May 7 Eurovision Rehearsals Summary

There will again be two instalments to today’s blog, because there are two very different halves to the rehearsals.

This morning witnessed the second rehearsals of five more second semi-finalists, topped and tailed by The Adventures of Eric and his Smashing Glass Box for Sweden (8th of 19 to perform in next Thursday’s lineup) and What Dana International Did Next for Israel (12th of 19 – the remaining seven in this heat will have their second run-throughs tomorrow).

This evening, the article will be has been updated with a summary of the first rehearsals for the ‘Big 5’, which include the now hot favourite France’s Amaury Vassili, and his main rival in the betting market, the United Kingdom’s Blue.

I wrote an article after ‘Popular’ won the Swedish national final warning that the very slick production we saw then might not be able to be replicated on the Eurovision stage. That is proving to be the case: there are only three backing dancers; only the back pane of glass is being smashed; and the general look and feel is far more pedestrian than what we saw in Melodifestivalen.

Of course, this impression is enhanced by the fact that Eric is still only going through the motions at the moment – although even that gets him slightly sweaty and out of breath in later run-throughs.

Don’t write this one off, though – ‘Popular’ can and probably will still come together significantly over the next few days.

By contrast, the Cypriot staging is already very effective, with Christos Mylordos and his crew swaying back and forth in boots pinned to the ground. I don’t mind hammer woman’s Herculean efforts either, though I’m still not sure her wailing is adding much to the song.

The main problem with this is that Mylordos is too shy with the camera, especially early on. If someone has a word in his ear about this before Thursday night, they might be in with a squeak of qualifying given what a nice change of pace it is after ‘Popular’.

Bulgaria is much as it was before except Poli is wisely not using the whole of the long catwalk to then just take off a layer of her clothing, but more quickly returning to the main stage to do it there instead. I do think it’s a shame for ‘Na Inat’ that it comes in the middle of three non-English language songs.

The last of these three, Macedonia, now has the backing dancers in fun white and red folk outfits. They manage to effectively inject some life into the staging and song, but I still don’t think it’s enough for qualification.

Israel’s Dana International is wearing a green basket weave outfit that reveals a lot of leg. She struts down the long catwalk to good effect and reaches the central stage in time for the final few lines of ‘Ding Dong’. However, the vocals remain noticeably weak for a very weak song and I’m sticking to my view that this has the feel of a non-qualifier.

Now onto our much-anticipated first look at the ‘Big 5’, starting with the hot favourite.

The French staging is doing everything right. There’s a stunning backdrop of a night sky turning into a thundery sunrise, with extra spotlights and pyros for added effect towards the end of ‘Sognu’. Vassili is staring right down the camera, singing faultlessly when he wants to and it turns out he does have stage presence.

I listed my issues with the song itself when it was first aired. These remain, but based on just this first rehearsal, the staging is doing its utmost to overcome them, and even gave me a few goosebump-y moments. The big unknown remains: will Europe decide it wants a popopera encore next Saturday night?

I have previously commented that a further potential obstacle for France was being followed in the running order by another classically-trained musician, in Italy’s Ralph Gualazzi.

But on the evidence of today, it’s not going to be such a problem. Gualazzi keeps his eyes shut for most of ‘Madness of Love’, never looks at the camera and the backdrop is very low-rent in comparison to Vassili’s. It’s having far less impact as a result.

The good news for fans of Blue was that the UK group put up a highly satisfactory first rehearsal that got better with each run-through (if you’ve been youtubing them, bear in mind you may have been watching an early practice – they became progressively more polished). Vocally they were strong, including Lee, and interacted very well with each other and the camera.

I’m not a huge fan of the visual concept with four boxes projecting images of the band and the song title ‘I Can’ at various points. They seem slightly pointless when you already have the group on stage and a huge backdrop behind them. I wasn’t sold on the suits either. But these are small quibbles in what was a good afternoon’s work from the boys in Blue.

Returning champion Lena also has reason to be pleased with her return to the Eurovision stage for Germany. The visuals for ‘Taken By A Stranger’ are fantastically dark and moody, just like the song. The backdrop is all silver and black, with occasional ‘hall of mirrors’ effects of her silver unitard-clad backing dancers.

Lena wasn’t good in many of the rehearsals before going on to win the contest last year – one of the reasons why I underestimated her chances. She looked utterly professional today, and the vocals were not a problem. The song, as I have written, is not particularly immediate, but it does stand out as different from the rest now that we’ve heard them all.

Last to be seen among the 43 entrants was Spain’s Lucia Perez with the summery number ‘Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao’. This being Spain, we had a feel-good dance routine performed by people dressed in white, and it was all very jolly if unlikely to make a serious dent in the scoreboard next Saturday.

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18 comments to May 7 Eurovision Rehearsals Summary

  • David

    Daniel,
    I’m curious about France – how well do you think the emotions and “goosebumpyness” will translate through the screen? And, do you believe the current shortening on Betfair is justified?

    • Daniel

      I should add that given that a few of my issues with the performance were answered positively today: good visuals; good stage presence; and no apparent damage from Italy, a shortening in price is justified. Though now, of course, it is a very short price.

  • Rob

    Hi Dan,
    I thought the Blue staging was atrocious and detracts from the whole thing. The images of the band and the words ‘I Can’ behind them look cheap. Has this made you reassess Blue’s chances or do you think they still have solid prospects of finishing top 5 and maybe even winning?

    • Daniel

      Hi Rob, it is a slight concern but bear in mind the following: they could decide to ditch them altogether; and even if they don’t, we can assume they will be working properly on the night, and some dry ice won’t make them look so intrusive. I think the most damaging images were of them from the chest up with no clothes on. It was all a bit, “check us out, aren’t we good-looking”.

  • Daniel

    Hi David, I watched Amaury’s soundcheck in the arena (which was impressive) and got back to the press centre to watch the first run-through with the visuals. So it was on the TV feed that I had the goosebump-y moment or two. I went and took anything at 3-1 or over on Betfair, figuring that it would shorten further and I could always hedge if I felt like it. I suppose further rehearsals will give me more of an instinct how universal it could be, and the next one is tomorrow afternoon, so we won’t have long to wait.

  • Andrew

    Hey Dan, so, from the wide angle shots, it seems clear what effect France have set out to achieve – a portentous-looking backdrop for a portentous-sounding song. What I’m struggling to figure out is what effect Blue are hoping to achieve with those screens (leaving aside for the moment what effect they actually do achieve).

    The only thing I can think of is what you touch on in your reply to Rob – the “check us out” theme. Is this the intention? “Look at the four of us, we’re a four-piece boyband, Blue, remember? We used to be famous, us four. Four of us. Boyband. Blue. Here, look at us again”.

    It would have a certain internal logic – the lyrics are shamelessly self-referential, so why not the staging too?

    • Daniel

      Yes Andrew, it’s the kind of thing one would expect at a Blue gig where those attending are fans of the band and want to see that kind of thing. On the Eurovision stage, I’m not so sure it sends out the right message.

  • Luca Brasi

    Dan! I have found it impossible to invest “larger” sums on the Top 4/5/10-markets due to poor market liquidity, markets where I assume you invest the biggest part of your six figure sum every year? You cannot possibly have suceeded to invest anything close to a 6 figure sum to this date on this years Eurovison, right? Is it always like this? Do you have to wait until after the semi-finals to be able to invest “larger” sums on the Top 4/5/10 markets? It’s a shame if that’s the case, since alot of the value will be gone by then and we rehearsal-followers will have lost most of our edge.

    On another note, it would be really interesting to get an insight into your book for ESC 2011, what are your biggest bets this year? I do understand however if you don’t want to share your ideas with us quite yet.

    Cheers,

  • Daniel

    Hi Luca, to answer your first point, the Top 4/5/10 markets only really get going once the semis are out of the way and the draw is known for all participants. Last year I was able to place a six-figure sum of bets in total on the Top 10 market alone on the day of the final. Yes, that does mean some value is gone to reflect what has been seen by rehearsal watchers and by TV viewers watching the semis, but I still found plenty of decent odds on offer and it was my most profitable market.

    I won’t go into the details of my book at present, though it is smaller at this stage by my usual standards. This is because I am less willing to stake my typical amounts in the semi 1 qualification market, which I find very tight and tricky. That may change once I have watched the dress rehearsals.

  • David

    Thanks for sharing your views, Daniel. I have another question, that regards dress rehearsals and jury voting: last year, I seem to remember there weren’t any videos out on the last dress rehearsals the night before the semis/final. Still, those dress rehearsals (as opposed to the live performances) are what the jurys watch when they place their votes. That means that half the points are allocated according to a performance that’s not available to viewers/punters – but I assume it’s still watchable at the site? This assymetric information makes me dubious of placing bets at all after the dress rehearsals. Have I misunderstood the setup here, perhaps?

  • Daniel

    Hi David – you are correct in what you have said. The juries vote based on the second of three dress rehearsals, which will be the evening before the event itself. This performance is not available to viewers or punters around Europe, but is shown at the press centre here in Dusseldorf.

  • David

    Ok! That’s a bit of a cause for concern on my part – but all the more reason to read your reviews here then, I guess 🙂

  • Hi Daniel,

    I’m guessing that you’ve got a close eye on all markets, but I’ve spotted Bwin offering a Turkey vs. Greece match bet (semi final result only, they have a separate market for the same match-up in the final), with Turkey at 2/5 and Greece at 17/10.

    Taking into account draw, staging and relative song quality, I think they’ve called that one totally wrong and the 17/10 is very attractive – what say you?

  • Daniel

    Thanks Nick – I’m in agreement with you on that one. As a favour in return, if you want to pay for your next round of drinks down the local, you can get £100 on at Stan James to win £25 that Armenia will beat, er, Croatia. Duh!

  • justin

    Italy at 4/6 to beat Israel with Stan James doesn’t look like a bad bet either considering Dana is odds against qualifying for the final?Thanks for the Armenia/Croatia tip Daniel.

    • Daniel

      Hi Justin, I assume that bet will only stand if Dana International gets into the final. But still, if she does, she’ll come last or all but last anyway, so that sounds like a good bet to me too.

  • Paul

    Daniel

    Thanks for your excellent coverage of thr rehearsals. Looking forward to your opinions after the dress ones over the next few days and any ‘special’ bets recommendations.
    On Italy the powers that be in Eurovisionland have been trying to get Italy back into the contest for years and will want them to stay in, if only for the money they will pay for the entry. With this in mind do you think there may be a slight persuasion to the juries to give Italy a few more points than they want to make sure Italy’s finish is respectable.

  • Daniel

    Paul, thanks for the kind words and I agree with your final hypothesis. Italy, of course, will make its own decision afterwards with regards future participation, but it must be a boost for the organisers to have them back in.

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