Tonight I'm having the pleasure of watching and blogging about what we used to call the jury rehearsal for semi-final one.
Of course this year the importance of this rehearsal is slightly less dramatic. But backup juries will still be watching and voting. Who knows, tomorrow the televote will fail dramatically all over Europe and what happens tonight will turn out to be very important!
Jonas already blogged about the afternoon rehearsal. In case you missed it, go read it, and also be aware that BBC and EBU already announced they're not sticking to the alternative way of announcing the qualifiers, with all of them on stage. So, if they're going to rehearse that part tonight, it will be different from this afternoon and more like what we're used to.
Also don't forget that Germany, France and Italy will perform tonight as well. We're kicking off at 21:00 ESC Nation time, which is 8.00 p.m. in Liverpool (and 19:00 Reykjavík time, just saying).
And we're off, right in time. BBC already posted the opening video on their channel so if you want a preview it's here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0fm3z8r
The sound on this feed is extremely bad I must say, so it will be hard to judge how the artists are really sounding. The volume goes constantly up and down and the view is also very pixelated at times.
Julia, who doesn't know her, one of our hosts, is now singing in Ukrainian.
Not sure if it's the bad sound, but our hosts know how to shout. After saying the obligatory good night and good morning and some words in Ukrainian they explain why we're here and not in Ukraine.
Instead of the static list of countries with numbers we see pictures of all artists with flags. But it's all gone pretty quickly.
Oh, we still get to see the old-fashioned list with numbers later anyway. Hannah makes a joke about speaking French I didn't quite catch. Maybe tomorrow.
1. 🇳🇴 Norway
Alessandra sounds terrible! But so does everything so far. So it's probably not her fault and hopefully totally fixed tomorrow on tv. Having said that the high note's sound bad note can possibly not be blaimed on the stream. That was a bit off. Anyway nothing really surprising here visually. We've all seen this before I guess. Dark staging, lots of blue and gold towards the end.
2. 🇲🇹 Malta
First props of the night are cardboard Destiny, Fabrizio and Ira Losco. And there's a red car. They move from scene to scene through cardboard walls. Very Friend of A Friend in a way. Crowth loves it. It all looks a tiny bit messy, but also quite energetic. They're making the best of this I guess. There's also some text/animations on screen but they're not overdoing it.
3. 🇷🇸 Serbia
Starting off lying on the bed thing. The light is pretty bright and you can hardly see Luke. But it's fixed after the 'Hello?' part. I keep on pressing the volume up and down buttons because the stream changes volume every ten seconds, very annoying :-( Visually this is all not too different from the Serbian final. Halfway we're getting on screen gameplay animations.
At the end of the Serbian entry we see the Latvian guys on screen standing by to enter the stage.
4. 🇱🇻 Latvia
This starts off looking like a video with the big stage lights and quick shots. When the chorus kicks in it's more like a concert staging. Lots of cheers here as well from the audience. I may be biased as I'm a big fan of this song, but, apart from the bad sound, it looks pretty slick and it got a huge applause, best so far if the volume button is not deceiving me. Stage colours are mostly black and gold.
Small break after Latvia, indeed involving a rap part with references to Valentina Monetta and Måneskin and the rest passed me by a little. After the rap part a fake Cheryl Baker (let's call her Cheryl Faker) makes an appearance next to a typical British phone booth. It's not a very long break though.
yay, seems like they sort of fixed the sound a bit, fingers crossed
5. 🇵🇹 Portugal
I think Mimicat did a little Bettina Soriat after her first chorus. It's all very red. Halfway the song, during the slow break, Mimi walks down the catwalk which lights up in red, what else. They finish it altogether on the satellite stage. Again not too different from what we've seen before.
Again we see the next contestants waiting, but it seems to be a bit random when we get to see those.
There's a sudden eurovision.tv promotion after the Irish postcards which looks unplanned. Did they break a camera again? Alesha handles it professionally though, as if it were planned.
Oh, we're now getting a ESC history video. So still no Wild Youth. Instead we see Jedward, La Foureira, Salvador Sobral, Scooch and others. Oh, there's Chanel at last!
6. 🇮🇪 Ireland
No postcard, since we already had it, so Alesha just shouts 'make some noise for Ireland' and they start.
They're clearly having earpiece issues and the singer (sorry forgot his name) looks very nervous and scared. Tajci style he visits all band members while singing. Before heading to the satellite stage where there's some (attempts at) engagement with the audience. For the last chorus there's lot of pyro's. To be fair, it looks better than I (we all?) expected. Sound is terrible but that may not be a real issue, just the stream.
7. 🇭🇷 Croatia
It's a mess, but that's nothing new. The problem with this song I think is that it takes way too long to get to the strong part. I'm getting most of all Leto Svet vibes from this performance I'm afraid, whereas I always thought it was a surefire televote qualifier. Hardly any audience reaction either.
8. 🇨🇭 Switzerland
Nice classy staging with blue and white lights featuring prominently. Remo sells this not so spectacular song the best he can. Later we also get lots of red lights and white smoke. And some pyros falling on the ground, not sure if that was planned? I don't understand the Sertabereneresque ribbons, but they don't hurt the performance too much.
9. 🇮🇱 Israel
Despite the bad sound quality of the stream, I think there's nothing wrong with Noa's vocals. Oh, judged too soon, in the second chorus there are some serious glitches. But all in all this staging looks very well thought out. Visually spectacular. The dance part though looks a bit as if belonging to a different song. Then we suddenly get to learn we need corn and it's suddenly suddenly suddenly finished. But yeah, good performance I think.
10. 🇲🇩 Moldova
No eyeballs for Switzerland but there's a scary eye in the backdrop for Pasha. At least in the beginning. Flute player is alone on the satellite stage but later joined by Pasha and the two female dancers. At one moment the backdrop looks like we're back on the Turin stage with a broken sun. Hard to summarize this performance, more happening on stage than in the song.
We get another break by Julia and shouty Hannah. And we still don't know what kind of video we will get. So it's a blue screen here.
After that Alesha enthousiastically announces Sweden and we get to see Loreen waiting to get on stage before her postcard starts.
11. 🇸🇪 Sweden
Just like in MF / Baku it's all filmed like a (widescreen/lowscreen) music video. No shots of the surrounding of Loreen's grill at all. There was a camera error halway, but really a split second. Hard to judge her vocals but I think it's totally fine. And no glitches like with Noa. At one point Loreen gets oxymated a bit in the smoke. But maybe that's intended. At least no slowflakes in sight this time. Great applause obviously.
We then get a billboard trailer for what's to come next. Alesha then quickly announces Azerbaijan, so yes, there is a bit of extra time to get the grill back backstage but it goes rather quickly.
12. 🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
Starting off in black and white, with split screens until the song itself starts. Like you've seen they are standing on a tiny broken-heart stage. Stage colours are bright yellow and purple and other bright colours, making a nice change from what we've seen before which was all pretty dark (except Malta). We get more split screen moments but with some of them containing just half a Turan or Tural, so that probably needs to be fixed still. Vocally I'm not totally sure about this. Audience seem to love it though!
13. 🇨🇿 Czechia
A performance that grabs your attention from the first note, well done for that. The six girls as you've seen are all in pink on a mainly white coloured stage. At one point they walk in line holding their tails walking towards to satellite stage. The song may not be for everyone, but yes, this looks impressive. Again, not sure about the sound, because the stream got worse at this point. Another huge cheer from the audience.
14. 🇳🇱 Netherlands
In the postcard the country seems to be called The Netherlands for a moment but in the graphics they thankfully dropped the 'The'. Dion starts of in what sounds like a low key so the switch to the higher pitch sounded a bit weird. It looks like two people completely doing their own thing at some points, and then suddenly they seem to notice they're both on the same stage. The 'Goodbye Old Life' change is very effective on screen though. I have an impression this got an even bigger cheer from the audience than Czechia! But it may be the ever changing volume.
The cheers Käärijä gets before even cha chaing a note are even louder though.
15. 🇫🇮 Finland
Like expected there's a lot happening on stage. But the stream went terrible soundwise so it all sounded very underwhelming, but that may not be representative at all for how it sounds tomorrow. There's a nice shot where Käärijä's pink dancers seem to fly through the hall. That looked odd but cool. For the rest, you'll see for yourselves tomorrow. The stage turns green at one point for the schlager part and later we get all rainbowy. Not a huge applause I could hear surprisingly, but again I blame it on the abominable sound of this stream.
Recap time, as usual with shots from the artists in the green room. They all seem to be here still for real, with flags and all.
First impression on who grew and who shrunk in my estimation:
growers: Latvia, Ireland, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Malta
shrinkers: Norway, Serbia, Croatia (and a bit Finland)
just confused: Netherlands, Moldova
Tomorrow the ESC Nation team including myself will post their qualifier prediction but I'd say Norway may be unexpectedly in danger a bit there. And I can't see myself putting Croatia among those ten either.
But let's continue, there's some more performances to follow, some competing, but first an interval by Rebecca Fergusson and Alyosha. They sing 'Ordinary World' (I think that's the title?) from Duran Duran and it sounds a bit off at times (but again, almost everything does tonight). Generally a nice and impressive performance with a lot of flags and in the end of course the stage turning blue and yellow.
After that we get another recap without green room shots.
Then it's time for a Rita Ora medley of her best love songs including a new song. I'm not familiar with her so I can't tell you which one is the new one. Okay in hindsight I guess it wasn't 'Praise You'.
Followed by, as already covered by Jonas, the lookback to 2003 and UK/raine ESC history in general. After that it's time to close to televote. In a very shouty way.
The music you hear whenever there is a break reminds me of the music used in 2005 which was obviously inspired by Wild Dances.
We then get an interview with Timur including footage from him commentating in 2022 from a bunker in Ukraine. And then there's a fake Dustin the Turkey and the Q or NQ game. As Jonas described earlier today. Of course there's Måns because well, it's Eurovision and BBC, but also Filomena Cautela, quite randomly, though I don't complain. And there's a second reminder tonight that Anna Bergendahl never made it to an ESC final.
The artists are still in the green room and Noa and Käärijä try to be finnomenal. Oh and there's also The Busker.
At that point clearly we start to deviate from what we're going to see tomorrow as crew members get on stage announcing the three auto-finalists of tonight starting with France. La Zarra is lifted and cheered on while that happens. Again no postcard.
Looks very effective for what it tries to do but I feel like that on itself is a bit too many times done before. I'm not a fan, maybe I'm biased. Vocally it wasn't bad but also not excellent. But of course it doesn't really matter tonight. During the 'Grande France' part the stage lights up in the French colours. Which, as a reminder, are the same as in the flag emoji.
We don't get to see a postcard, but nevertheless it takes quite some time to set this up it seems. Stream sound is all over the place now. So it sounds awful, but maybe it's not just the stream. All in all, it doesn't really seem to connect at all or engange the crowth. It feels a bit like Blind Channel from Wish. No, this is not going to do much better for Germany than what we're used to by now I'm afraid.
A very static opening focusing on Marco's face. In the background we see guys jumping a trampoline, but only occasionally and very small in the background. The hall is full of white lights. Effective enough staging but I think the trampoline guys don't add much. Flawless I think but again probably not giving it all.
Acts are now told to get back to the green room, so we're probably going to get back to the actual rehearsal of tomorrow's show. We see Martin Österdahl. We haven't seen interviews with La Zarra, LOTL and Marco though, which usually would be part of the show, but maybe not this year?
Ah, we're getting pre-recorded 'interviews' with tonight's Big Three, or more like, them randomly answering questions from fans it seems. I still feel it is a bit strange they get this extra attention the other artists don't get. After this, pretty boring, pre-recorded video they also get a personal (but thankfully very short) interview with Alesha followed by the usual one-minute preview. The artists are replaced by stand-ins though so tomorrow the interviews may be a bit longer.
We also get a small look forward to semi 2 mentioning all the intervals and the other Big Three by name. Totally ignoring the sixteen contestants that it's actually about ...
But yes, it's qualifier time. Only Julia and Hannah are on stage, thankfully. And they're good to go now. To be fair the green room only has stand-in artists too.
And tonight's fake qualifiers are: Azerbaijan, Ireland, Switzerland, Czechia, Malta, (no interview break here apparently), Israel, Netherlands, Croatia, Portugal and ....... Norway!
So sorry guys, Finland and Sweden both out :-(
lol @ camera's still showing the excited Irish delegation (well, their flag) that already qualified. Also the split-screen idea seems to be dropped. It all looks totally like all the years before.
After that we get the usual recap of the ten qualifiers, and that's it for tonight!