Sunday 13 May 2018

Goodbye, Viszlát & Adeus

Two magical weeks in Portugal have come to an end. I'm happy that Toy won, even if soon enough it will annoy us to no end (not that failing to win would have stopped it - just look at Dancing Lasha Tumbai).

As for next year, for everyone's sake, I really really hope - and this is coming from a Jerusalem native - that Tel Aviv is picked as venue. Jerusalem is simply not suitable for today's Eurovision life, especially during the weekend. Anyone coming to stay for more than a few days, I would recommend staying in Tel Aviv anyway and taking the high-speed train, if they finish building it by then.

Israel is expensive, full of rude people and has no city as beautiful as Lisbon - but it is a unique and diverse part of the world, with great food that caters for every flavour (if you're into bacon, contact me, I know some places) and a very competitive quality of service. Having been among the ~25,000 people in the Israel Calling concert this year, the country can have a fantastic Eurovision buzz when it's into it, and I recommend going if you can afford it. Basically - airBnb is your friend. Uber is not, but there are other taxi and car sharing apps you can install. More on this when the time comes.

(and that's just the breakfast)

Now, let's revisit what I've written here over the fortnight, starting with where I was right:

I was right that Lithuania is qualifying. If you placed a qualification bet based on my rehearsal reports, you are welcome.

I was right that Toy has been the winning candidate all along - winning is about peaking in the right moment, not during rehearsal or even a semifinal. Fuego, though masterfully presented and rightfully earned Cyprus' best placing ever, has never convinced me it's a strong enough song.

I was also right that the calorie count of pasteis de nata is about equal to a casual stroll in the extremely hilly Lisbon. My weight is unchanged.

And what did I get very wrong? Plenty of things, most notably Hungary's potential to win the semifinal, only for them to scrape through it. It was my Deli mistake all over again - non-English Rock songs don't have much appeal outside the fan universe, I guess. And I'm going to make the same mistake in the future, so feel free to remind me.

I was wrong about the stage. It looked good when it mattered, when audience is involved. Well done RTP.

I was also wrong about Lithuania, if you've placed a top 10 bet based on my rehearsal reports, then I deeply apologise.

On behalf of me and my ESC Nation colleagues, thank you all for reading, thank you other fansites for the great atmosphere at the press centre, and thank you EBU and RTP for providing these facilities.

Addio, adieu, auf Wiederseh'n, goodbye!

Haiku #13

Music is feeling
Music is not fireworks
Bak bak bak bak bak

Saturday 12 May 2018

What Sild said

He's always right, so I'll just agree with him I think.

Fiskeprediction Final

The day has come! After a delightful evening at Eurocafé last night, complete with rolling-on-sidewalk-in-gigglefits on our way home, we're feeling a little under the, em, weather today, but soon time to get ready for the big final. An attempt to predict the final result follows below, but be warned, I don't think I've ever been as clueless as this!

1 Cyprus | What the heck... Just a week ago, I thought it'd be lucky to scrape into top 15, and I really am usually not one to get too carried away by improved performances and rehearsals, but here I am, getting carried like there's no tomorrow and considering to grow my hair out.
2 France | Has disappeared a bit in the middle of semi qualifiers, but this should be up there. Jury winner?
3 Israel
4 Hungary | This is just wishful thinking, isn't it?
5 Sweden | Standard Swedish safe result.
6 Ireland | I'm a bit baffled this is 3rd in the betting, but can see it getting pretty good televote support.
7 Germany | Still not at all sold on this, but many others seems to be.
8 Norway
9 Bulgaria
10 Moldova | Refreshing and pure, somehow.
11 Australia | Loving this on the Lisbon dancefloors!
12 Estonia | After upping my expectations of this just before the first semi, I'm now back at thinking it disappears a bit. What's with all the long shots where the dress is just reduced to a lil'dot on the horizon?
13 Czechia | When I watched the recap and this came on, I realised I'd totally forgot it existed. But then they did the bum-wriggle and I giggled and it was back.
14 Lithuania | Not quite getting the massive betting on this, but it should do decently in the end.
15 Italy | Don't really think the staging and graphics work ("Where are they?"), but it's kinda in a niche of its own, so I assume it will get a certain amount of support.
16 Albania | Whereas this really works, with Eugent looking very charming, sweet and engaging throughout. Fear it won't get much but diaspora televotes, but hopefully the juries can help him.
17 Spain | I've had several times this season where I've thought this could really work in the televote, with all the 🧀, but with that draw, I now really doubt it.
18 Austria | One of my absolute favourites this year, but it all disappears a bit, doesn't it? And I wish he had an actual mic!
19 Portugal | Our Airbnb host was not at all keen on this, she said it had 'no emotions, we Portuguese need emotions', and while I personally disagree, I think the general public will be on Airbnb's side, and largely ignore.
20 Ukraine
21 Denmark
22 Serbia | I'm actually more baffled this qualified than Slovenia, but Serbia presumably have a certain amount of automatic points wrapped up, so can't see it going all the way to the bottom.
23 Finland
24 Slovenia | Was it actually the ill-advised and criticised break that did it for her in the end?
25 Netherlands | I refuse to listen to any kinds of arguments about juries voting for quality here. #ByeFelicia
26 United Kingdom | Poor SuRie...

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

There's still time to practice

Come on, you know you want to.

Haiku #12

Jury rehearsal
Don't bother with the reports
Everyone was good

Thursday 10 May 2018

Elin's semi 2 predictions

While helping Yair cook and solving pool cover emergencies with Roger, it's time again to not be naughty and make some predictions!

I think these will be our qualifiers tonight:

Russia (yes, the performance is quite sox, but it's Russia. I think they can send anything and still qualify. Nobody will be happier if that's not true though!)

Yeah yeah, Sweden

More predicting for your amusement

Yes, I only got 5/10 on Tuesday. I KNOW. My hope rather than genuine belief in Croatia and Switzerland was foolish, I admit.

So tonight I will ignore my wishes, and therefore confidently predict these qualifiers, in no particular order:


I know Australia have had some terrible rehearsals, but remember Blanche last year? And even if Jessica is average, she will probably still be better than eight others.

I was tempted to put Russia in there instead of Malta, because Russia. But normality has been suspended I think.

But I do hope I'm wrong about Malta - and Australia, Norway and Denmark. And Georgia. And Latvia.

And Slovenia.

Fiskeprediction Semi 2

My first 24 hours in Lisbon mainly consisted of getting a very dirty and smelly cat out of our apartment (a three-floor old townhouse with lots of rooms and corners have MILLIONS of hiding places), but there was also some time for a slight sunburn for lunch and some kickass dancing at Eurocafé last night. The music was awesome (we kept saying "Right, after this one we'll head home!", but not a chance when the next one is Bandido or #We got love etc etc.

This is not my cat.

In a few hours it's back on the rosé for tonight's big show, where I'm going to be in the hall for the first time since 2011! So here's my prediction for it, can I improve from the 8/10 I managed on Tuesday?

1 Hungary | Yeah yeah fire.
2 Norway | Urk. Roger describes my exact feelings about this here.
3 Moldova | All the door-opening didn't get captured as well as I'd expected on the rehearsal clip I've seen, but I've loved this since it came out, and it's a much needed and well performed pile of fun in this line-up.
4 Sweden | This seems completely forgotten, and I'll admit I find it a bit soulless, but damn, it's slick and effective.
5 Ukraine | Yeah yeah fire.
6 Australia | Pure joy ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
7 Denmark | There's a certain room in my apartment that adores this, so I might have to be careful what I say... Though to be fair, I actually don't really dislike this, I just find it all a bit dull, and not at all as anthemic and grand as they want it to be. And good god, that man is uncharismatic.
8 Montenegro | He's dressed like a fish, but what else are people going to vote for here, seriously?
9 Georgia | Today's surprise? I don't really have much faith in it, but if there's something that's going to suddenly shine through and work, it could well be this.
10 Netherlands | I'm going to be sooooo happy when I'm wrong with this, and San Marino is announced as the tenth qualifier instead! Worst song since Samson.
11 Romania | I love this a lot, but sadly think it's doomed. Would be a great shame if this is to be their first every non-qualifier.
12 Latvia | I'm expecting about 2 televote points for this, but maybe the juries will manage to sneak it through?
13 Poland | Raise your hand if you hate that hat 🙋‍
14 Malta | So much stuff, so much Malta.
15 Serbia | I want licorice now...
16 Slovenia | Such a shame they couldn't give her anything better than this. She's giving it her all, and is fab at it, but it's still hvala ne. They're just asking for it with that title.
17 Lol Marino | If they're holding up an Obinna Metu-sign, I'm voting for it.
18 Russia | Can it happen...? I believe it can.

Betfair update - and we have a horse race!

Betfair, which is probably the leading indicator of movement in the odds, has Israel closing in on Norway and now sharing a joint second, while Cyprus holds on to first:
  • Cyprus - 3.35
  • Norway - 7 (trend: drifting)
  • Israel - 7 (trend: shortening)
  • France - 10 (trend: drifting)
  • Lithuania - 12.5 (trend: shortening)

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Haiku #11

Netta can love pelos dois
So you don't need to

S2 Jury Show

This will be a rolling blog, each country in running order, so please refresh and scroll to update.

Norway - great camera shots for this, Rybak is in top form and making the most of it. Again, no trace of winner material for me, there's no wow here. Great opener nonetheless.

Romania - let's see if it's less of a train wreck than earlier, I'm assuming not.Well at least they got rid of the face paint, but that's like taking the lipstick off a corpse..not gonna make a whole lot of difference in the grand scheme of things. Nothing here is connecting or cohesive in any way, I can't see this in the top 10 unless eight others eat some bad seafood by tomorrow.

Serbia -  I thought their dress rehearsal went very well and this seems to be going ok as well, although vocally it's hitting some rough patches in the beginning. Going a bit off the rails now, the vocals are getting gradually worse and that angry bald man looks menacing on the close ups, but at least he's hitting his notes. Unfortunately, I think this is another ExYu ESC casualty.

San Marino -  robot placard reads Sometimes. Got time to fetch coffee from the vending machine - thanks SM.

Denmark -  their earlier rehearsal was great, expecting the same now. Yup, this is just as good as before, the staging and vocals here are superb. The audience are really into this too and will probs even more so tomorrow, much more than for any of the earlier entries. Definite qualifier.

Russia -  basically no one here sees this as qualifying, at least no one without relatives in Russia. They removed the dress fabric from the mike, but otherwise the same as earlier. Hardly any close ups on Julia and she does none of the heavy lifting w/the vocals. Ouch, her voice is trailing off with the closing vocals.

Commercial Break

Moldova - still superb, still fun, still qualifying.Can't emphasize enough how amazing this looks on screen.

Netherlands - much better camera shots than earlier, lots of close ups on Waylon who is in the same perfect vocals as before. He is such a natural performer, and his vocals are unbelievably great here. I think the juries will love this, even with the questionable dancing parts.

Australia -  Jessica needs to be as bubbly and vocally fantastic as earlier. No more red shoes! She's vocally on point as before and having a blast...gurl got her groove back. Yas! She is living every second of this and nice round of applause in the PC too to close it out.

Georgia - the guy who starts off looks and sounds as if he's about to burst in tears..can't explain this any other way. It a love or hate song, not much middle ground here. Vocally fine and nice camera shots, and can see this having an audience of fans.

Poland -  we didn't see much of this earlier due to technical booboos so I hope I get a better impression with this run. The lead singer borrowed my grandmother's necklace, or any grandmother's really. And indeed this is much better than the little I saw earlier, but the vocals are a bit patchy.

Malta -  this is kitchen sink territory, they are literally throwing every visual trick at this. It looks too messy to me, but vocally there's no issue here and she's a good performer. Oh, there's a woman in a white Spanx onesie, must've missed that earlier.

Commercial Break

Hungary - this was orgasmic perfection earlier, expecting the same here. And indeed it is. This will be tomorrow's Lithuania in terms of an odds sleeper shooting up on everyone's radar once all is said and done. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in ESC before, he's even more intense than earlier..may actually win this semi imho.

Latvia - doing what she needs to do, but unfortunately it's probably swallowed up by Hungary's intensity. I don't envy whoever comes on after Hungary on Saturday (Norway, please :-p)

Sweden - same as always, not missing a beat.

Montenegro -  same as before and not going anywhere. This wardrobe will make one interesting yard sale once they return home.

Slovenia - along with Hungary, this was my biggest surprise from the earlier rehearsal. The staging is so good, and I'm mega enjoying every second of this. I WANT THIS TO Q!

Ukraine -  always loved this and I expect this go to be just as amazing as earlier. The camera work has improved here as it has with several of the other acts, and Melovin is giving another perfect combo of vocal and visual. Juries gonna lap this up!

My qualifiers based on this run: Norway, Denmark, Moldova, Netherlands, Australia, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Slovenia, Ukraine 

S2 Dress Rehearsal + France/Germany/Italy

This will be a rolling blog, each country in running order, so please refresh and scroll to update.

Betfair odds right now:
  • Cyprus - 4.1
  • Norway - 5.1
  • Israel - 6.8
  • France - 8
  • Sweden - 15.5
  • Lithuania - 17
Norway - scribbly on-screen stuff from the get go. He looks completely disheveled, as if he has no make-up on, or applied a comb, but it sounds great.Camera work is a mess, the shots are all over the place and so far it doesn't sound or look like something that justifies its odds. As our pal Jonas put it, it's all very JESC.

Romania - guys with white hospital outfits with masks on their necks are alternating as the lady murders any hint of an on-tune note. The mask dudes now face each other and have strange paint on their faces, as if they were on the losing side of a paintball game. The lead is going around the stage touching and singing to mannequins, and now she's screaming. To paraphrase AlRy, this is how you murder a song, then do it again and again for 3 minutes. Anyone saying Azerbaijan?

Serbia -  this looks lovely from the offset, and sounds nice too with good camera work focusing on the 3 girls. A bald man with a beard is now scolding them :-(
This looks much better than it sounds, and I wouldn't rule it out by any stretch, although there are too many wide-shots, as in the previous semi.

San Marino - nice light work in the beginning of this, and  a robot is holding a sign saying Size Doesn't Matter, clearly misreading the demo. The rap starts and it's obviously downhill from here. Next.

Denmark - yikes..a very extreme close-up on his face from the onset then panning out to the sails. Sounds excellent, great vocals all over, and now the vikings are marching. They're over-earnest in a Bulgarian kind of way, but that's really the only thing I can point to that's on the downside. Did I mention that vocally this is amazing? They even sorted out the snow, making it more blizzard-like as they asked for. Best rehearsal yet, can't see this not making it to Saturday.

Russia - her mike stand is covered in the same fabric as her dress - coolski. Vocally, her backers are pulling every second of this, you can't even hear her in the chorus. Decent camera work but Julia is looking at the wrong camera in the close ups so it's a bit weird. A shirtless guy is running on the outer parts of the stage, and is joined by the girl. They don't show Julia at all for the last 45 seconds of this. Not entirely horrible all in all.

Moldova - manic, crazy, AWESOME!! The cube routine is brilliant and the camera shots for this are spot on. Vocally it's also perfect, they're completely in sync. Moldova are clearly the cool kid of ESC, and they're earning every second of it here. Can't fault this, and if there's any justice should be top 10 on Saturday.

Netherlands -  oops, the music failed to start, and we have a technical break until they figure things out. Here we go.Good start, oozing country charm with the four of them in close up on camera. Waylon follows every second of the camera that's on him, and then the breakdance starts and me-no-get-it. Vocally this is great but that dance routine kills off any country feeling it has. Dancing aside, though, this was excellent to listen to.

Australia -  same dress, same shoes. Eh, we'll put that aside for now. Very good vocals to start off, she's a stage animal and owning every second of it. There are great dark shots of just a back light on her, and then it pans out to her in full light - very effective. The vocals are fantastic and she's beaming with every note, with some good pyro to close it. Her backing vocalists are great too and this is the best rehearsal we've seen of it (little personal yay from me).

Georgia -  sorry, I can't. Don't know what to make of this, it's really really strange on screen. They're singing in turns and the camera jumps from one to the other, and then they join in unison in the last third. Pyro curtain to close it out and ....yeah.

Poland - the screen froze in their postcard, and we didn't see the beginning of it. And we got cut off again, and if the first 7 seconds we heard are anything to go by, we're the lucky ones. We're back on and it's terribly off key, and messy camera shots...welcome to Macedonia part 2. Got cut off again in what can be considered the musical equivalence of euthanasia.

Malta -  the feed in the press center is awful and we missed the first minute of Malta. I got a glimpse of lasers, shadow games, an on-screen globe, and painted gloves. She looks like Morticia Addams and I'm expecting someone to kiss her up the sleeve. The feed keeps cutting off so I don't really know what to make of it. It seemed pretty cool from what I could tell and her vocals were good.

Hungary - oh, this is good! He's screaming and running to the bridge, then going for a stroll onto the outer stage without missing a note (hear that, Netta?). Pyro and fire everywhere, which makes Cyprus look like a game of matches. The guy is running everywhere and screaming his lungs out, have no idea what he's saying but it doesn't matter. THIS.IS.AMAZING!

Latvia - not sure anyone will pay attention to Latvia after that shot of quadruple espresso with a topping of vodka and Red Bull. The stage is in all red to match her outfit, but it's not going to stand out in any way, I'm afraid. The first time I can point to the downside of a draw, given what it follows. Laura is stunning as is her dress, but that's all I can mention about this.

More technical issues and we've stopped once more.Green Room lady is improvising and is hilarious. Can she please host the whole thing?

Sweden - we skipped Sweden(?!!?). On to Montenegro.

Montenegro - oh right, the 80's wedding ceremony.'s Liberace singing in Montenegrin and being straight. His backing singers are in glittery bride dresses of sorts and doing strange hand gestures and seem to be mourning something. Now the backing singers are forming a circle and taking turns touching his shoulder. He looks genuinely sad and has turned his back to the audience. You won't want to miss this tomorrow and it will be your only chance to see it.

Slovenia -  similar routine to Cyprus as in skimpy suggestive clothing and sultry dancing. This comes across very well on screen with good camera shots, and Lea is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. That "oh my, the music stopped" bit is fantastic!! Never saw this coming but it's so so good! Every second of it.

Ukraine - Melovin is starting inside an open coffin that opens up and spits him out. His voice is incredible and the camera work is also on point for this. Loving the eye thing and Poldark/Jack Sparrow costume, and then he tosses his jacket and makes his way up a ladder that bursts out in flames. This is epic, wowzies, and what a way to close a semi!!

Sweden - same as MF, nothing here is off key or lacking in any way, but maybe we've expected these things from Sweden for so long that our impression scale is saturated? Dunno. Anyway, it's slick, smooth, vocally pitch perfect with the optimal blend of backing vocals. Towards the end the camera pans out and we see his box thing, which kind of breaks the magic of it, but that's a small detail. Can't fault this and it's an obvious qualifier + top 10.

Summation: this semi is BONKERS and in terms of pure entertainment and what you love/want/need/ in terms of ESC kitchen sink stuff, it's leagues over the first semi. 

What to expect post entries: same intermission Esclopedia routine and that strange David Attenborough bit. Madam Monsieur will sing Amar pelos dois in French, Michael Schulte will sing Fly on the Wings of Love, and the Italian guys will sing Volare..of course.

France - they start in the center of the stage engulfed in smoke and then the camera is all her as she goes to the outer stage where he eventually joins her. Vocally it's fantastic and exactly as it sounds in the studio version. The final hand part is very effective and they part ways to each side of the outer stage to get the audience participating from every part of the hall. Not getting winner vibes but it's lovely to watch and hear.

Germany - the staging for this is incredible! The screen starts with the words of the lyrics in animation, then childhood stills of him and his Dad (I think). His vocals are superb, he's connecting with the camera for every second of this and there are very few "wasted" wide shots. The staging/shooting/lighting/sound of this are as close to perfect as I could imagine, and can see this lapping up votes from everywhere. How this isn't in contention for a win in the odds is beyond me.

Italy - more lyrics, this time on screen and in different languages and different fonts. The stage is all red throughout and they are vocally great. Towards the last bridge they part ways and go to each bridge to end it up. That last high pitch is a bit off but still, another fantastic and effective performance that I wasn't expecting.

Post S1 thoughts, pre Semi 2 rehearsal musings

Well that was a fun packed evening last night in the arena, and I had a blast attending Semi 1. I shouldn't be surprised by now that what we experience in the arena is nothing like what you eventually see on TV, because in the arena it was all Netta, and also a lot of love for Eleni. But since Fuego is a late bloomer, the audience didn't really sing along to it like they did with Toy, which created a magical atmosphere.

But it seemed little of that made its way onto the screen and when I watched them afterwards on YT, both songs came across as messy and disjointed, especially Israel. It baffles me that much of the great camera work and staging that was accomplished during the dress rehearsal and jury show on Monday was nowhere to be seen on the screen last night for so many of the entries. Perhaps the production team didn't account for the fact that the fan zone and golden circle are almost level with the stage so every hoisting of every flag, banner, hammer & baby gets in the way of the main camera shots, and are a real distraction.
The biggest benefactor of this mess was probably Ieva who stayed on the floor most of the song and that forced the cameras to bypass the flags and nonsense, and when she got up to move it was on the bridge and that's elevated enough to avoid the distractions. I doubt anything can be done for tomorrow and Saturday other than banning all flags and props in the fan areas, but the people standing there create such colour and atmosphere that the producers will want to keep.
The circle crowd also deserve some compensation for having their hair singed during the bonfire that is Cyprus. Seriously, the flames are all over every part of that stage.

I was fascinated watching the preparations on stage while the postcards are on display and it's incredible to see how fast it all moves, and to see how some of the artists whip the crowd into a frenzy with their gestures just before they start. Most amusing was watching Elina getting off her platform after the performance (the dress surrounds it, so you don't see it) and being stripped of that tent, as she skips off stage barefoot wearing the top part of her outfit and a pair of shorts. Also, the commercial breaks aren't for assembling the technical acts, because the stage work begins only once the postcards are on, which makes sense given that Netta (for example) likely won't be on following a commercial break next time she's on stage so they have to know how to put it all together in the same amount of time as the other acts.

So I'll be blogging the S2 dress rehearsal and jury show, but take into account that, if last night is any indication, much of what we'll see today on screen won't necessarily be what you'll see tomorrow night.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Haiku #10

Filomena rocks
Yeah yeah, a quali-fire
Luna moon me down

More semi 1 predictions

I add myself to the line of people you're allowed to laugh at tomorrow, but Roger told me it was naughty not to predict, so here we go!

Czech Republic
Yeah yeah, fire

No, I don't know either

But I'm going to write a list of ten countries who might be in the final on Saturday.

Czech Republic

You may laugh at me tomorrow, thank-you.

Fiskeprediction Semi 1

I've been following rehearsals from Bergen and (very hot and sunny!) Lewisham so far this year, so be aware that I have no further magical insight than most of you. All of the below is merely based on whatever others have been saying, some short, official rehearsal clips (i've completely avoided full videos filmed with Nokia 3210 cameras from the back of the hall and such), and a little peek at betting odds fluctuations - but mainly simply my own head and heart and belly and weak bones. To be fair, my predictions in the past have often been better more correct before rehearsals start than after following rehearsals on-site and getting caught in various bubbles and group-thinking, so maybe I'm more to be trusted than some other years...?

Probably not, but hey ho.

We'll obvs not know the full results of tonight's semi until after the final, but I'll attempt a prediction of the complete ranking anyway, maybe msot of all to try to sort out my own thoughts a bit.

1 Estonia | I've liked this a lot since the first time I heard it (and still do), but have never had any faith in it being a winner. Yet here we are... It just feels like while most other favourites have had various hiccups or little things not quite coming together on stage, this seems to be very slick and exactly how it should be, and obviously standing out a mile, much thanks to the dress. I tend to insist you need a really strong song to swwep up the votes, but sometimes the visuals can be enough too, provided the song is decent enough and fits as a soundtrack.
2 Israel | Maybe not quite as excellent as the preview video, but hey, a few steps down from that is still pretty kickass.
3 Cyprus | I was very hopeful when Eleni was announced, as I had hopes for another "Τι Κοιτάς", but I was quite disappointed when the song came out. Promising build-up, but just no chorus at all. The disappointment has faded a bit thanks to this.
4 Czechia | Never quite saw this as a contender for the top spot, but should do decently well.
5 Austria | I fear the televoters will forget this one a bit, so not really hopeful of it doing much come Saturday (even though it deserves it!), but I'm expecting more than enough jury support tonight to make it qualify.
6 Ireland | Sweet, gentle and genuine near the end tends to go well, and the performance of this actually seems to work too. How un-Irish :-o
7 Bulgaria | I really don't understand why they needed to drag up all these people nobody know to fight over the attention in this. Nor do I understand who is going to vote massively for it. But it can't just all be hype, can it...?
8 Greece | No, it can't do a "1944", it doesn't have anything in common with it.
9 Belarus | Anyone else thinking this can make it, or is it just me? It's obviously ridiculous, but I think there might be an audience for this in certain parts of the continent. I also actually think it's a great song, so I might be a bit biased here...
10 Finland | I've been swapping this and Azerbaijan about eleventy-five times now, so I just have to settle for one of them. This is slightly stronger, slightly more "edgy", and a bit later in the draw...
11 Azerbaijan | ...while this is slightly more Azerbaijan, which kinda should trump the above, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
12 Lithuania | It has gained some momentum during rehearsals, and I do think it's quite lovely, but something has to go...
13 Armenia | I tend to forget this exists, and with an Armenian diaspora that's starting to seem slightly less interested, maybe they will too?
14 Albania | I really hope I'm wrong here - maaaayyybe the jury will appreciate his professionalism? Pwettypwease...? 🤞
15 Croatia | At least they're not pouring sand in their faces on stage, that's worth a few points.
16 Belgium | I always found this one 'nice', but rather chanceless. Glad to see most others have come to their senses too.
17 Switzerland | Raise your hand if you hate that hat 🙋‍
18 Macedonia | I looooove this, and I am a firm believer in the fact that great things generally will do great, but no rule without exceptions, I suppose... 😔
19 Iceland | It's just too obvious to predict it last, but then sometimes very obvious things happen.

Decently confident of the first 5-6 or so here, but after that, anything can happen! We're in for a fun and dramatic night!

Predicting Semi 1

Wow, this is tough. Now, I actually don't feel Semi 1 is as loaded as many others seem to think, and that's reflected in my struggles to predict.

I think there are four absolutely nailed on qualifiers, and those are almost certainly the Top 4 too, head and shoulders above the competition, and that's Czech Republic, Israel, Estonia and Cyprus.

At the other end, I only have three absolute not-qualifiers (and that's where much of the feeling about this being a strong semi comes from) - Iceland, Albania and Macedonia are all completely chanceless in this field.

Other than those four at the top though, I really struggle to find other entries that feel like clear qualifiers - in ranking them all in likely finishing order, I certainly struggled to find anything that feels worthy of fifth place. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Top 4 take the vast majority of the big points, leaving the other qualification places a bit of a crapshoot.

I've ended up choosing three entries that feel very likely to qualify, though probably at the lower end of the Top 10, and that's Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Armenia. Azerbaijan feel very on the edge, and X My Heart would probably struggle if it came from anywhere else. Bulgaria feels safer, because we know how much Bulgaria care this year, and they're surely determined to make sure their entry qualifies. And Armenia is strong and competent, with a late draw that should garner sufficient votes.

Going back to the bottom end, I'm also eliminating Croatia - despite strong rehearsals, I just don't feel the song is there. The same goes for Switzerland, whose odds have shortened dramatically in the last 48 hours, but are still coming with a mediocre song and a huge slice of blandness. I also don't really see who votes for Belgium (either juries or televoters) unless they suddenly manage to inject a whole slice of atmosphere into the performance tonight.

That leaves six songs in the middle, fighting for three qualifying places - that's Lithuania, Belarus, Austria, Greece, Finland and Ireland. I'm going out on a limb and calling Ireland as the most likely qualifier of these, and I also think there's potential for Top 5 or so in the semi if they get everything right. At the other end, I think Belarus is the least likely, with a performance likely to alienate juries. I've been betting against Lithuania all season, and I'm still not really convinced, but for now I'm going to allow the opinions of my colleagues in the press centre to sway me into calling it a qualifier. Which leaves one place.

Greece fails to excite me, and I don't really see who votes for it outside its immediate target audience of neighbours, diaspora, jury authenticity-afficionados and fans who pine for the 90s. But then the Norwegian Adresse Lisboa panel called it as their favourite. Or rather, joint favourite with Austria, which I've always found very bland and ordinary, with a performer sorely lacking in any of the personality needed to lift the song. And then there's Finland, which I've always found incredibly hard to call - more than anything else it's really appealing to the relatively new spectrum of the Eurovision audience, the X Factor/Twitter side of fandom, and what I don't know is how much of this there really is, especially outside of a few Western countries. Saara could come as high as sixth tonight, but the fan in me that's watched loud female up-tempo fan-favourites crash out time and again in the noughties isn't convinced.

So, my ranking:

1. Israel
2. Cyprus
3. Estonia
4. Czech Republic

5. Armenia
6. Ireland
7. Bulgaria
8. Azerbaijan
9. Lithuania
10. Greece

11. Finland
12. Austria
13. Belarus
14. Switzerland
15. Croatia

16. Belgium
17. Albania
18. Macedonia
19. Iceland

Monday 7 May 2018

Haiku #9

Many nervous acts
Search hotels in Limassol
The chicken is limp

S1 Jury Show

Top 7 Betfair odds right now, which project real movement since the earlier rehearsal:
  • Israel - 3.4 (drifting)
  • Estonia - 7.8 (shortening)
  • Norway - 8
  • Cyprus - 8.8 (shortening)
  • France - 14 
  • Bulgaria  - 15.5 (drifting)
  • Czech - 16.5 (drifting)
Israel, Bulgaria and Czech have the most to 'prove' tonight. Let's see how well they do with 50% of the vote on the line.

Hosts still screaming and the usual pre-show banter. "Good evening Europe and good morning Australia".

Azerbaijan - same patchy vocals, nice glitter mascara on the closeups. Basically the same as before, good opener, competent but nothing special. Actually the vocals are even worse than before, must be nerves.Very cool on-screen sparkles on the last verse.

Iceland - Ari is painting on an egg in his aww postcard. Hopefully it open up his chances a bit. Lots of close-ups here and he makes great eye contact. He's squeezing everything he can from this lemon.Vocally it's perfect and some applause when he throws the mic stand, then some great wide shots in an all yellow stage for the high notes - which he nails. Great performance all in all.

Albania -the start has a blue hue on his face, no real stage lighting which fits perfectly until he hits those first big notes, then the stage goes all red. His vocals once again are fantastic, and he's owning every second of this song. The language sounds beautiful, and he shows his emotions in every note. Can you tell I'm gaga over this? First huge applause in the PC.

Belgium - hasn't been a good run so far, let's see if she can Blanche this. She's standing in front of the fan circle, with flags all around - seems a bit distracting. Vocally, much better than before.It looks a bit strange seeing her amidst the fan circle, they're basically at the same height of the stage so it doesn't visually fit for me. She's much more engaging here but I'm not holding out too much hope. This should be on the stage, not the fan area.

Czech -huge welcome in the hall even before he starts. No backpack here, but it shows up later. The camera work here is fantastic! He's still not moving at all, until the three of them twerk for the last bit.He joins the dancers for the last routine, huge applause in the hall and PC.

Lithuania - such a contrast from the Czech song, the crowd applauds during her first verse and she's basically whispering. Absolutely lovely, with echoes in the chorus. Now we're taking a stroll on the bridge and her vocals are getting a tad ouchies.This isn't as amazing as the earlier rehearsal but it's still beautifully done.

**Commercial break**

Israel -  Netta needs to own this to keep up her odds advantage. Netta's postcard is all looper so good hype preparation work. Huge welcome for her in the hall. The mike is huge and seems to cover her mouth on the closeups, not sure I noticed this before.This seems messy to me, ugh, and not sure what the juries will make of it. Netta is completely breathy and sounding vocally off, but she's oozing fun. Obvious Q, but will need a lot of work for Saturday. Gurl opened a huge door imo.

Belarus - the rose is still taking a walkabout, and man & teeth are making the most of it. The rose stabbed him in the hand, in another yet show of gore which I don't really get. Weird entry.

Estonia - nothing to add here. Still beautifully executed, and vocally perfect, except the lower notes where she gets a bit La Voix. Doesn't seem as good as it was earlier, I think a lot of them are nervous. Some more patchy vocals, as the song progresses. Yeah, not entirely convinced this will nail the juries although biggest applause so far in the PC.

Bulgaria - more nervous vocals, the mic seems too fine tuned, it's picking up every breath for these songs. Sorry to say but it's still as much a vocal train wreck as before, and the Sia lady is still miming. Probably the worst performance of the run so far :-(

FYR Macedonia - ouch. Completely flat from the offset. Nothing to add here.

Croatia - finally, a vocally perfect performance. This could be a sleeper qualifier, she's stunning, the camera loves her and she owns every second of this. The camera work is messy and too many wide shots which distracts, but it's the only negative thing I can say about this. Another big applause in the PC, something may be brewing here with this.

**Commercial break** 

Austria - pre-observation: he should wear his postcard track suit instead of his on-stage ensemble. Another perfect performance, not missing a note and looking great. Full of R&B/gospel realness with his fantastic backing vocalists. He's fidgeting with his mic pack so maybe he's not happy with something..but it doesn't show. Flawless, can't point at anything here that needs improvement, seems top 5 material.

Greece - blue hand is back! She sounds a bit nervous but her backing vocalists are doing a good job of lifting her in these parts. I don't think anyone will get the blue hand reference, she's not creating any effect with it, and she's not moving much in the last build-up.The previous rehearsal seemed better, both vocally and visually.

Finland -  some screaming to start off the song as she gets off the wheel. As with many others before her, she's not as good as the previous run, some vocal shakiness throughout, and lots of unnecessary screaming..Will probably Q but wouldn't be shocked if juries push it down.

Armenia - exactly as before. Like with Austria, this dude is completely focused on what he's doing, it's just him and he's living every note. The juries should lap this up. Update..he botched the last part and missed some of the high notes, which took a bit away from the initial impression.

Switzerland - I want those abs. She's making good use of the bridge and it looks very good with people all around. Other than that, it's exactly as before: competent and well delivered (except that "anyone who has been hurt" bit of saccharine), but not sure if that's enough here - I'm betting it ain't.

Ireland - whatisface is wearing shorts in his postcard. Tip: stop skipping leg days in the gym. On to the song, big applause in the hall before he starts.Just as before, every bit of this comes across as earnest and heartfelt. There's a great shot behind the dancers with the audience holding a glowy thing? Really lovely :-)

Cyprus - the hype seems to have reached the audience, they're into this from the get go. Flawless, sexy, engaging. Everything that needs to be done is done here, will score big.

People are coming back from the arena, reporting a very sparse showing of audience and almost no reaction during or after the songs. Any/all noise coming from the fan circles. Anyhoo, join us on the MessageBoard for more fun.

S1 Dress Rehearsal

Following on the Press Center feed, will try to keep up with what's going on, b/c it's all very fast :-p

 Azerbaijan - she's as flat as a pancake in the verses (nerves?), not the best camera shots but it comes together nicely in the chorus

Iceland - he's sweet and earnest and giving it his all. Nice wides hots shots when the last part comes on

Albania - amazing! Fantastic vocals, great camera work and he's owning every second of it. That little self clap he has going during the song is very effective.

Belgium - ugh..not good at all. Vocally competent but she's not connecting to anything really. Weird camera work for this one.

Czech - wowzies! This is amazing, he's such a pro at this but something's lacking in the post-accident static staging. And the backpack is back. Towards the end he gets more athletic and it comes across fantastically. Best camera work so far.

Lithuania - she's on the floor, looking gorgeous and connecting to the camera. Lots of close ups on her and very little wide shots until she gets up and stats walking on the bridge. Looks beautiful on the screen. As cheesy as the end is with him and her, it so works.

Commercial break before Israel. Green room banter: the crazy lady is talking to the white sofas, small talk with the audience and they have props they share with the artists. The home audience will be pleased they're not seeing this.
Now the two hosts are on the bridge and are promoting the app and hashtag.

Israel - the intro is REALLY weird, not very effective imo.Shit. They stopped her mid rehearsal :-( Starting over.  Netta is a pro, though so she should be fine with it. Starting fresh with postcard.

Israel pt 2 -lots of close ups on her face, much better intro now! Her expressions are so effective and great camera work on them all the time. The dancers are so good, interacting a lot with Netta and more great camera work. Not really hearing the backing vocalists tho. Loads of pyro, crazy lights, bubbles wide shots at the end. This is working! (but not everyone here agrees...)

Belarus - a love song to a rose. Those teeth should be a Disney ride. Little red hearts fluttering on the screen towards the last chorus, and you see a bed of roses in a gushing flesh wound on his back. Hide the kiddies, for a multitude of reasons.

Estonia - no dress till the first "La forza". Vocally perfect and it looks absolutely magical on screen. More effective camera work and the dress does all the work during the boring verses. We may be looking at the winner here imho.

Bulgaria - a lot of beards and manic camera shots, can't really tell them apart. i think they're introducing themselves to each other with these ABBA-esque shots. The Sia is just standing there till they ask her to join in. Comes across a bit amateruristic to me, trying to invent the wheel with the ever changing camera shots. Messy vocals in the last bit, and a big meh in the press center.

FYR Macedonia - god, she's so beautiful! They're making her go over the beginning, so that makes it 4 songs instead of 3. World record! And they've stopped her for a second time, they're pre-recording the beginning for some reason. Oh wait, she's backstage for that part #GotIt
Proper try - lots and lots of circular shots of her with the usual boring blue stage lighting. Nice spiraling lights just before song #2 kicks in. She switched outfits for that part mid song and she's wearing short shorts for the last bit. She's not even bothering with singing the last bit, and it's obv not going to go anywhere but it's fun to watch.

Croatia - disclaimer: this is the first time I'm hearing the full song. Another stunning beauty and she's connecting very well with the camera. It gives me Israel-Rita vibes with her movements with her hand gestures and being alone on stage. Oooo..wind machine too.Very competent delivery over all.

Another commercial break and we're back to the Green Room..."we're here with the Czech Republicans...can I call you Mick? What's inside the backpack?". If you could see the collective eyebrow raise in the PC...

Austria - opens with a reeeeal close up on his lovely face, then the shot goes down to show him on up on the platform. Lots of shots from under him that way, not sure how effective it is (I'm guessing it is). Same outfit as before and when the lights flicker on his pants it looks as if he's happy to see us...I doubt it's intentional and that anyone but me will notice. This is done so well, not sure why people were down on it. The outfit isn't great for sure, but he's such a good performer.

Greece - let's see if the worries were warranted. They stopped her and she's just standing there all alone, I hope none of this nonsense goes on tonight, it must be unsettling for the artists. :-(
Here we go: no blue hand yet (does it show up later?) and lots of wind, very good backing vocals. She looks stunning in that while dress on a dark stage. It seems very static during the second half of the song but lots of smoke on the floor with yellow lights. Now there are lots of pyros and it looks a bit awkward and out of place for a ballad. Still no blue hand. Solid rehearsal all in all but no one other than the Greeks here are applauding this, so make of it as you will.

Finland - nice camera work, showing her spiraling like a Dervish at the first verse. Vocally perfect, and she looks fierce in those knee-high boots. The crystal structure adds absolutely nothing and looks like a cheap Legoland steal. Not enough closeups of Saara during the song but comes together nicely at the end with shooting pyros from the lego thing and ceiling.

Armenia - he's a very somber and serious man, and he lives every emotion of this song on his face. He needs some concealer for the dark circles under his eyes (you don't learn nothing from having an office next to the Mac HQ ). Vocally perfection and the stage goes from blue to red midway, then to white for the crazy last high notes. The backing singers are taking over this too much for my taste but an excellent rehearsal.

Switzerland - loving the Stevie Nicks (spelling?) hat and mic-handkerchief combo. She goes quickly to the bridge, which btw looks really cool on camera as an interesting stage prop. She's now waving one of those emergency flares and it's another cool effect, but overall this isn't going anywhere, at least not in this wonderful lineup.

Ireland - first shots are just on him, and it looks great because he's selling this.  Then it pans out to him, the pianist and lamp post. Now we see the two guys on bridge holding hands (Russians, this is where you look away). His voice is so beautiful, and as we near the end the dancers come on again sitting on the bench while the snow falls. This is magical, and please God let it qualify because it deserves to!

Cyprus - huge applause all over the press center, there's clearly a buzz here before the first note.This is so slick and well done. Every camera shot sells this, it doesn't waste shots on the audience or panorama. The on-screen smoke effects (twice) are great and it matches the red/pink/purple lighting beautifully. We close it with pyros and this performance is everything! Can't be anything but an overall  top 3 in this semi.

Some overall thoughts:
The hosts are a mess, lots of usual screaming and silly banter that no one will volunteer a chuckle at.
Best overall imo were Estonia, Albania, Cyprus, Israel, Czech, Ireland, Austria, Lithuania. Finland also deserve a mention but it wasn't as good as the others above, and same goes for Armenia.
Impossible to predict who will qualify, but there will be several who deserve to and won't. Not sure that can be said about the next semi.

Warning: during intermission they'll be showing a medley of ESC 2017 artists singing Amar pelos dois...even Manel.

Thank you for following, join us on the MessageBoard for post-analysis and our usual fun discussions :-)

Haiku #8

Portuguese duet
First first first first and second
Roll out the carpet

Sunday 6 May 2018

Second rehearsal: Germany to Italy

End of Week One

Many thank you for reading and commenting! Elin and myself are off to other parts of Portugal now, Jeremy will be with you for the remaining events with some fresh perspectives.


These guys are true professionals. Looks fantastic inside the arena, without those silly distracting words in screen (second goosebump moment of the year for me). Unlike Serbia, they haven't been listening to us.


The red trainer shoes are still there. First shot is really effective, with both of them staring to the camera (it looks like they're standing next to each other, but in fact he's behind her). This time we don't see Monsieur picking up the microphone before the hand bit.
We'll have to wait to see this with audience to know how effective this is.


Well, this is just so so so good (except the lyrics, and the hair). Germany is back on track for doing things right.


We meant to bring you the full run this morning, but we had to deal with our main site being down (hosting company is in the UK - just as well we missed their rehearsal!)

Sunday morning

Hello - we're currently having problems with our main website, but are working to fix it!

We're also moving house today, so there won't be the usual updates on this blog. But here's Pasha Cat to keep you entertained.

Saturday 5 May 2018

Haiku #7

Fish scales leopard skin
Many party voices now
Ne ne ne não não

Favourite rundown

Now that I've seen them all, here's what I think of the current top 6 favourites to win's changes:

1. Israel

This drifted after the first rehearsal by doing exactly what should be done in a first rehearsal and shortened after the second rehearsal by doing exactly what should be done in a second rehearsal. People are weird. I don't think the colour mix (orange/pink dress and red background) is ideal, but the cameras give plenty of attention to the best asset of this entry: Netta's expressions. Right now it feels that its bookie position is justified, but we'll know better on Tuesday.

2. Norway

There seems to be a buzz around here for this song (and for him), and he's doing everything right so far, assuming he'll beat the cold by then. But will the professional juries, many of them songwriters, appreciate being told how to do their job?

3. Estonia

This really improved for me watching the rehearsal (I'm not sure what they're doing different, it's the same dress) and the ESC Nation team has been humming it all over the narrow alleys of Alfama. But I mustn't forget the first impression of the song, and it's not boding well for it.

4. Czech Republic

There seems to be a new and stronger than ever buzz around this, under the assumption that he'll defy his doctor's orders and give his best in the final. I still think the routine is a bit messy and the song a bit too weak to make it though.

5. France

This combines what the last two winners had: The sad-happy song with a modern club backing track of 1944, and Salvador's clever use of the audience for the full effect. Plus a really, really good song. I fear that Émilie's charisma isn't big enough to win this, especially when she's up against someone like Netta.

6. Cyprus

OK, they're doing the best out of that song and voice, but it's still that song and that voice. Winner? Really? Are people new?

Second rehearsal: Sweden to Ukraine


Super effective on screen again. Less so inside the arena, because some of the visuals are intended for the overhead camera shot. Also, it smells like Chinese food in here. #ProhibitedItemsScandal


Still doing what I hoped they wouldn't. If I were to write something nice about this, there's a really nice shot of Lea & co with the audience behind them near the end. But it takes a long time to get there.


The fish scale jacket and trainer shoes are still there. Vanja sings well when he wants to, but at parts he just doesn't bother. It's hard to tell if he's taking himself (and his song) seriously.


Yeah, still the same well-rehearsed routine.


There are gondolas going outside the arena, so we went on one of them. Really nice view of the bay, round trip is €5.90. Much recommended.

Second rehearsal: Poland to Latvia




Music stopped after 20 seconds, now we're hearing "I have time to go to the toilet?". Properly started after less than a minute, so I guess it's a no. A similar act to what we've seen. In the arena, this is electrifying and I finally got my first goosebumps of the year with the pyro during the bridge (am I that superficial - or was it that good?)


The on-screen heart is now about where Christabelle's liver is, still not anatomically correct but less disturbing than in the mouth. In the arena, the LED shower and laser show is spectacular, audience is in for a treat. Dancer now appears in the shower much later than in the first rehearsal, which was a good decision I think. A good rehearsal for Malta, but it would be better without the pyro.


More bad vocals. Either everyone partied late last night, or you should warn your non-fan guests on Thursday. Can crowd energy save this?

Second rehearsal: Russia to Georgia


Small improvements on the camera angles, but they still look like it's their first time on TV. Think of this, only with a better song and better vocals:


The dress is still here. Still too many camera switches (at some part of the song, every time the drum beats), and some ouch notes there. I still really like it, but their best hope is that juries are as forgiving to Australian vocals as they were last year.

The Netherlands

I still don't like the song, the routine, or anything made of leopard, but here's a few things it has going for it:

  1. Waylon's voice
  2. Waylon's eyes
  3. The six packs on some of the dancers


Didn't improve, because it didn't need to. People loved it.


Watching this in the arena, in which the acoustics made everything sound good so far, but not this. More focus on the three backing singers this time, and there's an on-screen exploding snow effect during the first chorus. Three people applauded. Julia is rolled out with her volcano as the Moldovan prop rolls in.

I won't wake

Last night did not go well. Food ordered at 20:30 and arrived at 22:00, bill took another hour. This country has a pace of its own. Then I got an urgent message from the Belgian press that I left a mouse and a sock at the press centre. Oops.

Friday 4 May 2018

Haiku #6

Wörter, parole
Justice for Valentina
Please explain your song

First rehearsal: Italy and France


Pre-opinion: I got hooked on the snippet, the last times it happened were with Molitva and Heroes. This is as promising as it gets when it comes to winning chances, but there's still plenty of ways this can go wrong (including the stale NF staging).

First run-through: Black stage, black tight suits, red guitar, red shoes (that only reveal when the dry ice fades). I think it's a different backing track to what we've heard so far. For the Mercy Mercy bit the stage turns red and they go to the catwalk and do the hand thing, picturing this with an audience that does the same this could work really well.

Second run without fog. A much better staging than the NF, Madame actually looks at the camera for a start. Not sure it's enough to win this, but I'm hopeful.

I've had enough of black and red though. Seriously.

Last run through, this time the fog is back and blue light is projected on it (the sea?). Hurrah, another colour. They may win now.


Pre-opinion: This is one of the more powerful songs, keeping in mind that the magic from Sanremo can easily be lost with the wrong staging.

First run: We have lyrics on screen. Lots of them, in translation (but in more colours and overlaying than the preview video - some letters are made of images). Very very red stage.

Second run: They each walk a different bridge (during the "col sorriso di un bambino" bit) and meet for the ending in the middle of the catwalk. They're both great performers (as we knew) but the lyrics keep distracting me (which language is this? And this? And this? Was that Danish or Norwegian? Arabic or Persian? Hey I know this one, it's my language. Oh, Ermal is going waaaaaaahhh)

First rehearsal: UK, Spain, Germany


Pre-opinion: This one actively annoys me, which is good news for Germany: Better some emotion than no opinion whatsoever as I had for their recently failed songs. And for every hater, there's a lover or two. So this could make an impact.

First run-through: Michael in complete darkness, yellow-ish projections start at the first chorus. Parts of the lyrics, family pictures (not his), a road and a home. Michael in good voice. Projections go crazy near the end with his body throwing shadows in spirals, and then it's red, and damn, I'm starting to like this.

Second run: Still looking and sounding effective. The black-and-yellow road projection may remind you of the 1991 Belgian national private final stage:


Pre-opinion: One of the strongest melodies this year, but the hyperglycemic performances we've seen so far might turn people away. Especially now that Lithuania does sugar so much better.

First run-through: No pianos. They start out standing in two different time zones (very Waterfall) in a dark stage, then getting close and holding hands. Amaia in white, Alfred in burgundy. Not much happens, apart from them touching each other in different angles.

To give you an idea of their choreography, this is how they move about on stage:

And from about 2:00 they're in each other's arms until the end.

United Kingdom

Pre-opinion: This stood out in the UK final as the only confident performance and memorable song. It won't be so easy when the competition level is 100 times stronger. Hoping for a full blown storm effect with sprinkles in the arena and everything.

First run-through: SuRie is inside a dead whale skeleton made of LED and sharp angles. This looks really cool. Backing singers are off-stage, but they're really loud in the mix.

Second run: We have dry ice, and it looks like the whale skeleton is floating on a cloud. This is all very symmetrical, with the thing in the centre of the stage and SuRie in front of its centre - fans of symmetry will love this. She sings well but looks a bit lonely.

Pyro run: I only saw a bit of pyro during the last chorus, almost like a birthday cake firework.

Good afternoon

I went to see Portugal (the country) and missed Portugal (the song). I'm in love with Lisbon, but my feet don't share that feeling. They cobblestone anything and everything, even inside the arena(!)

First rehearsal: Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany


I am on the team of lovers of this song. I was a proud member of that team through the first part of this rehearsal too. However, the change of graphics after a while (going from cartoon-y illustrations of words from the lyrics, to psychedelic white/red and black patterns) made it look tacky, I'm afraid. Still love the song, but I'm hoping they will try out different visual endings and go for something else.

After the rest of the runs I'm even less convinced when it comes to the graphics.


Amaia is in a plain white trouser-suit and half white, half glittery shoes. Alfred has been talking to the Icelandic designer, and gone for a wine-red suit with a little miniature map in gold on one of the sleeves. Visually there are no major "special effects", they are rightly focusing on the two cuties on stage, who are looking at each other and holding each other.

The camera crew have some more rehearsing to do, but this is still looking good despite those few minor mistakes. 

Third, last run and the camera work was good too!

United Kingdom

SuRie is up on a platform in a white creation with very flared legs. She's in a tunnel of blinking squares as well, shifting between pink, purple, blue and turquoise. Yair has joined me, and I'm happy that;
1. he is here.
2. he is the one making skeleton associations today.

I like how this looks, dry ice, a tunnel and sparkler looking pyro in the end is a good combination. The song is too anonymous for me though. 


Cláudia is in her (or someone else's) grandmothers over sized well washed nightie, showing the contours of her black bra and trousers/tights. She sings a little differently compared to how I have heard the song before in the studio version and from the NF, staying on the notes longer. I like that change!

The backingsinger is in black and turnes up unexpectedly, unless you're expecting her to turn up :)

Time for first rehearsals again, so we are kicked out of the arena and now waiting for the break to be over. Stay tuned, Portugal is next in line!

Meanwhile, in the Serbian press conference, the designer is being held accountable for the change of costumes. However, she did mention that some people, especially the bloggers at ESCnation, liked the liquorice worms so much that the delegation insisted on keeping some of it. Thank you Serbian delegation for reading our blog and taking our advice!

Liquorice worms in the hair.

Second rehearsal: Romania to Denmark


Sounds and looks exactly the same to me. I will run over to the arena to see if the fake snow (which will probably still be a part of this performance, at least in the last run) is more convincing "in person"!

There was no fake snow this time. No real snow either. Thank you Rasmussen for reading our blog and taking our advice!

The song/performance is powerful from inside the arena. Writing press is allowed in at the very back of the hall, but there was still a good view from there. If you have tickets for the back rows for next week you will still be able to see the show well!

San Marino

The famous Robot Nr. 4 is also my favourite, now presenting a sign saying "This is just a rehearsal", and a bit later, the sign "Justice for Valentina!", flashes by, which about 80% of the press centre found hilarious, yours truly included. Vocally, Jessika is struggling in all the runs today.

Outfits have changed. Jessika is in a short red glittery lace dress today, Jenifer also has different clothes compared to what we saw earlier this week. She is wearing a white sports bra looking top, white flighty trousers and a pink see through rain coat looking creation.


Oh no. The Serbian backing dancers/singers are no longer dressed in liquorice worms! The tops of the dresses are now completely black instead, with a discrete pattern. The fabric/design in a too bulky if you ask me. Sounding and looking the same apart from that.


Romania sounds and looks very similar to the previous rehearsals. However, we need some hair Product to make all the Little baby hairs that are now standing right up, behave. Unless it's the look they're going for, who knows, it might the the start of a new trend!?

Second rehearsal: Armenia to Norway


Alexander apparently has the flu (according to sources around the press centre), which shows. He looks tired and sweaty as from a fever. He does still put out a lot of energy in his performance, so as long as the flu doesn't get any worse, I'm sure it's nothing that more make up won't fix.

The microphones are still on during the time between the runs, in the first break, Alexander was "trying to find the left one"... In the second break he seems eager to sing again, asking "Can we try it NOW?".

He stayed in key, but you could tell he had to struggle to hit the higher notes, especially during the last run through. Time for Alexander to get back to the hotel and rest, I think! And time for lunch for the rest of us. I'll be back in an hour.


The fans/press in the arena are cheering for Cyprus during set up, making our desk at the press centre giggle. As confident and over the top as before. For the on-screen "dragon in the knees effects" they are still trying different things. First run had the red fire balls at her knee level, for the second run there were yellow flames starting from her waist (and a bit higher than that during the third run). I think the latter version looked better.

The crew is now taking a few minutes to fix microphones, before Norway is on. The microphones are still on, I'll let you know if they accidentally say something interesting!


There was a slight problem with Ryan's microphone for the first couple of seconds. I could not spot any crew members this time though! Second run: the sound/microphone problem was fixed as well.


The ZiBBZ are sounding good today. The performance is super similar from the first rehearsal round, with the woman ZiBBZ standing on the bass drum at the end of the song.


The ratio between shots of the planks and shots of Sevak seems to have changed slightly, we now get more close ups of him. This makes it feel a bit more personal, which is never a bad idea.

Good morning everyone!

Today I'll be your voice from the press centre/arena for the first part of the day. Yair also wants to see Portugal in day time! Like Yair did yesterday, I will focus on any news or changes from what we saw at the first rehearsals.

I went with Roger to visit Sintra yesterday, which was stunning. If you come to Lisbon and spend more than just a few Days, I definitely recommend a visit!

View from the Queen's terrace at Pena Palace, Sintra.

Thursday 3 May 2018

Haiku #5

Magic rose petals
Blue hand amid beams of light
Lost and still not found

Second rehearsal: Macedonia to Finland


The I ain't scared part was so high pitched that only winged chipmunks could hear it. Was this intended? (answer: still don't know, but it kept happening in the next runs). Saara herself is in good vocals, the colour scheme stands out in this semi, but the backwards fall in the end is still not symmetrical (which annoys my pseudo-OCD to no end)


So, no prop. It's just her in a sea of blue. Her hand is blue too, as if she's been playing with gouache. But some of the smoke and light effects look really nice. How does this sound? No idea, I watch the first run in the arena and it was full of loud Greek fans. Back in the press centre for the next two runs, there's some ouch notes there near the end.


Stopped the first two runs during the first chorus because of technical issues ("the rope was in front of my legs"). Third run and Cesár still not looking comfortable for some reason, there's also a diagonal split screen effect that feels out of place. This looked better in the first rehearsal. More technical issues, this time with the lift, and they stop again. A full run, finally, but there are still camera issues, and he is seen releasing his own cable. Clearly there is some work to do.


There's some kind of smudge camera effect, not sure it's intended (update: it's not). This comes off as professional after Macedonia, but I'm very sleepy during this, as is much of the press centre.


It may not be the usual Macedonian car crash, but it's still all a bit unprofessional, with some Barbara Dexism going on with the backing singers and Marija's post-change outfit. Lost is very much the right word here I'm afraid.

Second rehearsal: Lithuania to Bulgaria


This is very much a performance made for TV, in the arena it's just dark figures on a dark stage. There's a lot of video effects happening, including three of the male singers merging into one, like a real life game of 2048. This sounds fine, although I'm not sure someone watching this for the first time will get what's going on.


Elina is looking stunning and sounding confident. For those of you with tickets to higher seats in the arena, this will be a spectacle, because unlike most acts that look tiny, the ice cream dress you can actually see. Also the sight of how they set up the thing and take it apart in 3 seconds. €60,000 well spent.


The one we've all waited for. Once again the rose that pierces through Alekseev's hand is pristine, despite what we saw coming out of the crossbow clearly losing some petals along the way. What is the magic.


We have soap bubbles!

Besides that, they seem to have worked out the fake looper sound at the start and it sounds good. Pyro geysers at the first chorus are not necessary in my opinion (but don't damage this too much). Best part: Side shot on the catwalk with the backing singers emerging behind Netta:

I'm sold, but then I've always thought everything in life needs a Yaz Bitti and soap bubbles.

Press Centre is showing Czech conference, so we're watching this in the arena. Ieva now sings the last sentence in English, although there's a bit of Lithuanian before that. Back to finishing in Lithuanian in the next run, then full English in the last. In the arena it's a bit dull, but on screen it's gorgeous and I can see this in the top 10 on Saturday with the right draw.

Second rehearsal: Azerbaijan to Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Miki has stopped the music twice because his mic stand is too wobbly. It's pretty obvious he's been to a trauma (this was no publicity stunt) and he's careful not to angle his back more than 3° or so, but there's some routine there. He leaves the stand and walks about a bit, even doing the floss dance with the backpack. Still some potential to look good when he's allowing himself to move.


Changes in the first shot (we see her arm in the beam of light, which later reveals her striking eyes). A good change, I think, as it draws my attention. It gets a bit dull after that and Sennek really likes showing her back to the camera. To be fair - I would too if I had hair like that.


Thankfully, Ari has survived the car crash and he's alright. Sadly, his jacket is intact as well.

Some mic issues (crew gave them Belgium's microphones), but still the same good vocals and smiles from Ari, backing choir slowly joining him to form a line of unity, togetherness and world peace.


Eugent is once again giving it all, I was inside the arena for the first runthrough and I think my glasses cracked. This is still sounding great, although I find him clapping along to himself a bit silly (or a tribute to Marion Rung?)

We now hear the postcard music during the rollovers, it's a mix of Portuguese mandolin and the violin intro Nekonečná Pieseň.


A more polished version of what we've seen. Sparkle on-screen effects work really well here. Chorus sounding great, but she's a bit weak during the verses.

Albania is next because Iceland crashed their car.


Today it's just me (Elin went to see what Portugal looks like during day time), since you already know most of the details, from now we'll mostly focus on what's new.

Wednesday 2 May 2018

Haiku #4

Beetle piano
Wearing your heart on your face
Don't stop the music

First rehearsal: Slovenia and Ukraine


Pre-opinion: I mostly remember the eye, the burning structure and Melovin's brave attempt at 'English', the song itself hasn't left much impression. Rather certain they have someting to sell to make it to the final though.

First runthrough: Help! He's been tied to a cocoon by a giant spider. But then the thing (which is actually a piano) releases him and helps him down. But he decides to come back to the piano, sudden tempo change, now it's a piano ballad, picks back up in the last chorus. Fire on the stairs leading to the piano.

Second run: They're really playing on his vampire looks and try to make this look creepy, and it works quite well. The change of tempo near the end almost makes it seem like the music stopped, but maybe I'm just paranoid after Slovenia.

Since I don't have good words to explain what the first scene looks like, this is him inside the spider prey/cocoon/coffin/beetle:

Last run: Wind machine made his hair stick awkwardly to his forehead. He fixes it going up the stairs. No pyro at all, stairs must have run out of gas. Bottom line: This is very Ukraine in Eurovision, make of it what you will.


Pre-opinion: She's one of the best singers in here, it's a cool song and yet it does very little to engage non-Slovenian viewers. I have it down as least likely to qualify, unless they do something super spectacular.

First run-through: Blue stage with a bit of pink projections on the back (pinker than the hair). About the same routine as the NF, but making use of the outer ring, which looks nice. Music dies half-way, Lea is quite fun dealing with it. And we're back. Last chorus in Portuguese (the Syllable Nazi in me itches)

Second run: Music 'died' again (So, scripted. Barei says hey). Feels a bit silly and too long without music. Otherwise, good use of the stage again, especially the crossing the bridge and walking around the ring part.

Third run: Vocals are good, there's a hidden backing singer in the pre-chorus. The fake malfunction is still weird and the Portuguese last chorus ('gada não não) sounds like she's saying "got it now now". Lea, why why?