Eurovision 2018: May 4 rehearsals

There was a mixed bag rehearsing today: the last four songs of the first heat; the initial five acts of the second semi; and the first rehearsals of the automatic qualifiers, including the hotly-anticipated sight of France’s Madame Monsieur.

Armenia’s second rehearsal was much like its first, and there’s nothing wrong with the way ‘Qami’ is being staged. The whole package is competent but unexciting, and the question is whether that will be enough in the tough first heat.

Switzerland are also making the most of their raw ingredients. Extra ‘Undo’-style light effects were added to the drummer’s plinth today, and Zibbz are selling it effectively. They’re just in search of enough televotes for something very middle-of-the-road. Juries may be more helpful.

Ireland really tightened up their production today, with the lighting now making the best of the different elements. It doesn’t seem as confused between the lead singer, a female pianist accompanying him, and the two dancers with their own ‘City of Stars’ style routine. The heavy snow looked very effective when used, though a danger is that the soap suds make the floor slippery.

Eleni is still bringing the fire for Cyprus. There were a few minor tweaks to the choreography and on-screen effects – it felt like one slut-drop less and the on-screen fire graphic no longer looks like it’s coming out of her rear – but that didn’t make it any less popular in the press centre.

Moving onto the second heat, Norway’s Alexander Rybak didn’t let a reported dose of flu stop him from bringing plenty of energy to later run-throughs. This is another entry that’s being talked up in the press centre, and that’s been translated to the outright market.

The semi takes a dip at this point, as elements of both Romania and Serbia are still very stiff-looking on stage. The men are most to blame in each case – you can see the brain processing every move before it comes, which isn’t a good sign. Both entries feel like a long three minutes as a result. Things will need to look smoother soon.

San Marino is the nadir of the competition, no matter how witty the sign that the robot holds up. Denmark isn’t exactly leaping off the screen itself. I’ve always had an issue with how joyless the staging is, and there’s no lighting change to suggest our Viking band overcoming the darkness.

The automatic qualifiers kicked off with hosts Portugal. Staging has improved from the national final, as Claudia starts alone, clothed in jeans and a pink smock, while a casually-dressed Isaura only appears when she’s required.

As has become the norm, the United Kingdom brought a prop and some pyros to join a white-clad SuRie. It’s a diagonal square halogen tube tunnel that looks like a distant cousin of Sweden and Australia’s backdrops. It creates some nice differences in perspective as the camera pans round. SuRie moves within it and in front of it, doing her signature arm raises.

Spain’s duet staging is from the ‘Monster Like Me’ school: start apart, slowly walk closer and embrace, then repeat to smaller degrees till the end. It’s a not dissimilar colour scheme to the Norwegian 2015 entry too, with plenty of gold and Amaia in white. One difference is Alfred’s maroon suit matches some purple elements. It’s a relatively mature way of staging this Disney-esque song of young love.

Germany have gone for a LED wall behind black-clad Michael. It spells out and illustrates the lyrics very literally, until we switch to family album pictures that reflect the song theme. This all feels predictable enough until the last 30 seconds, when the screen goes from white-and-black to red-and-black, and the effects become more swirly and trippy.

Italy also have their lyrics displayed – this time overlaid onto the screen in various ways and different languages. The pair separate to cross the two bridges before meeting again on the satellite catwalk. The duo took a relaxed approach to their first rehearsal on a very red stage.

Similar movement takes place for France’s effort. We open with a close-up on Madame, before a steadicam swirls around the pair. After their separation over the different bridges, they join on the satellite catwalk for the second chorus before urging the audience to follow them in the flashlight hand signal. This is pretty much how I imagined it would be staged (with the pair in black, natch), nothing more, nothing less. If there is something to work on, it’s Monsieur’s on-stage confidence.

Tomorrow the rest of the second semi-final gets their chance at second rehearsals. The market still seems completely unsure who represents the closest threat to favourites Israel. Let us know your thoughts below.

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34 comments to Eurovision 2018: May 4 rehearsals

  • Is the United Kingdom artificially long because of “The Asanda Factor?” I get the distinct impression that the UK is more written off than it should be in a fair fight, because of the large amount of people who didn’t believe she should have won the National Final. I’m also aware that the heavy backing of Asanda will have cost a lot of people who bet money.

  • Hippo

    “Isaura only appears when she’s required” – I’d argue she’s not required at all, such a distraction. Portugal is a nice song but from 8th it needs every televote it can get and Isaura does not help.
    Italy sounds messy- if this was another country like Spain I think there’d be a lot more pessimism on it, this won’t escape the bottom 5 by much less if it does at all.
    Germany could be on for a mid-table, staging doesn’t sound great but I think there’s enough for this to do OK.
    Spain and the Uk probably won’t avoid the bottom 5 either. Both struggling.

    France look closer to 10th than 1st, staging is meh and it does look forgettable.

    I don’t think it’s a bad lot of automatics, but they are still up against it against better entries and countries with more voting power.

    From semi 1, I have the following for now, unless there’s a huge jury rehearsal change:

    Certain:
    Cyprus
    Czech Republic
    Estonia
    Israel

    Very likely:
    Austria
    Bulgaria
    Greece

    Borderline in:
    Armenia
    Belgium
    Lithuania

    Borderline out:
    Azerbaijan
    Belarus
    Finland
    Switzerland

    NQ:
    Albania
    Croatia
    Iceland
    Ireland
    Fyr Macedonia

    • I’d agree with you about France, that does not look like a winning package at all.

      Poor FYRM – one of my favorite studio songs – sounds and looks horrific on the EV stage, and has no chance. Do they purposely murder their entries?

      I’d agree with you, but would probably have Belarus Q instead of maybe Austria or Greece

      • John

        Yeah. A real shame. Kinda always knew Macedonia might make it difficult for themselves.

        • Chris Bellis

          @John
          I’m glad that FYR Macedonia listened to my comments about the way they were staging this rather good song and dressing this very attractive young woman. But, like the story of my life, they listened and did the total opposite, making the whole package even worse.

    • Jack

      I don’t know why but I don’t have faith in the Estonian entry. I think it will be the shock non-qualifier.

      My wild prediction for semi 1:
      1. Israel
      2. Cyprus
      3. Greece
      4. Czech Republic
      5. Austria
      6. Armenia
      7. Lithuania
      8. Bulgaria
      9. Belgium
      10. Switzerland

      11. Azerbaijan
      12. Croatia
      13. Belarus
      14. Albania
      15. F.Y.R. Macedonia
      16. Estonia
      17. Finland
      18. Ireland
      19. Iceland

      • Chris Bellis

        Jack
        You do know why. She’s not a good singer by normal operatic standards. She’s ok, but she’s prone to be screechy at the upper end. She looks the part, but the song is tripe. She’s doing Eurovison for God’s sake – no diva would do that because they can make real money singing in a real opera at a real venue. For betting purposes you have to ask whether the average punter will be impressed with the vocal pyrotechnics, and whether she will fuck it up on the night and even the ordinary punter sees she’s not that good.Given the number of views that bloke on the piano outside Waterstones gets, I’d bet on Elina.

    • John

      You know what? There’s an idea in there. But it needs more clean, precise moves that compliment the energy of the song. Their dancing is too chaotic. The camera barely reacts to the beat changes either, just always drifting.

      Plus I dont know if he should be podiumed like that. He should in with the dancers, it makes him look awkwardly placed. Im not sure it will qualify.

  • Even after rehearsals all we can say about semi final qualifiers is this.

    Semi Final 1: Iceland will not qualify. Everything else is only guessing.
    Semi Final 2: Norway and Sweden will qualify. Everything else is only guessing.

    These are the trickiest semi finals ever!!!

  • Jack

    Don’t forget San Marino not qualifying 😛

  • Rob4

    i’ve not been paying that much attention to SF2 but just watched in quick succession the rehearsal clips for:

    Russia
    Australia
    Georgia
    Poland; and
    Malta

    has this part of the show been compiled as a joke?

  • Rob4

    question: is the Greek entry keeping something secret about their staging? i’ve seen a couple of rumours but nobody has been talking about it a lot.

    i was wondering if it had anything to do with her blue hand? they have been saying its there to represent Greece but you would also use blue if you wanted to overlay a cgi effect.

  • Chris Bellis

    I just don’t see Spain in the last five. It’s the only performance that’s made this old cynic wake up and say, “how sweet”, before turning round to tell the cat not to mess with me, and lay off my keyboard, or I’d turn it into the next meal, so I think it has a market. People who watch kittens on the internet and post all those platitudes on facebook.

    • John

      Its fishing in the same pond as Lithuania (and to a lesser extent, Germany). Sentimentals. John Lewis people.

      There is space in the pond, it’s less crowded than the uptempo stream where Israel, Moldova, Cyprus, Norway, the Czechs, Poland, Australia, Finland, Netherlands…have crowded.

      • Chris Bellis

        I love the idea of sentimental John Lewis people. I tend to think of them as rather gullible people who like paying way over the odds for stuff they can get at least 20% cheaper, often just across the road. They pay that to mix with shoppers whse kids are called Hermione and Peregrine, rather than the Harleys and Chantelles at Asda. But you have hit the nail on the head. And when the Czech dance singer has a double hernia, and the Israeli singer succumbs to laryngitis due to overstraining her vocal cords, Spain will slip in with its sugary excess.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Showed first Netta’s Toy, then Rybak’s song, to someone this morning.

    This lady is English, white and in her early to mid 40s. I prefaced with the information that these upcoming 2 performers are 2 of the main fancies to win the ESC. I didn’t say which one was the favourite. I showed the Toy video, and then the Rybak stage performance.

    She dumbfoundedly watched Netta. I asked her what she made of it. She said it was “mad.” I asked her if she followed any of the themes of what was being said. She was so overcome with the visuals that she hadn’t noticed any of the #MeToo spirit or such like. I had to explain that theme to her, as none of the lyrics had registered with her. She is someone who is bilingual and enjoys word-play

    She said it would make more sense on 2nd watch and she felt it would be more enjoyable on a revisit. She commented that she was amazed at Netta’s speed of movement, “for a large lady.” She added that Netta’s dancing was like “a belly dancer.” And further added that she was surprised by Netta’s body shape because she “knows a lot of Jewish people” and Netta’s is not a typical Jewish shape; that Netta has a more Middle-Eastern look.

    She then watched Alexander’s show. About 2 thirds of the way through she scoffed, then smilingly shook her head. After it had finished she explained she laughed because the song has lyrics like something she would have sung her children as little ones. She asked me if Alexander is Norwegian, then looked up his details. She was interested to see he is Belarusian, was surprised to read he is 31yo. She mentioned he’s a good looking lad, older than she thought, but a bit too boyish for her to fancy. Sh added that she speculated to herself when watching that he was Russian.

    She then surprised me by saying that she thought Rybak would be the winner out of the 2.

    • Chris Bellis

      GHF Mr Rybak speaks perfect Russian, so that’s not a bad guess. BTW your pal is right, imho.

    • Slight variant on a theme here….(which I mentioned alongside Daniel on the EUROBLISS show a week or two ago)….I have shown “Toy” to dozens of women of all ages. The common reaction has been: “I don”t want a woman like her representing me in a song with a “MeToo” theme…..”Like her” can mean, “that young”, “rather aggressive” or a whole host of things….but it does seem to rub a number of women up the wrong way.

      Of course, it may be that I have amazingly untypical female friends…??

      • eurovicious

        I don’t think you’re wrong. It’s turning out to be the gay Occidentali’s Karma.

        This is what we used to call the “Ben’s mum” test. Ben, have you played it for your mum and if so what did she think?

  • Alpie

    @johnkef,
    having seen all the rehearsals could you give us your prediction or comments if you are online?

    • Chris Bellis

      Seconded
      johnkef always has valuable insights

    • johnkef

      Hi guys, I am honoured! lol.

      This year has been a little hectic for me since i am blogging for the biggest greek betting site so even though i do read everything i don’t have the time to be more active. I will try though.

      Still i cannot see a song actually threatening Israel. They are all vulnerable. I do believe that Israel will win and i cannot see Bulgaria and Estonia finishing in Top-5 ( and you can crucify me if wrong in a week’s time). I also don’t get Norway. It’s so dated that even in a weak year like this one it doesn’t deserve to be Top 5 despite the obvious charisma of Rybak. We are doing circles and we are almost at the same spot we used to be 2 months ago ( a minute of silence for Australia – another song that i did not like and couldn’t understand its favouritism)

      I am sure that at least one of the group Bulgaria. Estonia, Belgium will be a shocker NQ.

      I have the impression that the same will happen in the second semi with Russia, Netherlands and Australia,

      Semi 1 i have as certain qualifiers: Israel, Czechia, Cyprus, Austria, Greece, Armenia, Azerbaijan

      and then probably Estonia, Finland and Bulgaria.

      Semi 2 certain qualifiers: Norway, Sweden, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary

      and then probably Romania, Georgia, Denmark, Latvia and Poland.

      I have to say though that these are two of the most difficult semis to predict, the first one because of the many competent songs, the second one because of the many incopetent songs.

      • eurovicious

        Thanks, and I always like John’s thoughts as well. I totally agree on Norway, and have Belgium down as a solid NQ in SF1 and the Netherlands down as a fairly likely NQ in SF2. I really don’t know about Israel. I go back and forth on it all the time. I don’t think the staging is ideal (or the non-looper use) and I don’t think it’s connecting for a lot of people.

      • Alpie

        thnx for response. it is going to be between semi final 1 winnner and Norway I think. However, Cyprus tops semi 1 in the press poll results. It is not clear who will top semi 1 as you’ve mentioned of the many competent songs. Let’s ask ourselves the question: who’s got the story to talk about this year?

  • Alpie

    Forgot to mention about Moldova. Maybe the story sought belongs to Moldova !!!!

    • Johnkef

      Moldova has a ceiling as well. Top 4 i think is the highest they can get. But you never know.
      Cyprus will be top3 in semi but top10 will be the best they can do in the final. Foureira is a performer not a singer. Even in live events in Greece she performs on playback.

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