It was difficult to draw too many hard and fast conclusions from a rehearsal bedevilled by technical problems. With the draw and participants decided only last night, this first full run-through of the final is a more rough and ready affair than its semi-final equivalents. Anyway, these were my impressions as it progressed.
Ukraine’s camera angles are as tight as ever, though I think Mariya is wisely saving her vocals for tonight. Poor running man came crashing out of the wheel and landed on his arse near the climax. Meanwhile, Teo is clearly relishing his chance to perform in the final but the draw kills any small chance Belarus had of having an impact on the scoreboard.
The fact that the tempo slows again for Azerbaijan’s Dilara isn’t helpful for her. However, the nation does have that amazing recent record to uphold. Iceland’s Pollaponk at least inject a bit of energy back into proceedings but it feels very lightweight in the final line-up.
Norway’s Carl Espen provides a nice contrast but it’s a very early draw for something so quiet, and his chances have not been boosted. Like Ovi’s piano, Romania has officially come full circle, and is so ridiculous it’s now bloody brilliant. The way Ovi was mugging to the camera today, I think he knows it too.
I’m not sure a jolt into the humourlessness of Armenia’s ‘Not Alone’ is necessarily helpful for Aram. Those transfixed by Romania’s everything but the kitchen sink approach might find this builds too slowly, but it does pack a powerful punch towards the finish. Montenegro are on next with their worthy Balkan ballad, which is as you’d expect.
Poland is the opposite of worthy, and that contrast is to its advantage – Cleo is always highly professional in her commitment. Greece is at its best with a larger crowd to feed off. As a result, I find it hard to say what coming after Poland does to either country’s fortunes.
Austria is a lovely contrast but is another one transformed by the atmosphere created in a buzzing hall. They’ve done everything they can with the camera angles to accentuate the money notes. It certainly has far more impact than Germany’s following effort, ‘Is It Right’. Eliaza’s vocals start off very shaky and the streamers are so overdone the girls look like performing Mummies at the end.
There’s a short break before Sanna comes on and performs ‘Undo’ the way she also does. This is as solid and polished as ever. There are technical problems before France come on, and these continue during a shambolic rehearsal, with the Twin Twin lead singer missing his cue and not finding the beat at all. Better to have this kind of stinker before the jury performance.
The sound mix doesn’t sound particularly good for the next two songs either. Russia needs utter commitment to its kitsch routine, and the casually dressed twins are keeping things in second gear this afternoon. The same can be said for Italy’s Emma Marone who is vocally shaky to begin with but has effectively added more audience interaction into the second part of her routine.
Slovenia’s ‘Round and Round’ feels like it deserves its place in the final during this run of songs. The same can be said for Finland’s ‘Something Better’, though I worry that both may be a little too bland to spring a top ten surprise.
Ruth Lorenzo can’t be accused of blandness, and she is in good form this afternoon. The lighting has improved, she is wearing a better dress and the wet-look to her hair suits her, as indeed does this draw. Switzerland’s Sebalter is all charm yet again, and rather blows Finland out of the water.
Hungary offers a big contrast. Andras is pretty consistent in the way he delivers this, and ‘Running’ is as before. I was rather disappointed in the way that Malta came across last night having previously thought it would be a very safe qualifier. It made it to the final, and there are no surprises here.
Denmark’s Basim still isn’t generating the magic of his national final performance. He is going through the motions this afternoon, and it may be a different matter when singing to a packed home crowd. The banner now just features a heart with the word “Love” – there’s no picture of the singer alongside it.
There are more technical problems that delay proceedings at this point. Once they’re sorted out, The Netherlands create the same hypnotic staging triumph for ‘Calm Before the Storm’. The performance is as good every time.
In the penultimate slot, San Marino’s Valentina finally gets her moment in the final, and that’s an achievement in itself. It was intriguing to see how the UK’s ‘Children of the Universe’ comes across in the last spot. Molly has some henna patterns on her hands, going the full yogi. The first verse is still a little underwhelming but the middle eight onwards packs a real punch.
The UK are given some extra help when the Danish presenters then go to Graham Norton in his commentary box for about a minute’s interaction. Simon Cowell would be proud of this attempt to keep Molly in the memory. It certainly gives a little added advantage on top of the pimp slot.
Tonight’s jury performance should tell us much more. I will be tweeting it live. Stay tuned and keep the conversation going below.