Tuesday 6 May 2014

So, who will my finger of doom fall on this year?

As per tradition, we need to ensure that we completely ruin the chances of an act by selecting them as one of our favourite 10, bringing forth the wrath of the heavens for liking that cow pat of a song. This year, the lucky 10 from me are as follows:

(Would normally give reasons but unfortunately don't have much time before leaving for the arena)

Armenia
Estonia
Sweden
Russia
Azerbaijan - My predicted winner of he semi-final
Ukraine
Moldova
Netherlands
Montenegro
Hungary

Now let's see how badly wrong we are. I think just missing out would be Portugal since they will get the drunk vote much more than Latvia since I don't believe there are that many hardcore alcoholics watching Eurovision from the beginning on a Tuesday night. Unfortunately this semi seems to be dominated by former Soviet nations which ensures vote sharing for non-rigging reasons.

I predict Azerbaijan as the winner and possibly San Marino as the wooden-spoon holder this year. Cannot see either jury or television viewer getting excited over her performance and even though she will get some points, it will not collect enough to keep her away from the dreaded 16th place. Only a few hours to go and we will know! The craziness that is Eurovision is about to begin in full swing!

Predicticación

Are we all ready? I think I am! Despite having been far away from the interwebz for the last few days (I feel all naked! Though that might just be my swimming trunks), I'm getting into the mood, and even have managed to work out a little preditction for tonight. I've also put on some tiny bets that go against my actual guess, so who knows, really... Bets are on Ukraine and Belgium not to qualify, but in the list below, Moldova really is the one I'm doubting.

And as if giving you ten qualifiers wasn't enough potential for wrongness, here's how I think the full result will be tonight:

Sweden
Azerbaijan
Armenia
Hungary
Netherlands
Montenegro
Ukraine
Russia
Belgium
Moldova

Estonia
San Marino
Portugal
Iceland
Latvia
Albania

Have a ball tonight, no matter what! :-)

Rehearsals today vs yesterday

It seems to me that the rehearsals today are a little more off than they were yesterday. The energy is just not there as it was yesterday. I totally understand that it's exhausting to rehearse and repeat. I just hope it will not show in the show tonight. On the other hand I will be in the arena for the event so I might not see anything remotely connected to lack of energy. :)

Oh, and flags

I really like the idea of the flags every country does as an introduction. It's a nice thing to see.

"We've got a bet to make..." - A betting overview of Semi 1

Welcome to the mobile press centre in Gran Canaria, where several regular ESC Nation bloggers - Yair, Roger, Sild, Sam and myself, plus the fabulant Keithykat - have set up home for the week. Unfortunately the Telefonica people have been less than useful and our internet access has been highly limited so far (this would never have happened in Baku), but here we are with the now-traditional overview of some of your betting options for tonight's first semi-final!

Note: These odds were correct at time of writing according to the Oddschecker overview here, but they're sure to change over the course of the day!

As a gambler, the main problem with this year's semi-finals is that they're so small, which means there's only limited value in the "qualify"/"not qualify" markets. That is even more the case for the first semi, which contains several no-hopers as far as the betting markets are concerned. However, this does mean you can make decent money if you happen to firmly believe in their chances.

Suzy from Portugal is the biggest outsider to qualify according to most bookmakers. A Portuguese qualification is currently available at a price of 4.00, so if you place a bet of €10 and "Quero ser tua" does make it to the final, you would get €40.00 back. Similarly well-priced countries include Latvia at 3.75, Iceland at 3.75, Albania at 3.50 and incessant failure Valentina Monetta at 3.75.

At the other end of the scale, there are tiny but essentially guaranteed profits to be made from backing the near-permanent qualifiers, such as Azerbaijan, Ukraine or Armenia. Take the Azeris, for example, whose best current odds to qualify are 1.05. That means if you place €10 and your bet is successful, you will receive back the grand total of €10.50. Not exactly a fortune, but it's better than you'd get from a high-interest access account...

If you're willing to go for short-ish odds like that, I'm a little surprised at how generous the odds are for a Russian qualification, at 1.22. I know there's the political situation to think about and the twins aren't the most persuasive of performers, but I see absolutely no reason they shouldn't make it through a 16-song qualification round with ease.

But then there's always a shock or two, right? Plenty of people got stung by the failure of Moje 3 or Moran Mazor last year, after all. So what about the non-qualification markets for the first semi-final?

To my mind, one quite notable feature is the markets' confidence in the chances of Estonia and Montenegro. Neither seem like guaranteed qualifiers to me for various reasons, not least certain aspects of the visual performances we'll be seeing tonight. If you agree, you can get a price of 3.00 for Tanja to fail to make it through to the final, and 2.62 for Sergej to be on the first flight back to Podgorica tomorrow morning. Or maybe the Netherlands have been overrated during rehearsals and their song is still too American to succeed no matter how nicely they're performing it? 5.00 says they won't be making a repeat appearance on Saturday night.

Qualification isn't the only game in town, of course. You can also bet on the winner of the semi-final. Armenia is the predictable favourite, currently trading at 3.00 at best, but late-drawn Hungary must be worth a look at 6.50. The smoky ballad from Azerbaijan could cut through all the competition and win the semi - the price you'll get for that is 8.00 - or maybe Belgium's Axel will defy the odds of 26.00 and charm the Tuesday night audience of overbearing mothers and their enablers to walk away with the semi 1 title.

And then there's Suzy from Portugal at 275. Well, you never know...

Top 3 in the semi-final is another interesting market, bearing in mind that the semi results often deviate significantly from the final and factors such as draw order can play a very important role. With that in mind, I'm tempted to recommend a look at the Netherlands, who are currently trading at 4.75 to grab a podium finish tonight - the late position and the jury-friendliness of the entry could be enough to propel it to a surprisingly high ranking, despite what I said earlier about its American-ness!

We'll take a closer look at the special markets - e.g. "top Nordic country" - when the final approaches, but bookmaker site Bwin also offers some interesting head-to-heads for the first semi-final. For example, if you think Hungary's late draw and strong rehearsals put it in a good position but you don't want to bet on them to win the semi-final outright, you can get odds for them to beat early-drawn Armenia in the semi (regardless of what then happens in the final) or to come out ahead of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Spain's recently introduced laws on gambling mean I can't access the site to get you the latest odds, but you can click through and see for yourself! The main lesson, anyway, is that there's always a niche market to bet on even if you don't feel like you have a clue what's going to happen generally. :-)

And that's just a brief overview of what's available out there in terms of betting options for tonight's big show. You can find a comprehensive breakdown of all the latest Eurovision betting markets at Oddschecker. Whatever you do and whoever gets your money, have a great night, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

Back in the centre (of nonattention)

After an accidental stroll around Eurovision island we've finally landed in the press centre again. We're waiting for the dressed rehearsal to begin and they are late. Again the security for the press centre is above airport security, wich in one way is very good but in an other way a tad annoying.

Anyhooo. It seems the program has begun so my attention is  now a bit divided between the gleam of my screen and the sparkling on the big screen.

So let's have a look at the third dress rehearsal

Since there wasn't much else to do today, we're now out at the hall to take a look at the rehearsal on the screens in the press centre. We managed to take the wrong turn after getting off bus 9A and ended up walking around ALL of Eurovision Island (it's way bigger that one might think). But the rehearsal is now ten minutes late (and counting) so no harm done.

The rehearsal finally started. First an intro which is badically Emmelie and Only Teardrops in various formats, which seems to go on forever. But eventually the hosts do get on stage, and basically telling us the vital information on how the show and voting works.

Armenia started off with a vocally good performance. Aram looked tired though. Maybe in need of some make up.
Latvia's microphone volumes were all quite off. It seemed as if the other people were louder than the lead singer. Intentional?
Estonian Tanja struggled a bit with the singing, but it might just be that she didn't bother to give it her all. After all, this rehearsal is rather pointless for the singers, as the jury performance is already done.
Sanna was vocally steady, and got a big applause from the press centre. I dom't know why, because she sounded exactly the same as she's done every single time she sang this song.
Iceland performed well and seemed to go down well in the hall. I don't see why many people have this down as a non qualifier.

Then a history book section thing, focusing on hair. They claim Jedward hold the record of the highest hair ever in Eurovision. Really? It doesn't sound like it ought to be true

The Albanian girl has also quite clearly skipped the make up today. That's about all there is to say. The Russian twins have  also not done any styling apart from the fake hair, and are wearing jeans and t-shirts. But vocally better than what I heard yesterday.

We just had a little visitor here in the press centre. 
Hello


Moving on. Dilara is in her dress and hair. Vocally good, but there's some backing vocals that I've not noticed before, who were quite loud.
Ukrainian Marija gave us another no-make up face. I still don't like that they seem to skip the whistling bits. Surely it could be included in the backing track, as it's not a VOICE. Or maybe it's there but we just can't hear it because the sound isn't great in here.

Belgium... Well, it's the same as it always was. And Axel's suit and shoulderpads still make it look like he has really short arms. (Perhaps they're shorter than Jedwards hair? Something for the record book)

I don't really understand this new version of Moldova, nor the hair pulling. But otherwise performed and sung the way it was intended.

The stage does look amazing in the first half of San Marino. If it was about visuals alone, it would sail to the final. Except for when it goes all yellow and Valentina starts doing her signature off-rhythm hip sways. But vocally she's alright.

Why are so many countries hiding their backing singers though? In performances like these, the staging could really gain from having more people visible on stage. Especially as you can clearly HEAR them, just not see them.

Anyway. A new record book segment. "Most silver". The winner is apparently Verka :) (again... Coincidence that it's a well-remembered entry and not something obscure?)

Portugal really comes across as different after so many slow songs. I do think it could quite easily end up quite high in this semi much thanks to standing out so  much. And Suzy does sing it a lot better than she did originally.
Netherlands is hard to predict. It's all very competent on stage, even if maybe a bit dark. But they definitely delivered today. Both wearing black this time.

Montenegro works great vocally, and thanks for SHOWING the backing singers. The staging is beautiful, but it sometimes comes across as if the Girl-Skating-In-Her-Nightie is the main performer, and Sergio just her backup singer.
Last but not least Hungary. Lots of screams from the audience for this. Not sure if it's that appropriate that the girl at the piano keeps showing us her crotch when dancing though, considering what the lyrics are about...

First recap now. They mostly seem to be pretty sensible bits of the songs. Right now they seem to be from today's performance, but I'm told that in the actual show, clips from the jury performance will be used.


The interval act... A modern dance version of The Ugly Duckling. It seems they want to give people a good reason for a toilet break. 

And now we're off to eat something.

Time for Fate to put us in our place.

Though never really meant as an actual prediction, the ESC Nation TV 2014 preview shows have yielded a score for each participant in tonight's semi final. And, as it's always fun (and easy) to look back at events from the comfort of hindsight, we'll post the results here now, so that tonight or tomorrow you can have a snigger about how way off our own opinions were.


Rehearsal 2 - Finalists (Italy & Spain)

Italy

First run - big reaction here for the outfit. Gleaming white cape and a gold/white sequenced dress with a stage floor in matching color. As a bonus she's wearing a Caeser style tiara with leaves covered in gold sequences. Epic! Never mind that the song goes nowhere and she's breathless when she moves , it's a fun show to watch.

Second run - she's now holding her throat as if forcing the vocal chords to play ball. The gold white Roman style floor design is gorgeous! Yes, very shallow of me to notice but there's a ton of cellulite peeking from her very short skirt, which keeps getting scrunched up due to her constant manic dance moves.

Spain 

First run - just Ruth on stage in a beautiful flowing diamond gown with strange cut out black tape around the breasts, which looks like the formation of eyes when it pans out - weird. The high notes are shreaky and it doesn't seem to be coming together as I hoped since I love this song. Let's hope the next run improves on this.

Second run - different camera angles, much better! They're also playing filter games to create some kind of effect I'm not clear about. Ruth's vocals are spot on and stunning! The camera pans out when she starts belting out the big notes which of course creates a great effect. Ruth is covered by a halo of light throughout the last part, some very effective staging here. I hope this is what they go for on Saturday.

Third run - they reverted back to the first run camera effects. It still looks great, but much less "oomph" imho. Girl has some wicked neck veins popping during those high notes. Great rehearsal.

And that's a wrap for today's rehearsals. Apologies for crunching these into 3 posts - due to some Russian virus on the press center laptop that defaults me all the time to Russian sites, I'm forced to use a backup iPad and it restricts the length of text I can utilize. Next blog is the Semi 2 run-through mañana.

The Ruth! The Ruth! Rolling! (and a few more)

Just to show you what kind of treats we get on the stage in Euroclub, here's a few videos



And a bonus. (It *was* an Irish party after all, so what else can you expect than very Irish performances) :)




Rehearsal 2 - Finalists (France & Denmark)

France

The lead is in a tight checkered short sleeve shirt and a yellow tie. Another one is shirtless and in colorful tights and the third is wearing a teeshirt and shorts. All very colorful and fun, but a bit manic.

Second run is the same, lots of running around. The backdrop features a moustache in various flag colors - cute gimmick.

Third run - big sweat stains under the lead's arms. Nothing else to notice here, and I don't see this lighting up the scoreboard.

Denmark

First run - Basim is in a black tux with a loose red bow tie, white socks and shiny dark red shoes. Ah youth, you can see his acne on the close-ups. Very simple backdrop, just a naked lit wall with the focus on the act itself. This will light the hall on fire on Saturday.

Second run - The backing dancers aren't dancing in synch but I guess it's intentional. The camera work for this is a bit strange, too many close ups on Basim and not enough wide shots of the great backers. Something about this seems somewhat disjointed.

Third run - different dance routine, I guess they're testing a new version. This one involves the catwalk, and different (much better) camera shots. During the bridge it's just Basim and the backers in a huddle staring at him. The stage is exploding in light and they just dropped a huge Basim banner with the last verse. ::gasps of displeasure in the press center:: This was a weird rehearsal and I'm not sure what they'll go with.

Rehearsal 2 - Finalists (Germany & UK)

Germany 

Good vocals on the first run, not a lot of movement on stage and the backdrop is simple and shows the band name at various spots on the screen. Cutsies. Ela is wearing a bargain basement jacket and sensible black dress - perfect for a good hike. Not too much excitement for this in the press center, but that's probs more due to the Israeli party hangover.

The third run features party streamers at the beginning which I imagine is what we'll see on Saturday. This is perfectly competent.

UK

First run. Mols is wearing a strange feathery top, great vocals! She's not making too much eye contact and looking around nervously and not smiling. The stage goes dark for the last bridge and there's a beautiful lava lamp kind of backdrop. There are overshots of the gorgeous floor in a paisley design. I'm loving this!

Second run. Now she's smiling, good girl. Missed a note there for a bit and she's miming now. Not sure what's going on. I guess she's saving her voice. And btw, the backing vocalists are wearing black feather shoulder pads to match her gold. They're so good on every run, pitch perfect.

Third run. She's back in form, but not sounding as good as the first run. She seems a bit nervous and is missing eye contact and camera cues. I hope we see first run Molly on Saturday but either way it comes across great on tv.


Tuesday morning. This means semi 1 day!

Attended the rehearsals at the arena yesterday afternoon and after that we grabbed a quick dinner at the apartment just to be able to rush off to the Irish party at the ever so lovely Shamrock Inn irish pub here in Copenhagen. It was supposed to start at 19.30 (Yes I use 24h time, so sue me) and we were ACTUALLY a little early, wich happens to me very rarely. The place was almost full when we got there!? It's obvious the irish are appreciated for atleast their parties. We got to see some nice performances by Carl Espen and Kasey Smith among others.
After partying irish style we were ready for Euroclub and decided to take the bus there and went to the busstop close by. The phone app that predicts busarrivals was sadly mistaken about the 5 minutes it should take for the bus to arrive so after waiting for 45 minutes we got to Vega by other means. I am really starting to question the Danish bussystem after yesterday.

Vega was hosting the Israeli party. Apparantly Israel celebrated their independence day and that means party. Loads and loads of different performances on stage and a buffet of food that made my chefs heart pound a little harder. All in all a very nice night where Mei Finegolds performance really left an impression on me. Pure performance joy! :)

Well, I am off to hang out with my coffeemug some more and then off to the arena for all kinds of shenanigans. See you there!