Welcome to the first dress rehearsal of the final of Eurovision 2013! In a few moments, we'll hear the final songs in their running order for the very first time. I'm blogging from a seat in the hall, wifi permitting, so keep refreshing this page for my thoughts on the songs as we go. And Sild and I will be blogging the jury final from the screens in the press centre later tonight.
We have a slight delay in the hall, but we're soon about to start!
The opening film appears to be a caterpillar making its way around Europe. Obviously. Unfortunately, they had to cut the bit where the caterpillar hibernates and wakes up as Valentina Monetta after San Marino didn't qualify last night.
Oh, this is new! During the opening song (which I assume is the Benny/Björn/Avicii thing), all the acts come down the ramp to the stage, proceeded by a flag-holder - it's all a bit like the Olympics (or Junior Eurovision, if you prefer), except Greece aren't first. It'll be interesting to see tomorrow how many come down in full stage-costume and make-up - it could be a taste of things to come for the audience, or a spoiler.
Petra then proceeds to introduce the show, and the camera 'placed in the home of an Australian family watching right now'. This is very much the first run-through of the script, so don't be surprised if a lot of this has changed by tomorrow night. Some gags that don't really work, and asking if everyone's ready in French is a nice touch, but only about three people clapped. We're also now in a gap while Petra and the director discuss things.
FRANCE - an interesting and slightly muted choice of opener by SVT. Maybe Amandine has a late flight to catch? Amandine's singing well, as might be expected, but not fully attacking the big notes in the last chorus, but one assumes that'll change by tonight - indeed, Amandine just said at the end of her performance "I'm not singing too loud for my voice". Either way, I do wonder what kind of impact this will have on first.
LITHUANIA - the rather quiet start to the contest continues - it's almost as if SVT are easing the audience into the show with some competent if unremarkable acts before getting to the big guns. Lithuania was never challenging for the win, and still isn't, and probably loses out from not being after weird things. It works well enough, but easily forgettable by the end.
MOLDOVA - I'm very surprised SVT put this on so early. Aliona isn't wearing the top half of her dress (don't worry, she's got a t-shirt on), which makes this look a little odd, but the effect with the dress and the rising and that big note is still spine-tingling - and I suspect she'll benefit from being the first to use the lift. It might look a little tired by the time the UK comes around.
(Martin of esc-chat.com next to me pointed out that Moldova have got the Suus-draw. Interesting.)
FINLAND - By contrast, Krista is in full costume again (how many of these wedding dresses does she own?), and as always looks and sounds great. This'll wake the parties up over Europe and provide a big talking point.
SPAIN - The intro to Spain looks and sounds great, and provides a big contrast to the hi-jinx of Finland right before it. I suspect those same parties will all still be chatting about Krista's kiss over most of this though. I'm blinded by my love for it, but there's still a tiny part of me that thinks that Spain could surprise. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniards to our right loved it.
BELGIUM - bless Roberto, it was a huge deal for him and Belgium to reach this final, and I'm so glad for them that they have. He totally missed his cue into the first chorus, ending up a whole beat ahead of the backing track. Let's hope he doesn't do that in front of the juries tonight. He's also wearing a big scarf, presumably to protect his voice, but you can hear some of the amateurism coming out, as he's sitting off the notes in the quiet sections, only to belt the big loud ones.
ESTONIA - Estonia panicked a bit when they made this final, as they hadn't budgeted for enough dry ice and fog for any more performances! But it looks like they've decided to splash out!. As for the song, still lovely, but probably needed to be drawn into the second half to stand of a chance of not being doomed to a bottom five finish here.
BELARUS - for those interested, Alyona walks out next to the disco ball and then climbs inside, rather than being carried inside it (or rolled! That could've been fun!). You know what this is - PYRO, ARMS, CHA CHA, YAZ BITTI MOMENT. Some slightly different outfits for the backing dancers though, white accessorised with black.
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MALTA - Gianluca spent too long high-fiving audience members last night, and only just made it back to the bench in time for the end of the song. No danger of that today, with no audience on the floor. I really have no idea how this is doing. It doesn't really engage me, but it's done pretty well - could honestly come anywhere from 6th to 26th.
RUSSIA - Dina's in what looks like her school uniform. This honestly sounds absolutely stunning in here, and Dina's actually showing some emotion. They're still trying the ridiculous ball-throwing thing, but I honestly think is a Top 5 contender once again.
GERMANY - Well, Natalie really got the crowd going in here! I can't really tell how well she's singing, with the sound-balance in here, but it's probably safe to assume she's doing pretty well. She's in jeans and her boots tonight, so we'll have to wait to see if they've decided to keep the heels she struggles to walk fast in! I don't think they've made as much of the background as they could have done, but still - a potential winner? Certainly should be top 10 anyway.
ARMENIA - well, Martin clapped. This is the same as it always was, and I still have no real idea how it's going to do. Could suffer by coming after the crowd-pleaser that is Germany though.
Oh, and now we have the break, rather than after Song 13 as we were expecting. Lynda Woodruff is in Stockholm, and I won't spoil anymore than that.
NETHERLANDS - after the break, rather than before, as we expected. On one hand, we felt it would benefit from being the last song before the break, on the other hand, this way we don't have the downbeat run of Armenia and Netherlands together, which might have hurt it. As always, a very good performance from Anouk.
ROMANIA - one person clapped for this too (not Martin this time). Cezar has a t-shirt on under his jacket, meaning his chest isn't on display as much as usual, and the dancers have got (some of) their clothes on. Interestingly, while the fans don't care, the choir who sang the opening song and are sat watching the show in the arena are clapping along. I predict big televoting scores from a few countries, and very little from juries and viewers elsewhere.
UNITED KINGDOM - Bonnie's wearing an off-the-shoulder black number that I assume might well be the final outfit - I can't see why she'd be wearing it otherwise. From loving this at its first rehearsal, I'm back to finding it unremarkable, particularly in this company - could the bottom 5 beckon again for the UK?
SWEDEN - Robin has his hair down right now, which actually suits him better than the high style he normally favours. Other than that, it's all much the same as we reported earlier in the week, just tidier, as it to be expected. Another one that I'm not really convinced works on stage... it feels like we're warming back up for the big contenders closer to the end.
HUNGARY - my fingers are very firmly crossed for Hungary. I didn't think it was qualifying after the dress rehearsal I watched, so was ecstatic to see it come out of the envelope last night. They're keeping the words on the backdrop in English, which I'm not convinced really works, but I doubt it affects the song one way or the other really. and after not contributing to the backing vocals last night, the guitarist has had his mic stand removed today. Other than that, you know how this one is already! A possible outsider?
DENMARK - now we're gearing up, and Emmelie has been placed perhaps surprisingly early for such a favourite. It makes sense they've kept Denmark and Norway apart though. The Danes have long ironed out and kinks in this performance, but there's no sign they're just going through the motions. They also have by far the most effective curtain of sparks, and is definitely still on my list of potential winners.
ICELAND - the surprise of the second semi-final for me, Iceland worked beautifully in its draw, with its simplicity and pure vocal. It'll benefit by being on later here, but is perhaps hurt by having to follow Denmark. Will certainly have its votes though, and could well be a dark-horse for a top 5 spot.
AZERBAIJAN - we're really into a very strong part of the show now, and this really is a very good final! Farid is looking hot - in both ways. That velour tracksuit can't be comfortable to wear! It looks like the female dancer has an even longer dress than before, as the end of the train never even leaves its starting point. Something tells me that Azerbaijan isn't a winner, but I'd be shocked if its not up there in the reckoning.
GREECE - I won money on this last night, betting on Greece to finish higher than San Marino. Thank you for the free money! The boys aren't in their stage outfits, but are still bouncing about and full of energy, despite already being pretty drunk by the time they were interviewed on Telia's after-show last night. Another contender for the top 5 here, particularly with a Saturday night audience and being on this late.
UKRAINE - I walked past the giant for the first time in the press centre today - my word, he really is huge! Zlata is lifted into his arms by a stage hand at the beginning, and the backing singers are crouching at the back, rather than coming up through the floor like they did on Tuesday. It's still to be seen what the audiences at home will really make of this, and if they manage to stop laughing at the giant long enough to listen to the song at all.
ITALY - well, he'll need to sing better than this tonight. It's in tune for the most part, but rather faltering and breathy. He also seems to have opted for a mint-green coloured suit, which wouldn't have particularly been my choice. He still wanders out to the end of the catwalk for the last chorus, which I've already stated by disapproval for. I do still think that if he nails this, it's a good enough song and he has the tons of charisma necessary to do very well.
NORWAY - Margaret's in a white t-shirt with bananas on it, and a big fluffy cardy. She still sounds phenomenal though, and this is a great draw for this song. I can't help wondering if by splitting up Denmark and Norway like they have, and giving Norway the seemingly more favourable slot, they're trying to even up what might have been quite a lop-sided voting.
GEORGIA - I am so exceptionally over this. I normally love a good belter of a ballad, but over the last week Sophie in particular has become more and more shouty, and there's just no passion whatsoever. That may be prejudicing my views, but I think this might be a relative miss for Georgia, particularly compared to the hype in the press centre a week ago. Also, Christer Bjorkman's husband is standing worryingly close to the shower of sparks! Look out!
IRELAND - has some element of being a bit of a wind-down after the climax of the last few songs. A solid closer to a very good show, Ireland can be proud of their boy, but he's not a challenger tomorrow night. For my part though, I would be very happy to see Ryan score higher than Jedward!
Petra follows Ryan on stage to answer some questions, and present Jean-Paul Gaultier, the designer of her dress who will apparently be in the audience tomorrow night. After the usual voting explanation gumph, we're into the reprise.
Some quick stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the recaps: I'd forgotten Spain had even happened, which isn't a good sign. They've not exactly chosen the best part of their song either, the beginning of one of the slow-into-fast choruses. France have the last chorus. Estonia's recap works well in this company. Germany's recap is the chorus where Natalie walks along the catwalk, a wise choice. The UK's recap is the end of the second chorus, so doesn't get a 'Believe in MEEEEEEE-yeah' bit, which is a mistake, while Sweden get a strong section of the second chorus. I think these clips are slightly shorter than the ones used in the semi - which makes sense as there's 26 to get in! Iceland again is very effective here, as is Azerbaijan. Italy have a chorus (and not a very well-sung one tonight!), and Norway again really stands out.
For the voting interval we have Loreen's new single with a suitably dramatic performance, segueing into Euphoria partway through. It's really poorly filmed at the moment, and I wonder how many times they're going to have Loreen back in here once we've left to run through this again. A second recap, and Petra almost misses the end of the voting and has to start the countdown from 1!
A baffling film about the Swedes and their attitudes leading into a musical skit by Petra, both best filed under 'Swedish humour'. Seriously excriatingly bad, and never-ending on top of that. WHERE IS CAROLA???
Oh, there she was, for about a second. Though it might have just been a stand-in, we're too far away to really tell. Now we're on to the third in the sequence of films on Eurovision history, and again I'm not going to spoil this one for you, except to tell you that there's some delightfully uncomplimentary comments about Linda Martin.
And Saade's in the green room! Yay! Does this mean we can include him in the hotties list now?
Oh! It's Sarah Dawn Finer singing The Winner Takes it All. This might just be the longest interval ever... And WHERE IS CAROLA??
Aha, Saade again, and Jon Ola Sand... we must be approaching the voting now...
...nope! More incomprehensible dancing! If I understand correctly, this dance might well be a man 'making' the scoreboard, or perhaps designing the voting order.
So, anyway, who's it to be? Sild and I are back tonight to blog the jury final, where half the votes for tomorrow's results will be decided. See you later!