“We can’t try and replicate what they do at Eurovision”
Montaigne's 'Live on Tape' performance presented new challenges for SBS, but one with more control.
Australia is the only act in the Eurovision Song Contest that will use a special ‘Live to Tape’ performance -so far.
But things may yet change in Rotterdam. Heaven forbid if another act is sidelined by COVID then they too may have to revert to Plan B: a ‘Live to Tape’ performance which all acts have submitted to the European Broadcasting Union to ensure the show goes on, after 2020 was cancelled.
For Blink TV’s Paul Clarke, this presented a challenge.
“We can’t try and replicate what they do at Eurovision with 2000 moving lights, 25 moving cameras. What you have to do is try and capture the essence of the performance and look to do something different,” he told TV Tonight.
“Each year, what you have to do is just kind of stand out…. doing something completely different and hoping that Eurovision pays attention to that. A lot of pop music is about grabbing people’s attention, and then getting them to sort of decipher what it is that has caught their attention in the first place.
“Eurovision feels to me like a cultural movement based on peoples’ hearts. It’s about trying to find something in people’s hearts they’ll connect with. But first, they have to see something that makes them go, ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that!'”
Despite submitting a Live on Tape performance (not to be confused with the official music video) there were strict rules that had to be applied in order to keep the integrity of the competition element. Blink TV was given one hour to record 3 x performances of Technicolour by Montaigne, sending all 3 to Europe, but could select the one they were happiest with.
“Where the pressure really came was in getting three takes in one hour, and how to manage that to the best of everybody’s capability,” he continued.
“We had a couple of practices. We came in with choreography and we had a terrific lighting product, that we hadn’t seen anywhere else. We thought ‘That’s going to really work for Montaigne.’ But things like wardrobe, hair and make-up we were really playing with down to the last minute.
“We had 5 to 10 minutes in between each take. Effectively as coach, I was really keen to get a clean vocal take. Then once we had that, to really push the performance levels and get everybody to go for it.”
Montaigne publicly unveiled Technicolour at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, also produced by Blink TV, but Clarke acknowledges there were lessons learned from a performance which drew mixed reviews.
“There was a lot of pressure to perform the first time with a big audience after lockdown. A lot of that was just running out of gas, I think. That was a challenge and one that we took on board.
“Technicolor is a really hard song to sing. She’s really challenged herself in the writing of that song.
“The last third of the song is almost impossible to sing, let alone putting choreography into it.”
Montaigne (real name Jessica Cerro) missed out on attending Rotterdam in 2020 with her Australia Decides-winning song Don’t Break Me, but SBS generously confirmed her for 2021. However the EBU ruled all 2021 acts would need to perform with a new song. Clarke admits there were concerns how lockdown would affect her songwriting creativity.
“I was really worried about her capacity to come out with a song last year, because so many people that I knew who were songwriters, were just absolutely vexed by the situation. They couldn’t make a living and it just really hurt a lot of people, mentally and spiritually,” he explained.
“What Montaigne really wanted to do was to write something that was an uplifting kind of anthem. She’s a big gamer… games like Sailor Moon with girl heroes that kick the boys’ butts when it suits them. I think that she was writing herself in the role of a superhero and trying to switch from this situation of being stuck in a room and being removed from her family.”
With SBS deciding it was still too difficult to send a delegation to Rotterdam, Montaigne was forced to compete from Australia. She tactfully admits to being disappointed not to attend in person, but remains excited to compete.
The ‘Live on Tape’ performance will draw upon the superhero / gaming theme, with elements of ’70s rock and keeping a tight frame on its indie-pop singer.
Australia competes in Semi Final 1, which is packed with a number of the bookies’ favourites, all vying for 10 Grand Final places. Australia has qualified every year we have competed, but this year it is unknown whether the ‘Live on Tape’ will count against us or serve as a memorable point of difference for public votes.
“You can’t assume that. It’s a tough semi. Lithuania is great, Ukraine will go off in the room… there’s a few really big ones. Sweden are just before us and their staging is always immaculate,” said Clarke.
“But on the positive side, it’s great to be able to make a segment of Eurovision on Australian soil. One day, hopefully, we’ll be able to do a whole show from here.”
Live early morning broadcasts
Semi Final 1 – Wednesday 19 May, 5am (AEST) SBS (featuring Montaigne)
Semi Final 2 – Friday 21 May, 5am (AEST) SBS
Grand Final – Sunday 23 May, 5am (AEST) SBS
Semi Final 1 – Friday 21 May, 8.30pm (AEST), SBS
Semi Final 2 – Saturday 22 May, 8.30pm (AEST), SBS
Grand Final – Sunday 23 May, 7.30pm (AEST), SBS
NB: TV Tonight will publish results following Live broadcasts.