkly lit stage, the only light coming from the eclipse and forest scenery in the background, echoing the theme of the title of the song. We then pan out to see a shirtless, white haired man dance acrobatically at the front of the stage amidst a plume of smoke effects. The male dancer is soon joined by a female counterpart and together they perform a routine filled with outstanding pirouettes and back flips. The staging of the song runs the danger of overpowering the vocals, which on the verses are quite shaky and unsure. Only in the chorus do we get a real sense of Elnur’s vocal ability. The theatricality of the dance routine quietens down towards the finish of the song which allows us to focus on the sombre, delicate conclusion. A solid effort, all in all, earning Elnur 7 points.
Dilara Kazimova- Start a Fire (2014)
It can be quite difficult to effectively stage a ballad. On the one hand you don’t want to go in for all the over the top gimmicks that will take away from the song and the singer’s vocal. On the other hand if you strip everything back it runs the risk of being bland and forgettable. Azerbaijan’s solution to this in 2014 was to have Dilara perform her song ‘Start a Fire’ alongside a woman who half-assedly performs circus tricks on a trapeze in front of a cathedral background. FAIL! Dilara actually has quite a good stage presence, is dressed eloquently in a red dress and can sing really well. Therefore it is a shame that this ridiculously lazy staging let’s the performance down. You can see why it is the worst result Azerbaijan has ever achieved. The song’s title ‘Start a Fire’ is begging for the use of pyrotechnics. We expect some flame, some spark, some magic, but we are however disappointed. As a result of this Dilara gets only 3 points from us in this round.
Farid Mamadov- Hold Me (2013)
Farid Mamadov’s staging of his 2013 entry ‘Hold Me’ is probably one of my favourite Eurovision performances ever. The song begins with Farid crouched over atop a perspex box. As the song progress he adopts a standing position and it is revealed that there is a shadow figure in the box below who literally mirrors Farid’s every move. This guy is performing upside down folks! Farid then dismounts the box, the routine continues and they are then joined on stage by a woman in a red dress with a long train. As she approaches she touches the perspex box and a stream of red rose petals explode inside the box covering the shadowy figure. The three figures continue with the rest of the song and pose in a static position when it has ended. Simple but really effective and definitely deserving of the 12 points for this round.
Sabina Babayeva- When the Music Dies (2012)
The expression dead from the waist down comes to mind when watching the live performance of the 2012 Azerbaijan entry from Sabina. The singer stands centre stage and doesn’t move at all during the entire performance except to give us some expressive wavy hands. We have all the usual effects that come as standard with Eurovision: strobe lights, smoke effects etc. and then two really bizarre elements. The first of these is three hooded figures in the far distance who dance nonchalantly with their white capes. The second is even more bizarre: a man sitting cross legged on the floor wailing. The only thing that remotely saves this performance is Sabina’s powerful voice, but it unfortunately means we can only award her 4 points for her staging.
Ell and Nikki- Running Scared (2011)
Ell and Nikki have firmly supplanted themselves in the Eurovision Song Contest Hall of Fame with their country’s first ever win in 2011 with ‘Running Scared’. The staging of the song in the final of the contest certainly helped them secure this win. Dressed all in white surrounded by circles of white light we see four people dancing, perfectly choreographed in unison. As the vocal begins the dancers step out of the way to reveal Eldar back to back with Nikki. The chemistry between the two is hard to deny as they both serenade each other with their beautiful voices. We get some cliched moves from Eldar as he grabs his chest and extends his arm in true boyband fashion, but this can be forgiven as he moves in towards Nikki in the final moments, gently strokes her hair as the two come nose to nose in an intense loving stare. This performance has earned the duo a massive 10 points for this round.
Safura- Drip Drop (2010)
Given how good the song is, we were very disappointed in the lack of imagination when it came to staging Safura’s performance of ‘Drip Drop’ a the 2010 Eurovision. Again we had a solitary singer, centre stage in an extravagant ball gown (granted this time we were given a fingerless glove as well). Safura is then helped down a set of stairs by a darkened figure water is projected onto the steps, cascading down it as she descends. When she reaches the bottom we catch a glimpse of three backing singers and to make up the six people quota allowed on stage during their performance there is a random dancer who joins the fray as well. He does a few leaps and then assumes his position to have Safura lean back on his back as he crouches over. Then there is a weird moment where he seems to almost fall asleep on her shoulder. If you can’t keep your performers awake, are can you keep you audience enthralled? It comes across as quite amatuerish and as a result we can only award Safura 6 points for this round.
Aysel and Arash- Always (2009)
Aysel and Arash’s 2009 staging opens with some purple scarf dancing, and let’s face it who isn’t a fan of that? Add to the mix some back to back dancing, some hand holding between the two performers, Arabian inspired dancing to match the music, some fireworks, some flames and flashes of light and you’re into the standard capers that we have all come to know and love from Eurovision. A solid staging effort earns the duo 5 points from us.
Elnur and Samir- Day After Day (2008)
The staging of Azerbaijan’s debut Eurovision entry had everything you could ever want. Two camp characters; one dressed as an angel, all in white, feathered wings, bleached white hair, creepy blue contact lenses with some skin exposed to excite the senses, the second a man all in black sitting on his devil throne with a chalice full of wine which he later pours seductively over one of his female backing dancers. The people responsible for staging the song are obviously avid Eurovision fans and know that there are a few elements that are compulsory- smoke machine: check, fire and pyrotechnics: check, high camp value: by the bucket loads. The only thing letting this performance down was the vocals. Not only are they shrill and shrieky as Elnur attempts his best 80s rock star impression, they are actually very hard to sit through and listen to for a full three minutes. As such this song scores 8 points for its performance.
Let’s see how this round’s score effect the overall scores. By looking at the tally below we can now see that it is still Ell and Nikki on top with 30 points. In second is Farid Mamadov with 26 and one point behind in third is Elnur and Samir with 25. Check back soon to see what we made of these acts’ artistry, song and lyrics and given that it is so close at the minute be sure to vote in our poll for your favourite for that all important final round.