The first dress rehearsal for the 2011 Eurovision Grand Final took place this afternoon. This gave us an initial opportunity to test how the draw would play out in terms of its impact on each entrant’s chances. I wrote up some early thoughts on this earlier today, expecting that the dress rehearsal would help to clarify these theories.
What mostly became clear was just how much of a curveball the draw – finalised last night, after the second semi-final – has thrown to punters. This is because most of the main contenders and fêted entrants are in the earlier part of the running order, often back-to-back. Many of the outsiders have the usually more favoured later slots.
So, which of the fancied entrants is coming off best in their new contexts? And is anyone from the latter part of the draw jumping out and beginning to look like a contender?
Don’t forget that this was a practice that makes no difference to the result on the big night, and was played to an empty hall. The rehearsal tonight is the one that the juries vote on. Not surprising, then, that show opener Paradise Oskar wasn’t giving it his all.
There was certainly a general feeling in the press room, though, that because ‘Da Da Dam’ is not surrounded by noisy, poppy songs – as it was in the first semi – its impact on viewers might be lessened.
I felt that Dino Merlin was in better form vocally than in last night’s heat, but he was rightly disappointed by another early draw when the number 2 was revealed.
Sure enough, it felt on this first run-through like it was only with Denmark’s ‘A New Tomorrow’, the third song, that the final really gets kicked into gear.
Lithuania seem to be a popular choice for last-place predictions – though no-one seems to have told Evelina Sasenko, who sounded in great from fourth in the running order.
Hungary’s Kati Wolf briefly benefits from being the first uptempo number at five, and her rehearsal was fine.
However, being immediately followed by Jedward does nothing to enhance Kati’s top 10 chances. The Irish duo don’t know how to go at half-throttle and thay showed great energy on stage once more.
But the twins also face the problem of what comes after. Their in-your-face staging is followed by the in-your-face staging of Sweden’s Eric Saade with ‘Popular’. Eric looked and sounded more relaxed today even if number seven isn’t necessarily a lucky draw. They were not using the glass smash this afternoon.
I thought Getter Jaani – eighth to perform, for Estonia – put up her best rehearsal yet. ‘Rockefeller Street’ is somehow looking much less of a struggle than it was earlier in the week, even if it loses a little energy in the middle eight.
The Greek drama of ‘Watch My Dance’ at number nine is a powerful interlude to the frantic pop that comes before. I’m not sure how Loukas Yiorkas appeared to forget the lyrics at one point – there aren’t many of them to remember – but otherwise he nailed the vocals once more, and this felt more like a possible Top 10er than I had previously thought.
Russia’s Alexey Vorobyov, in the tenth slot, said “good to see you again” to the empty auditorium as he worked through ‘Get You’. This felt a little underwhelming, but without the effects and a crowded arena that’s hardly surprising.
At number eleven, the big question remains the televoting appeal of France’s Amaury Vassili, now a sizzling hot favourite at a top price of 13/8 at the time of writing. He performed ‘Sognu’ strongly, as was expected, and coming after Russia and lots of other fast-paced pop clearly does it a lot of favours.
However, one of the most improved rehearsals of the afternoon came from Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi, who followed at 12 in the running order. He largely kept his eyes open this time, and there was a nice relaxed feel that came as a pleasant change after the tense build-up of the French song.
Following a short break, Switzerland’s Anna Rossinelli in thirteenth is going to get rather lost, I fear, especially if viewers only return their concentration for the weak second half of ‘In Love For A While’. A rather tame ending seems to set things nicely up for the UK’s Blue, who are at number 14.
It would help if Blue can bring their top game to proceedings. The sound mix was off this afternoon, the boys were unfortunately back in their ringmasters’ suits, and neither Anthony or Lee were on top form. They will have to step it up a notch for the jury rehearsal tonight.
Still, Moldova at number 15 is also good for the UK. If you want polish, you will hope to get it from Blue, but Zdob si Zdub offer its polar opposite – their brand of energetic anarchy. These two entries are not treading on each other’s toes.
Neither are Germany and Romania in 16 and 17. We go from the darkly-staged sophistication of Lena’s ‘Taken By A Stranger’ to the pearly whites of Hotel FM’s Dave Bryan. Lena is not always a good rehearser, and I felt the overall impression was a little too cool this afternoon.
There’s nothing cool about ‘Change’, but it really stands out as a return to something traditionally Eurovision-y. I’m not sure it will give Romania that much of a boost in terms of final placing, but the draw has worked out well for them.
At 18th in the running order, Austria’s Nadine Beiler gave the same strong performance she has given all week – we learned nothing new here.
I had wondered if she would noticeably overshadow Azerbaijan’s female vocalist Nigar, the weak link in their effort in 19th slot, which has tightened significantly in the markets with a general feeling that it is the big winner from the front-loading of other fancied contenders.
But I didn’t particularly feel this was the case, even though I still find myself wishing they would give Nigar greater help with her vocals – it would give ‘Running Scared’ more oomph. Otherwise, the staging is extremely effective, even without the stunning ‘fiery rain’ effect that viewers will see tomorrow for the climax.
Slovenia’s Maja Keuc will be very grateful to be twentieth to perform out of 25, and she gave another solid rehearsal of ‘No One’. I do wish the backing dancers would bring something a little more original to the staging, as this runs the danger of failing to get noticed in the final even at this late point. I hope not.
Iceland’s Sjonni’s Friends have been seen as a dark horse now that they stand out as the blokey number in a female-dominated final set of songs. I wasn’t feeling that myself on this first rehearsal, but given the backstory of the death of the eponymous Sjonni having written ‘Coming Home’, a surprisingly good finish from 21 cannot be ruled out.
Spain’s Lucia Perez is an even darker horse, according to some, at 22 in the running order. But based on what I saw of a rather average – if fun – Latin-tinged song and dance, I think it’s far more likely to finish in the bottom five than get anywhere near the top five.
That leaves us with Ukraine’s sand gimmick and Mika Newton’s ‘Angel’, which tends to wash over one without much impact either. Still, neighbourly and diaspora support and the 23rd slot should ensure it gets points where you most expect it.
The rehearsal for Serbia’s Nina at 24 was interrupted by a very loud fire alarm in the press centre, so I can’t say much about it except that it looked much as before.
I didn’t think Georgia’s Eldrine were giving it their all from the pimp slot, 25, this afternoon, but they showed last Tuesday that they could pull it out when it mattered most.
In conclusion, if you’re not buying the televote appeal of France’s classical crossover favourite, this looks a wide open contest. The draw is skewed by a more impactful first half, which is welcome news for Amaury Vassili and a real head-scratcher for those of us trying to work through a betting strategy.
And, of course, none of it mattered this afternoon. This evening it’s a different story. I’ll be passing on my impressions of tonight’s jury rehearsal when I write up my pre-final post tomorrow morning.