I'm not in Stockholm this year, so, like you, I'm relying on rehearsal videos and the descriptions of bloggers watching rehearsals in the press centre to get an impression of what's going to do well. And as you'll have seen, I only got seven qualifiers right out of ten last night. So what went wrong? Who can I blame other than myself?
A key example of an artist turning it on for the night. Where did all Nina Kraljić's personality come from? She found cameras, she smiled, she was warm - it was almost enough to make you forget the dress! And she sang really well! An obvious qualifier seeing it on TV last night.
That silence. We were told by several bloggers that the Netherlands had put in a short silence in order to encourage a crowd singalong. That never happens, and it seems it was never the intention. Perhaps an example of the groupthink that can sometimes afflict a hermertically sealed-in press centre, and something I've certainly been guilty of in the past.
I was expecting Netherlands to be great, based on reports, and found it only okay. Throughout, Douwe Bob seemed to be struggling to keep his eyes open, and I didn't feel a real connection from him. And I suspect the silence was meant to lend authenticity - in a 'real' country gig, it wouldn't be uncommon to have a period of quiet like that, to bring up a swell of noise and applause from the audience, which would grow and grow to make a massive reaction. The gap in 'Slow Down' was too short for that to work, but just long enough to be awkward.
Nowhere near as impressive as we'd been led to believe, I felt. The first minute to so is underwhelming, you can see the shadows of both Sergey and his dancers separate from the projections, and then for the second verse and chorus, we lose Sergey's face; as the camera zooms out to show the impressiveness of the technology, we get no close-ups of what is a very warm and charismatic performer. Why get someone in like Sergey, with that beautiful face, and fail to show it? The last 20 seconds, where he could stand on the top, be natural, stop concentrating on stepping and show his face, were easily the best of the whole song.
It seems everyone in the press centre focused on Samra's bad vocals to the omission of everything else, including how the Azeris had come up with some of the best uses of the screens of any act. 'Miracle' didn't sound great (though nowhere near as bad as we might have expected), but it looked fantastic!
Okay, I have no bones to pick with the bloggers about this. It looked great, it sounded great - the projections looked much more impressive than for Russia, Greta Salome showed personality - I thought this was a nailed on qualifier and potential Top 5 contender. But then Måns said the word 'Malta' instead :(