Eurovision 2017: April 30 rehearsals

Initial technical problems in the press centre meant only one run-through with audio for today’s very first rehearsal. We knew what we’d be getting from Sweden anyway: a largely facsimile performance from Melodifestivalen for Robin Bengtsson’s ‘I Can’t Go On’.

Robin and his posse still start backstage, once again styling out the fact they’ve forgotten their gym kit. The backdrop reminds me of 80s sci-fi film ‘Tron’, with a turquoise and purple landscape. Directors have yet to establish the shot from the rear during the middle eight, and the vocals were ever-so-slightly more exposed without the MF playback. But ultimately, this was as expected.

Georgia’s Tamara Gachechildze is up next asking us to ‘Keep The Faith’. Producers have given her the short straw of an early big-hitter sandwich – if X Factor’s Simon Cowell really wants rid of someone, he places them at #2 between two vote magnets. The largely red backdrop with white and black elements, dry ice, and fire-jet pyros from the floor, are a little reminiscent of those X Factor kills too. At least Tamara and her hidden backing singers are in good voice, though she loses faith in her red cape, and discards it after the first chorus.

Tamara will have to engage more with the cameras when it matters, and the same can be said of Albania’s Lindita, who switched with Australia in today’s running order. ‘World’ features a twilight backdrop before dawn arrives with the floating islands and clock motifs featured in the official video. There’s a clock on the LED floor too. The four backing singers are in full view whilst Lindita goes through her litany of long notes.

It turns out the prop Isaiah has never stood on before is a rotating platform that allows him to do some introspective walking whilst staying on the spot. Meanwhile the backdrop features MTV-style clips of himself also looking introspective. The last run-through featured a curtain of fire and floor pyros for the period near the end when Isaiah leaves the platform, though he returns for the final moments. It’s very professional-looking even allowing for the camera angles needing work, though I was expecting some dry ice too.

After lunch, it turned out that Belgium’s Blanche is “all alone in the danger zone” after all. We have a dark blue backdrop showing moving white triangles, white spotlights above and a few nice overhead shots of the LED floor. There’s occasional armography which feels awkward, and Blanche looks like she’d rather be somewhere else. Her nerves become evident in the vocal at times, especially in the final part of the song. She needs to grow in confidence over the next week.

If it’s any consolation, Montenegro needs much more fixing. There’s yellow and purple in the backdrop, Slavko is in a body stocking and full-length blue skirt, which he soon whips off to reveal some glittery trousers. He performs the kind of choreography we’ve seen from him at the pre-rehearsal gigs, but has to twirl his long braid around with his hands so the vocals don’t suffer too much. This could have done with dancers joining him on stage, and the hidden backing singers could do with not being offkey.

Finland’s rehearsal was a beacon of competence in comparison. Norma John and ‘Blackbird’ are much as we saw them in the Finnish national final, with a watery blue backdrop and floor turning to red for the final chorus. There was a bit of dry ice for the last few run-throughs.

Azerbaijan offered us a sequel to ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Dihaj starts by shuddering on a chair in a graffiti-ridden room. The camera pulls back to reveal the man up a stepladder has a horse’s head. Dihaj adds to the graffiti, then reaches out to Horse Man. The raincoat-clad backing singers then dismantle the room, which causes Dihaj to draw chalk crosses on their raincoats. Extra red comes into the dark backdrop towards the end.

No, I didn’t get it either, but the creative director is definitely running with scissors. Dihaj’s vocals improved with each run-through, but her diction during the verses is poor.

Portugal offered us a calming pill to finish the day, with Salvador’s sister standing in for him, as advertised. He’ll be using the island stage in the centre, and there’s a dark forest backdrop with tiny sparkly sprites in the undergrowth.

Short clips of each rehearsal can be found on Eurovision.tv – do let us know your thoughts below.

32 comments to Eurovision 2017: April 30 rehearsals

  • A bit like I expected beforehand :-). Finland seems to be the most competent one today. But then again…first rehearsals. Notmuch to say about those…

  • dicksbits

    I’m shocked that FINLAND is 20/1 to win SF1. Surely an ew bet is in order?

    • Chris Bellis

      Much though I like it, I think the market has it about right, unless the others fall at the fences. By the sound of things this could happen, and then a bet might be in order. I’m keeping an eye on it. Thanks for the tip.

  • Does that mean an island stage in the middle of the audience? Or an island stage on the actual stage?

  • Azerbaijan literally is the “dark horse” this year.

    I love youtube comments 😀

  • johnkef

    Tomorrow we will be witnessing the same thing we witnessed in 2014 with Common Linnets, in 2015 with Polina Gagarina and last year with Dami Im and Jamaala!!! It’s Artsvik’s turn this year!!! She has the package to get all the votes from Ussr plus diaspora, plus a song that could have appeal to the western audience. So happy i invested on it in all the top markets plus winners for semi and final!

    What happened to Azerbaijan? Is that the most WTF moment in recent Eurovision and why the prices returned back to normal after a few hours? Am i missing something?

    • Montell

      I’m worried about Azerbaijan. I like the song and the artist but I don’t know what to say about the performance. I guess I need to see the TV feed in order to access it properly. For now I think it will either do very good or very bad. I think it will distract people’s attention from the song. You don’t do that with a good song like Skeletons. You do this with bad songs. I hope I’m wrong and Azerbaijan will be the dark horse after all.

      • Mr Wolf

        I didn’t like Aze before that much, but the staging is really wow. Cool and edgy. I’m betting on them now.

        • I love it but I don’t think it’s what wins. Personally I feel happy writing off Azerbaijan and Belgium for the win after today. (Sweden I never considered a potential in the first place.) Finland and Portugal standing out, the latter might have a chance to steal, as they used to say on Family Fortunes… the Azeri team deserve massive props this year though – now that the regime is no longer interested in using Eurovision for propaganda purposes (post-Farid), the broadcaster’s Eurovision team have taken the opportunity this year to send something genuinely original, interesting and left-field that takes admirable creative risks with no guarantee of payoff. Considering their approach to the contest used to be so determined and cynical it’s great to see them doing what they’re doing this year. Imagine if the UK took the approach they’re taking. I mean the UK entry this year is alright, but most countries don’t take creative risks at Eurovision.

          • Mr Wolf

            Yeah I don’t think it will win neither. But I think it’s in TOP10 and maybe even Semi TOP3 isn’t unpossbile.
            It has a cult classic feeling lol. The staging has so much to offer from the critical point of view. I had a similar feeling with Norway 2015 (A Monster Like Me). Really stylish, artsy, fresh and timeless at the same time. Piece of art.

        • Black n Blue

          Ditto. The stage package is completely whack yet I love it. Azerbaijan aren’t going to win, and I appreciate their ability to acknowledge that by presenting something that’s designed to give Dihaj the creative outlet she deserves. At least now, Gabbani’s gorilla (not *that* one EV!) has another animal for company 😉

  • Jack

    Why are people so crazy about Armenia? To me it’s in the same league as Face the Shadow and Lonely Planet. I can see this coming top 15 in the final but no way this will be top 10!

    • Staging potential as a performance piece. Also her vocals are really good and it’s an interesting ethnic song.

    • johnkef

      I am sorry but i totally disagree with you Jack. The song is jury friendly, has a staging potential, Armenia has a great record of staging so we know they won’t screw up, they can take all the points from eastern block, they have diaspora and two jurors of Armenian origin in two irrelevant countries ( Albania, Austria even though i do not know how can this influence the voting) and the sound is western friendly.

    • Black n Blue

      Fly With Me is more of a piece of performative art, rather than simply a studio recording. The instrumental intro and bridge have likely been composed to allow for some very ethnic choreography (Or at least I hope anyway). There’s a big opportunity for Armenia to win the semi if the production shows anywhere near the same amount of ambition as the song.

  • johnkef

    I am confused. I personally love the song and i have backed it with a tenner @ 42.00 some weeks ago plus Top3 at its semi and Top10 but i’m trying to figure out what really happened today. is it avant garde or something disfuctional?

  • niko

    One thing I am thinking about with regards to this semifinal: For the first time ever, the semifinal is on the same night as the Champions League. Could this have any influence on the televote?

    I know the overlap between Eurovision fans and football fans is small (even though I am one of them), but the Champions League semifinals are huge European TV events, perhaps even bigger than Eurovision.

    I’m just wondering whether any entries could stand to lose from this scheduling clash because many viewers will be watching football instead. Last year, I could for example have imagined Cyprus losing votes from men watching Eurovision with their girlfriend if the Champions League had been on at the same time.

    Perhaps it is a bit far-fetched and I’m not sure there are any entries this year who it could be a problem for, but just something to keep in mind.

    (Thursday night also has the Europa League semifinals, not as big as the Champions League, but still something that will steal some viewers, so semifinal 2 is also in play here.)

    • Tim B

      Ooh, who’s playing?

      • niko

        Juventus v Monaco on Tuesday and Lyon v Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester United v Celta Vigo on Thursday.

        • So pretty big teams then. That’ll pull a lot of audience away.

        • Flashback to 2002 when I was 19 and watched the World Cup on TV all summer out of a bleak, despairing determination to try and be normal and turn straight. I had no idea what was going on, none of it.

          • Chris Bellis

            EV I’m an elder statesman compared with you. I’ve always hated soccer, except for betting purposes. I grew up in a city where you had to be ManU or ManC, with parents who saw that ManC were the only saviour against the Catholics we lived amongst. Never beat yourself up over not liking football. Think of all the time you’ve saved. BTW, my job brought me into contact with many professional footballers, and quite a few of them are anything but straight. For betting purposes though, always bet against England. The odds are influenced by patriotic money flows, and the overpaid brats that are professional footballers always let their country down.

    • Not far fetched at all, another major TV event that mainstream casual audiences enjoy (even) more than Eurovision could pull significant numbers of viewers away, especially as the semis are already somewhat niche. Thanks for pointing this out Niko.

  • Mark

    I,ve had to plump for man utd v celta vigo on May 11 over semi two. Horrid choice but it’s not every year your team makes a european semi final. Of course I’ll record and watch later but first year for ages I have not watched live.

  • John

    All seem sure that Finland will qualify now at least. It sure deserves to. It will be up against Sweden, Armenia, Greece, Portugal and perhaps Azerbaijan for third though so I’m dubious of a ew bet.

    Belgium and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan getting a kicking. I think we must give Belgium time as it’s a good song and doesn’t need quite the performance to lift it, only a good enough performance. Top 10 does seem to be it’s limit though.

    Azerbaijan seems to stand out, which can never be underrated, but personally I do hope they haven’t made a dogs dinner out of a good package, again.

  • kingston

    belgium’s dress is giving me flashbacks of ill-fated ronnie mitchell’s wedding dress off eastenders,,, might prove to be as deadly too UGGHH… they should change it pronto… not suited to/ doesn’t add anything to the song’s setting and tone and atmosphere at all :0

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