Albania: Festivali i Këngës 60 - Night 1 Highlights
This morning locally, we were treated to the first evening of the Albanian national final Festivali i Këngës (FiK) which celebrates it's 60th anniversary this year. All 20 artists performed their songs with the iconic live orchestra this national final is renown for.
Unfortunatley three of the 'newcomer' artists were eliminated, they were:
Kesjti Rrusta - 'Vallëzoj me ty',
Viola Xhemali - 'Eja si erë'
Xhuli Pjetraj - 'Baladë'
Thee three "newcomers' to survive were:
Olimpia Smajlaj - 'Dua'
Eldis Arrnjeti - 'Refuzoj'
Ester Zahiri - 'Hiena'
They join the 14 established artists who automatically go through to the final evening.
The presenters this morning were: Xhemi Shehu, Jonida Maliqi, Isli Islami & Kelvi Kadilli. Jonida of course a familiar name winning to represent Albania at Eurovision in 2019 with the iconic 'Ktheju tokës'.
Ronela Hajati - 'Sekret'
Undoubtedly the highlight of the night - Ronela spared no expense having a fully fledged backing of around 20 dancers. It's no 'secret' that Ronela is a big favourite going into the contest and her performance today brings her one step closer to Eurovision. There is still room for improvement - at times dance and vocals can be a *touch* messy but this entry is for sure Albania's best chance of success at Eurovision. The beat and performance Ronela gives is infectious and memorable. The crowd reaction was easily the most boisterous of the night from the locals of Tirana.
Alban Ramosaj - 'Theje'
The show closer for today - Alban started a bit ropy with the vocals but finished strong. 'Theje' is undoubtedly a quality song with some nice production - the vocals are very exposed which is a double edged sword for Alban. When he hits it the song is spinetingling - if he misses though it's quite obvious. The staging is effective complete with LED lightening, smoke and sweeping shots of the orchestra. Overall still very much in the running to take the contest.
Gjergj Kaçinari 'Në ëndërr mbete ti'
Certainly one of the big winners from the night - not necessarily catching the eye of the fandom prior to the first evening but rating strongly after his live performance. Gjergj has great stage presence and certainly elevates 'Në ëndërr mbete ti' live. There are some nice anthemic elements to the song and with real *oomph*. Egging towards a touch 'shouty' at times but overall he reined it in. Perhaps a bit too modern for the juries of FiK.
Denis Skura - 'Pse nuk flet, mama?'
A truly lovely operatic performance with vocals to burn. It's evident this is a song Denis is passionate about as he gives a heartfelt, earnest performance. The electric guitar and choir mix exquisitely with the live orchestra. Overall a very different and unique performance from his competitors but a highlight. Potential jury grab.
Endri and Stefi Prifti - 'Triumfi i jetës'
Two very experienced singers pairing up for a powerful duet. A quintessentially FiK entry dripping with theatrics. Endri and Stefi's vocals meld wonderfully to create a very unique entry. 'Triumfi i jetës' works very well with the live orchestra - the pair were received very well by the live audience. It wouldn't be out of the question to have the juries jump on this entry.
The fandoms love of Jonida Maliqi
Kastro Zizo's unforgettable makeup and performance
Ronela Hajati's 'small' army of backing dancers
Tomorrow is 'nostalgia' night marking the 60th anniversary of the contest while the final will be held on Wednesday 29 December in Albania which is 7:00am AEDT on Thursday 30 December here in Australia.