Eurovision 2018: May 2 rehearsals

We’ve now seen every semi-finalist rehearse once, and it doesn’t feel like the outright picture has cleared up, which is why the market is so febrile. There were few crumbs of comfort on offer today, but Georgia was a calming way to start proceedings. There’s nothing innovative about the way it’s staged – Iriao stand in a line and occasionally swap places. No concept then, but some nice camera panning at the moments when it’s required.

I’m not a fan of the Polish song, but I feel like it’s competently staged. Pink and blue is a nice colour scheme for starters, and there are pyro effects. Gromee keeps doing the hands-waving-like-the-sea motion at the camera from his DJ podium, while Lukas eventually moves to the satellite catwalk, and encourages the audience to jump before the middle eight.

Malta’s Christabelle, dressed in black, starts off in the centre of LED panels that show a variety of random scenes (family portraits, panthers), while an on-screen heart graphic briefly appears. When she steps out after the first chorus, a female dancer steps in, and they later interact. There were pyros and green lasers. It looks like an UK X Factor stage when they’re trying to kill off a contestant by providing too many distractions.

Hungary’s AWS are sensible enough to provide some movement during their song. The lead singer goes to the bridge during the first chorus, the satellite catwalk afterwards, and runs back to rejoin his band for the finale, after his guitarist has done some crowd-surfing. There are pyros throughout. It was pointed out to me before Lisbon that there may be a struggle to recreate the many studio vocals backing up the climax. That proves true with just the band on stage.

Latvia’s Laura is still looking at you, and you’re looking at her in a different red lace outfit. There are some tweaks to what we saw in the national final – she moves away from the mic stand, and returns to it only to knock it down. But there’s still armography and red everywhere, so it feels very similar.

The same can be said for Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso. He’s wearing a different, smaller jacket, but otherwise this is the routine we’ve already seen lots of times in Melodifestivalen, which may explain the muted response to it in the press centre. They’ve recreated the vocals perfectly well, and this is what it’s always been – a slick pop routine.

I feel like Montenegro needed a concept to go with their standard Balkan ballad – as they managed in 2014 with the ice skater. Instead we get the traditional four backing females in white, striking poses like Ancient Roman statues, walking around and touching each others’ shoulders. Straight out of the Balkan playbook since 2006. Vanja was in decent enough voice, though his blue and white stitch suit is a little offputting.

Slovenia do have a concept, but it’s a mistake. Pretending to have a technical failure before the second chorus, then trying to get the audience to help out just detracts from a contemporary song and makes the whole thing look amateurish. Which is a shame, as Lea, with four female backing dancers, is a perfectly good performer.

Ukraine’s concept is vampires are alive, with Melovin trapped, then cranked out of a piano, before descending some stairs. Just as the music is at its most energetic – in the middle eight – Melovin slows things down by taking his jacket off and climbing back up the stairs. He doesn’t engage much with the camera either. I do like the horror movie poses of his four backing singers, however. The lower part of said stairs catch fire for the finale.

Tomorrow sees the second rehearsals of all the first heat songs from Azerbaijan through to Finland. It will include Mikolas Josef with his own version of rising from the dead. Keep your thoughts coming below.

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49 comments to Eurovision 2018: May 2 rehearsals

  • Dan

    It’s really going to be a circus this year, isn’t it ? The BIG 5 could do better than expected if they keep it simple.

    Poland, Slovenia, Denmark and Montenegro are out.

  • Level Devil

    Can any of you very clever gambling folk tell me what happened with Sweden’s Betfair price today? Yesterday, it came in to about 17 and then post rehearsal today it went out to around 40, now 30. The rehearsal seemed to be quietely well received – just like MF with the odd tweak.

    Given the jury votes for Mans and then Robin last year, I think it’s a real contender. The “pop video” distinctive feel will make it memorable and whilst I can’t see it winning by much, there’s no reason it couldn’t be a 2nd with the jury / 2nd with the public type winner. Christer can give it a good draw, assuming it does very well in the weaker semi.

    I still think Israel is the most likely. The song can capture the public imagination in an immediate way and the juries could then learn to love it by Saturday, if they have any doubts on Tuesday.

    Have people learned too much from the mistake they made with Italy last year and thus are wary of doing a gorilla on the chicken and so are overlooking the quirky and obvious front runner?

    • Ande

      Welcome back Level!

      The only thing people seem to agree on with Sweden is that it’s a certain qualifier and near certain Top 10. When it comes to Sweden’s winning chances people are very divided, some says it has no shot at all and some have it among the most likely to win. Others has started to cover earlier bets. Benjamin is no Jamala and needs to win the jury by a decent margin to have any shot at the crown. It’s more similar to Sweden 2015/2017 than Ukraine 2016.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the draw when it comes to the outright contenders. Pretty much every favorite has gotten a decent draw when Christer’s done them and it’s only one recent year were it might’ve helped the winning song (2016). The draw is more important when it comes to last place and qualifier bets as these acts are low priority and their draw success rate consequently suffers.

      Israel is definitely not overlooked and has the highest volume of bets by far. Consensus has been that the first rehearsal looked pretty weak for Israel with opinions ranging from “production is decent” to “production is sub par”. Since the general view on Sofabet has long been one of Israel being too short to back discussion has largely shifted to identifying challengers and other top placers. Israel will receive a price correction during the dress rehearsal and the discussion regarding its chances of winning with inferior staging to it’s main challengers will pick up thereafter.

      Hope that clears up a few questionmarks and please do become an active participant in the discussion 🙂

  • Please post more often. I agree with what you say about Israel and it shows we’re not at all “clever” here, talking about possible winners and ignoring the obvious one.

    As to Sweden, Mans was a completely different league. Last year’s song wasn’t much but the staging was very clever imo. So maybe this year’s, with its dullness and douchebag head tossing, has just come to a more realistic price.

    • markovs

      Don’t think anyone is ignoring Israel. People on here are gambling on results and odds come into that. I can certainly see a scenario where Israel win, but at their current odds they are no value. Israel has a lot of negatives as well as positives so I wouldn’t go near anything below 3. In the first rehearsal it didn’t look like an obvious winner either. Imo, Israel is one of about 10 songs in with a shout but represents the worst value.

      • You’re right, constantly popping up to say it’s not an obvious winner is not ignoring it.

        Agree about the value, we need to see the second rehearsal.

        • johnkef

          I think that we became kind of spoiled the last few years having an outsider song at a high price sprinting in the last few minutes to win the race.

          I don’t know if Israel would win in any other year and i don’t know if it’s unbeatable this year, but bare in mind that this is maybe the weakest year in the Semis history. Israel has its flaws but if we compare it with the competition it has the least vulnerable song. There is no other song that can look Israel in the eyes, unless France creates the perfect staging and atmosphere and then running order and other details start to matter.

          And personally i believe that after next Tuesday Netta will be a european phenomenon. Wishful thinking? Intuition? Experience talking? Some or all of the above.

          The fact that within a week we had Bulgaria, Czechia, Australia, France and Norway siiting at the 2nd spot means that the market is looking for the new Messiah (no pan intended), but there is no sign of him/her/them.

          • Ande

            The turbulence around the 2-10th place in the betting odds signals that Israel is a weak front runner without a clear challenger. The ones that has convinced in rehearsals (Estonia, Cyprus, Norway and Sweden) are outside horses with flaws that makes them unfit for being the front runner.

          • The turbulence around the 2-10th place signals the challengers are weak and says nothing about the front runner.

          • johnkef

            Totally agree with Henry.

      • Level Devil

        I think this is a great point Markovs. From a value point of view, I agree with you about Israel. Most of us amateur gamblers are thinking more about just the pure result though than the value. So some confusion comes in.

        I wouldn’t back Israel at less than 4-1, even though I think it’s the most likely winner. That seems counterintuitive to many, but isn’t at all really as you say.

        Also agree Johnkef. Netta seems to be the obvious one “they” will be talking about all week..

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      @ Levil Devil

      Echoing Henry’s regard for your thoughts, I also like the way you put things, LD, especially the way you phrase your final paragraph.

      When writing a post I am often aware of my scar tissue of accumulated bad decisions, bad bets, and thus also bad, overstated thoughts I’ve posted here over the last few years.

      The sofabet community is a very kind one, in that they do not pull you up, reminding you of your previous misjudgements. I think we all just read each other’s posts mindful of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences, blindspots, etc, and we judge and filter the content accordingly. I’d venture that every one of us has committed the mistake of being too “close” or “loyal” or “steadfast” to our selections, at one time or another.

      “…wary of doing a gorilla on the chicken…”

      Love that!

      • Level Devil

        Thanks. At times I’ve believed I’m cursed bet wise. Last year my certain bet was Finland qualifying – buying money – and my excellent ew tip Armenia. Still not sure how it went so wrong.

        I think being aware that you’re fallible is a key thing when posting. Even though I don’t think it will win, posting “the Czech Republic certainly aren’t winning this year” isn’t really a way to make friends.

        I love the “path to victory” phrasing that has come to prominence this year. Stating a case for why you think something could happen is far more use than just claiming something will win and the sofabet community seem to do that well.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Finland! Oh, the pain!

          I was crazy about everything Finland, Blackbird, Norma John. Still am. Shockingly overlooked by the televote and unforgivably dismissed by the so-called juries.

          Screw ’em all! Fools!

          It’s crossed my mind that my love this year for France mirrors my doomed obsessive love for (supposedly gloomy) Finland, last year.

          But the nearest in tone this year to last year’s Finnish template is, I’ve long thought: Latvia.

          Latvia, my idea of a mildly surprising NQ. Supposedly, the juries will embrace the classy gloom and push her through – but we’ll see.

  • Rob4

    weakest Swedish entry in many a year. they are lucky they are in SF2.

    i think Portugal is the most underrated song in the competition, but will need better staging than its national final to make an impact.

    • Level Devil

      I’ve had many bets this year, but the mild tenner on Portugal at 17-1 for last is my favourite. I like the song a lot, but Portugal do not naturally draw in votes and it seems one that people can easily ignore. It’s also likely to be surrounded with a few big hitters drawn in the first half.

  • Black n Blue

    Anybody on here in the Press Center? Would like to know what Bulgaria looks like on the TV.

    I’m torn on them. I love the studio version, it’s a superbly produced track. For me, the song is about intimately loving someone *ahem* beyond the bones, yet it just seems incongruous having five solo singers up there on stage. Bones performed as a male female duet would have captured that intimacy. Missed opportunity I feel.

    Eurovision this year is like the penalty shootout where no-one seems to know how to score.

  • Burlington Bertie

    LevDev – I’m just home from work and having watched the rehearsals from today, I was thinking of Sweden as a good top 3/4/5 bet, depending on prices which I’ve yet to size up. I agree with your points about it wholeheartedly and was thinking, before I read your post, that a good result from the non-bloodbath semi will likely yield a good position in the final running order. This, as we know, has been the format since the producers took hold in 2013, and it would be remiss of Christer to break the format for one of his own. As for the gorilla on the chicken, given what many of us have found out about juries and their lack of in depth song analysis, I think they may even learn to love the chicken on Tuesday. Eggciting times (boom boom).

    • Double Carpet

      BB I am still shocked about the juries’ lack of preparation for this most important of tasks. The idea that a juror just pitches up on the night having heard none of the songs beforehand just feels wrong. I think that the EBU should stipulate a minimum listen of 5 or 6 times of all songs before a juror watches on the night and votes, otherwise they’re just another 5 viewers with an enormous amount of power to influence half of the whole country’s vote.

      • John

        I disagree. I think we all develop bias in the run up to the competition. Sometimes jury results follow bookie expectations. I prefer the idea of a fresh juror just basing what they see on merit.

        At least one listen though. Otherwise the whole experience is just a wash.

      • Level Devil

        This could be why “narrative” is important. I may be reading too much into it, but Conchita, Mans, Dami, Jamala and Salvador all had “momentum” for the juries to pick up on, especially going in to the final. Moldova last year and Poland the year before were surprise public top 3s. What was the last surprise jury hit? Latvia 2015?

  • Rob4

    weird year.
    just for fun here is a list of songs i actually like:

    Portugal
    France
    Italy
    Albania
    Greece
    *cough* Macedonia

    short isn’t it?

    • johnkef

      Mine is even shorter.

      Portugal
      Israel

      Instead of listening to this year’s songs, i prefer listening Dami Im, Polina Gagarina etc.

      • Alpie

        @johnkef,
        Do you like switzerland? could you analyze it?

        • johnkef

          I do not like it at all. I find it too plastic and generic. I cannot see it qualifying for two reasons.

          First of all i can count at least 12 better songs in the semi so there is not much room for high points to collect from here and there.

          The other reason is that we have a group of allies that will exchange points with their juries (Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Armenia) and the Swiss are missing most of their allies (only 3/10 of their top10 in that semi).

          I believe that the limit for qualification to that Semi is within the 115-125 points area and i don’t think Switzerland can score more than 70-80

          • John

            Yeah, close semis often become zero sum games where the friendly countries benefit from diaspora and connections, and countries like the satellites and rich western ones lose out to the southern european and former-somethings trade off.

  • Ande

    Right now Estonia has the strongest case for me. Elina could easily win the televote on OMG-vocals factor alone, but it has at least three secondary USP:s that adds value. These are the ‘fifth element’ and ‘beauty princess’ USP:s that will collect votes from casual movie fans and the younger feminine adoring target audiences.

    Moreover I believe Estonia has good prospects of overcoming its potential jury pitfalls. The slick, professional production and in your face vocal performance will demand attention just like ‘1944’ and ‘Rise like a Phoenix’ did. Juries will gladly forgive an outdated production when it’s overshadowed by more important priorities.

    Considering it’s price it’s definitely worth a punt.

    • Ande

      I believe many are underestimating how big of an impact ‘La Forza’ has on first time listeners. Here’s a small compilation of reactions:

      https://youtu.be/Lrbol-yVAqc?t=1m
      https://youtu.be/QHOb1gyeh4s?t=1m36s
      https://youtu.be/xuK4YLQp_oE?t=39s
      https://youtu.be/uXMzGLOpAMY?t=2m25s
      https://youtu.be/BQVA8WSAaa8?t=2m20s

      The numbers are also very sound:
      – More than 50% of NF televote against 10(!) competitors.
      – 86% of maximal NF juryvote.
      – Most instagram reactions of all rehearsals so far.
      – Voted best rehearsal day 1 on wiwiblogs.
      – Best up/down reaction ratio on 1st rehearsal of any favorite (together with Cyprus).

      • Rob4

        doesn’t really matter what the internet reactions are. in analysing this entry you simply have to answer one question – is it better than Il Volo? if you think yes then you need to get yourself to the bookies.

        I personally don’t think it is. I’d say lower top 10 with a ceiling of 5th at best.

        • Mr Wolf

          How is Il Volo anyhow important here? The field is totally different this year. There really isn’t Mans or Polina competing here.
          Saying that since Il Volo didn’t win, Elina can’t win, is pretty closed thinking without any argumentation.

          • meridian_child

            Totally agree.

          • Totally agree with Mr Wolf here. Il Vovo would win in this year’s competition by an absolute landslide, similarly La Forza in that year would be lucky to make top 10. This year’s field is so weak.
            To me, Estonia has a good first time feel about it – it’s just, it’s a musical style that a lot of people will hate, and the staging is pretty much a copy of a previous years

          • Rob4

            sorry sometimes i don’t have time to argue. ok here goes – i think popera attracts a certain type of voter and therefore has a demographic ceiling. it needs to be out of this world to win – this is not. also this popera entry is a bit marmite. some will like the vocals but others will just find them screechy. popera doesn’t have the authenticity of real opera and terms of that her voice is not that good. juries are more popcentric. they will be obliged to mark this up because of the perceived ‘quality’ of opera but they won’t be inclined to do it too high because their pop sensibilities will overtake them to reward equally good pop/rock vocals. also the presentation will be marked down for unoriginality – how many projection dresses do we need? further evidence is poor polling and likes vs dislikes on social media. it is a poor year and you have to take that into account but the act simply doesn’t have ‘in yer face’ quality to overcome the best of this year. and finally it only won its own NF because everything else was total shit.

            but look an the brightside i know from past experience and my own ability to pick a winner that this is likely to come back and bite me on the backside so by writing this i’ve probably ensured that it is the winner 😉

        • Ande

          ‘La Forza’ is worse than ‘Grande Amore’ but I’m not sure if it’s weaker with juries, ‘Elina’ has some box ticking qualities ‘Il Vivo’ lacked and the staging of ‘La Forza’ is superior.

          I think most jurors will have a hard time overlooking the vocals and production values but of course some will rate it very low based purely on genre. Here both the 2016 and 2018 rule changes are ones that benefits ‘La Forza’ and would’ve helped ‘Il Vivo’ in 2015.

      • La Forza had no competition in its NF. Did poorly in the press poll of rehearsal. Not engaging.

      • eurovicious

        I have it down as this year’s Gravity/Undo at most. I think 2nd is feasible but pushing it, 3rd (or below) more likely. You’re right to point out the Frozen/princess aspect to it, which should work a lot in its favour; I do think it’ll be right up there in the televote but I think its jury vote will be lower, as a few others have also commented. It stands out in a weak field, but it has no emotional content and no narrative.

  • Songfestivalwerk

    Well, after the ghastly shock that went over The Netherlands, I am finally able to post again :-P. Before I post my predictions after the 1st rehearsals, I will precede them with a pre-rehearsal prediction. Here we go!:

    SEMI FINAL #1

    Pre-rehearsal (April 28th):
    01. CZECH REPUBLIC
    02. ISRAEL
    03. ESTONIA
    04. AUSTRIA
    05. BELARUS
    06. CYPRUS
    07. BULGARIA
    08. GREECE
    09. AZERBAIJAN
    10. LITHUANIA
    Alternatives for 9th to 10th place, though with less chance: ARMENIA, ALBANIA, IRELAND & BELGIUM

    After 1st rehearsals (May 3rd):
    01. ISRAEL (+1)
    02. CYPRUS (+4)
    03. ESTONIA (–)
    04. CZECH REPUBLIC (-3)
    05. BELARUS (–)
    06. ARMENIA (+5)
    07. BULGARIA (–)
    08. AUSTRIA (-4)
    09. CROATIA (+4)
    10. IRELAND (+4)
    Alternatives for 9th to 10th place, though with less chance: GREECE, AZERBAIJAN, ALBANIA, LITHUANIA & BELGIUM

    I find this sooo difficult, but I think Ireland has a better draw than Lithuania. On the other hand, Lithuania stands out a bit too and I favor it slightly more than Ireland (but it’s close!). Yet, if we look what happened with Cyprus in 2015, then I ought to say Ireland.

    Estonia is slightly underestimated I think. On camera the opera singer is very likeable. And I do think “the dress” is better, more impressive, and less cheesy than for instance Moldova 2013. Cyprus has really improved with incredible staging. And I have to give it to Gavster, but this could indeed be the year where camp and cheesy up-tempo entries (with props and all that) will do best again.

    And Greece? My, I was shocked I forgot about it. But although I adore it….my taste doesn’t matter. I adored Finland last year too. Perhaps Greece this year is a bit too 90’s? Still, it could go through. And then there are Lithuania and Azerbaijan……

    SEMI FINAL #2

    Pre-rehearsal (April 28th):
    01. AUSTRALIA
    02. NORWAY
    03. THE NETHERLANDS
    04. SWEDEN
    05. MOLDOVA
    06. POLAND
    07. HUNGARY
    08. UKRAINE
    09. LATVIA
    10. GEORGIA
    Alternatives for 9th to 10th place, though with less chance: ARMENIA, ALBANIA, IRELAND & BELGIUM

    After 1st rehearsals (May 3rd):
    01. NORWAY (+1)
    02. MOLDOVA (+3)
    03. SWEDEN (+1)
    04. AUSTRALIA (-3)
    05. POLAND (+1)
    06. UKRAINE (+2)
    07. HUNGARY (–)
    08. DENMARK (+5)
    09. THE NETHERLANDS (-6)
    10. LATVIA (-1)
    Alternatives for 9th to 10th place, though with less chance: GEORGIA, RUSSIA, ROMANIA & MONTENEGRO

    Like Lithuania in semi #1, also Latvia perhaps suffers a bit from the “sandwhich syndrome”. I mean, being placed right between Hungary and Sweden, although I think it’s not that big of a problem because Latvia is in the 2nd half of this semi final. Australia is perhaps not doing anything great, but they could do another “OG3NE”-kind of scoring. We should not over-exaggerate fashion blunders. What stays is a charismatic singer.

    The Netherlands however is my biggest disappointment. Fashion-wise Waylon’s jacket is a big fail. Similar to these fashion fails: Netherlands 2000, Netherlands 2003, Netherlands 2009, Netherlands 2010, Netherlands 2011, Netherlands 2012 & Netherlands 2015. Yet my biggest concern is the actual act. It distracts from an otherwise good song. Having said that, I think it will still qualify….but barely.

    Hungary is great niche music for metal lovers, but like Georgia 2016 and Cyprus 2016 there’s not a big enough market to propel this to the TOP 5 of this semi final.

    As alternatives I do think that Georgia has the best chance to slip through?

  • Shai

    This is, by far,the most entertaining review I have read about the Ukraine rehearsal:

    http://www.escgo.com/2018/05/03/the-view-from-san-francisco-first-rehearsals-day-4/

  • The Nefeilibata

    Looks like we’re getting 30sec clips of how the songs will look on TV! https://youtu.be/5q6IKzy5Ry8

  • Stephen Muckle

    What does everyone reckon about Azerbaijan and their chances of winning? Especially after todays rehearsals?

  • James Martin

    Seems to be that Israel are drifting quite a bit. A number of blogs now saying there’ll be NO looper.

    • Chris Bellis

      @James Martin
      Is that because the Eurovision bosses have said no? Or because it doesn’t work in Lisbon? I did ask here a few months ago whether it would be allowed, and people were confident that it would. I wondered because I know a few club acts that use these gizmos, and effectively they can do anything in the way of backing tracks, auto-tuning etc. One “boy-girl duo” I know (they’re in their 50s) use one of these gadgets. She can sing brilliantly, but her partner is awful, but through one of these things he doesn’t sound too bad.

  • you mean dropping i guess?

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