Eurovision 2017: First semi-final dress rehearsal

What follows are my impressions of the first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final. The opportunity to watch the participants in quick succession theoretically means we can compare them more easily. Later today, I will tweet my thoughts of each act during the crucial run-through that national juries watch and vote on.

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Eurovision 2017: May 7 rehearsals

A short rehearsal day started with Ukraine’s second set of run-throughs. Lead singer Yevhen is now in a better grey top, and we got extra polish, with more effects on the big head prop. Moving on, there are little niggles you can make about the Italian rehearsal, but they pale beside Francesco Gabbani’s charisma. He was mugging for the camera almost too much today. But right now, he’s the one you most want to see again in the winning reprise.

Spain’s ‘Do It For Your Lover’ is spectacularly poor. Manel and his band mates still spend the first verse with their backs to the audience, the vocals were badly off-key today, and the whole package felt like a school assembly performance. Germany isn’t bad, just spectacularly bland as before. There’s no inspiration in the grey staging once we’re done with the opening shot from above.

UK have managed to get their staging completely right, mixing both the epic and intimate in the mirrored fan and exploding gold cosmos effects. Lucy is in a new gold dress, in fine voice and looking right at the camera throughout. The French on the other hand, have done nothing but provide a backdrop that tends to overshadow its singer. Alma is generally adequate, but it’s a shame she’s been left so exposed.

Keep your thoughts coming below. Tomorrow evening sees the jury rehearsal for the first semi-final. Eurovision week is upon us.

Eurovision: May 6 rehearsals

Today we got the last 15 songs of the second semi-final, which in general is a more enjoyable experience than sitting through the first heat. Take The Netherlands with ‘Lights and Shadows’, a song which I had no particular fondness for before rehearsals. On the Kiev stage, it’s looking and sounding fantastic, and should be sailing into the final.

Hungary’s ‘Origo’ was better today than in the first rehearsal, with Joci looking more at ease, and the camera angles being tightened up. It’s still not capturing the intensity we saw in the smaller studio of the national final, and the rap remains excessively long. But it’s making progress.

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Eurovision 2017: May 5 rehearsals

Today contained a mixture of the last three acts in the first heat, the first five acts of the second one, and the first rehearsals of the automatic qualifiers. We got off to a very strong start with Armenia’s Artsvik. She’s in a mesh black trouser suit, sounding great, and there’s a very coherent look and feel to the performance.

Slovenia’s Omar Naber was in fine voice today, and the staging was doing everything it can for the predictable ‘On My Way’. The LED panels that surround him give a sense of intimacy that plenty of others lack. He kneeled for the second verse, and the panels rose during the bridge.

Latvia’s Triana Park sounded better in their second rehearsal, because they have increased the volume of the backing singer in the chorus. Agnese, now in full 90s club gear with her gold boots, still struggles in the verses. This is a genre that hasn’t traditionally found favour with jurors or televoters, but they are one of the few upbeat songs, and do have the pimp slot.

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Eurovision 2017: May 4 rehearsals

Second rehearsals mean getting more judgemental about an act’s progress. Sweden improved on their first effort: Robin Bengtsson had no vocal issues at all; and the shot from the rear during the bridge has been reinstated. There was also a small, positive change from Melodifestivalen – at the start of the second verse, Robin now has a brighter, different-coloured spotlight to his backing team.

Georgia’s ‘Keep The Faith’ is a standard Eurovision ballad, and staged as such. Dry ice opening? Check. Garment discarded and microphone thrown to floor after first chorus? Check. Pointing meaningfully at camera? Check. Fire-jet pyros? Check. Tamara was in good voice today, all in red to match the backdrop.

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Eurovision 2017: May 3 rehearsals

It was guilty pleasures morning in the Eurovision press centre. San Marino offered a stage with stripes and shapes in rainbow colours. Jimmie and Valentina were both in black for ‘Spirit of the Night’; he removed his jacket near the finale, though Valentina didn’t do the same with the handbag she was wearing. There was nothing wrong with the vocals or chemistry here.

Croatia’s Jacques Houdek was also in black, in front of a utopian landscape that included sunflowers and rainbows towards the end. He had two men on strings join him for the middle eight. There were also three backing singers who grouped around in a friendly manner at the end. Jacques turned from one side to the other depending on which of the two voices he was singing, and he had no problem pulling the “duet” off.

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Eurovision 2017: May 2 rehearsals

Serbia’s Tijana was being kind to her voice in this morning’s first rehearsal. There was nothing particularly original about the staging for ‘In Too Deep’, a dark-blue watery concept with bubbles. Tijana in white, was finally joined by a male dancer for the middle eight, and he ran backwards around a whirlpool effect on the LED floor, before scampering off stage to suddenly return at the final moment.

Austria’s Nathan – also in white – was much more charming, all smiles for initial close-ups while sat on a sparkly crescent moon. He jumped off it, continued to look happy, before returning to the moon for the middle eight, when his backing singers showed up. A cloud backdrop turned from stormy pink to twilight blue.

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Eurovision 2017: May 1 rehearsals

Like Sweden yesterday, today’s first rehearsal from Greece had some early-morning vocals. The rainy dark-blue backdrop was nicely dramatic, and Demy looked amazing in beige as she walked onto a platform which lifted her for the first chorus. She was then joined by two topless male swan dancers. For the middle eight a screen projected a waterfall between her and the audience, before she walked in front of it for the climax. The camera angles needed a similar amount of polish as the vocals, but that’s what rehearsals are for.

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