Eurovision 2017: Latest on upcoming rehearsals

Eurovision rehearsals begin this Sunday in Kiev – the full timetable is here. I’ll be tweeting from the press centre throughout, and providing an end-of-day summary on Sofabet as usual.

As before, there will only be short, official video clips of first rehearsals on For second rehearsals onwards, many other sites, among the best of them and wiwibloggs, will be allowed into the arena to film the performances in full.

Over the last few days, delegations have seen the results of preliminary stage rehearsals. The general feeling is that preparations are less forward than at the same point in recent years. This suggests that first rehearsals will be more rough than ready, especially the high-concept ones, so we may need to be even more cautious about jumping to conclusions.

As always, some countries offer a polished product at that first rehearsal, and others need more work. One should also bear in mind that some acts and performances come alive when playing to a packed arena rather than at an empty rehearsal. Bulgaria’s Poli Genova was a good example of this last year.

There will be extra intrigue around those acts we haven’t seen in a national final nor pre-Eurovision gig. For example, I can’t wait too see how Croatia’s Jacques Houdek gets on with ‘My Friend’. But any act can bring something unexpected or eyeopening. The impact of Jamala’s first rehearsal was immediate in the 2016 betting market.

A few little morsels were offered in a Ukrainian news broadcast about the stand-in rehearsals. (Hat-tip to esckaz for the link.) It suggested that Blanche would have two backing singers moving around her, as was recently seen on an episode of The Voice in Belgium. It also indicated a stepladder prop for Azerbaijan, while Montenegro’s Slavko plans to be alone on stage for at least part of his performance.

We live in a Eurovision era where the importance of storytelling in staging is given its due. This means that the best stage directors and choreographers are feted. For example, Fokas Evangelinos bids to continue his record of finishing no lower than seventh with his Eurovision stage shows, relying this year on Greece’s Demy, having made Sergey Lazarev climb a wall last time. Another very much in demand is Sacha Jean-Baptiste. She returns to help Armenia and Georgia, and has also been employed as the creative director for Bulgaria and Australia this year.

The wait is nearly over. Do keep your comments coming below, and make sure you are following @Sofabet on Twitter for first thoughts – from Sweden onwards – this Sunday.

55 comments to Eurovision 2017: Latest on upcoming rehearsals

  • and…..

    –> stage director Nicoline Lindeborg Refsing
    (All acts Eurovision 2014, Italy 2016, Ireland 2017)

    –> stage director Hans Pannecoucke
    (Netherlands 2014, Netherlands 2014, Netherlands 2016, Belgium 2016, Spain 2017)

    –> stage director Rolf Meter
    (good friend of Hans Pannecoucke, Netherlands 2016, Netherlands 2017),

    –> stage director Ambra Succi
    (Sweden 2012, Azerbaijan 2015, Bulgaria 2016, Macedonia 2017)

    –> the Belgian broadcaster
    (who have applied the stage director of Belgium 2013)

    –> the Estonian broadcaster
    (who still must be in awe of Pannecoucke’s cinematography)

    –> the Swedish broadcaster
    (need I say more?)

    My point: Not just one or two countries these days excell with staging, like with The Common Linnets and Conchita back in 2014. Many more nations have discovered the importance of staging, and on-stage storytelling. Especially this year: Greece, Armenia, Australia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Estonia, Belgium, Spain, Macedonia, Sweden and Ireland.

    So the more countries start working hard behind the stage to get ‘their act together’, the smaller the chance all of them will do well on the scoreboard.

    And as a matter of fact, we do know now that even elaborate staging efforts from the above stage directors and the ones mentioned by Daniel Gould, aren’t always resulting in the scores we expect beforehand. Just look a the TOP 10 misses of Georgia in 2015 (Sacha Jean-Baptiste), Azerbaijan in 2015 (Ambra Succi), Italy in 2016 (Nicoline Refsing) and Hans Pannecoucke (Netherlands 2015…what a failure that was…). And even Fokas Evaggelinos couldn’t bring Russia in the TOP 5 in 2014.

    So while we should not underestimate stage craft, we should also not dwell on it all the time. Actually, there are quite a few entries in the past few years that did extremely well on the scoreboard without too much elaborate staging. With such acts other aspects, like charisma and vocals, were the driving forces for a good result.

    Remember Italy 2015? The staging for Il Volo was pretty much classic and decent, but certainly not a massive staging triumph if you ask me. Or what about Poland 2016? Obviously that singer touched the hearts of televoters without the ‘witchcraft’ that staging is these days. So let’s not carried away by vetted stage directors and choreographers either. Let’s objectively and dispassionately judge every one of the 42 acts next week and let’s find out which aspects of their total packages, not necessarily staging, become ‘winning aspects’.

    So let’s stay…..calm……especially before the storm :-).

  • johnkef

    Let’s say that you had to pick today your Top10 with all the data that you have in mind and all the estimations you can do regarding the staging and live performance. What would your Top10 would look like?

    Mine goes like that

    1. Italy
    2. Armenia
    3. Bulgaria
    4. Australia
    5. Sweden
    6. Belgium
    7. Portugal
    8. France
    9. Azerbaijan
    10. Greece

  • Hippo

    Ok, pre rehearsals top 10:

    1. Portugal
    2. Bulgaria
    3. Italy
    4. Sweden
    5. Armenia
    6. Uk
    7. Belgium
    8. Australia
    9. Greece
    10. Serbia

  • Black n Blue

    This is a fun game:

    1. Italy
    2. Bulgaria
    3. Sweden
    4. Armenia
    5. Portugal
    6. Romania
    7. Greece
    8. France
    9. Austria
    10. Israel

  • For a record here’s my pre-rehearsals top 10:

    01. Italy
    02. Sweden
    03. Portugal
    04. Australia
    05. Bulgaria
    06. Armenia
    07. Romania
    08. Azerbaijan
    09. Moldova
    10. Switzerland

  • Can’t wait to get started now.

    1. Bulgaria
    2. Sweden
    3. Australia
    4. Italy
    5. Armenia
    6. Portugal
    7. The Netherlands
    8. Romania
    9. Finland
    10. Hungary

  • Written about 10 days ago:

    1. Bulgaria
    2. Belgium
    3. Italy
    4. Armenia
    5. Australia
    6. Portugal
    7. Sweden
    8. Finland
    9. Azerbaijan
    10. B̶e̶l̶a̶r̶u̶s̶ Moldova

    I *want* Portugal to win.

    • In terms of Qs, I think the first half of SF2 is very open. I love Hungary but increasingly think it will miss out, I don’t think a European audience will go for it. There’s a slight chance of Azerbaijan missing out in SF1, though they’ll no doubt ensure a decent performance. I think three eastern entries – Hungary, Macedonia and Romania – are jostling with three western countries – Netherlands, Austria and Denmark – for qualification in the first half of SF2. Yodel It isn’t that jury-friendly but is still more likely to get over the line than not. Macedonia is a good song that probably won’t be that well-staged or performed and looks more likely to miss out, with something easily digestible and visually appealing like Austria (insubstantive but totes nice) or Denmark (which I think is a dire song but she’s hawt) going through in its place.

    • I just wanted to point out that your top7 is the actual top7 in the win outright in different order :).

  • Pre-rehearsals prediction here we go:

    1. Bulgaria (1-3)
    2. Italy (1-3)
    3. Australia (1-7)
    4. Armenia (3-5)
    5. Sweden (3-7)
    6. Denmark (5-9)
    7. Portugal (5-9)
    8. Azerbaijan (8-12)
    9. Romania (6-12)
    10. Greece (7-12)

    Threatening the top10: Hungary, Netherlands (it’s shit), France, Moldova.

    • Chris Bellis

      “Netherlands (it’s shit)”. I agree, but I thought the same about the Linnets. Great band, great staging, mediocre song. Plus ça change?

  • The left-hand side of the scoreboard. Because let’s face it guys & gals, in an ‘Olympic’ contest of 42, a 13th, 12th and even 11th place is as valuable as a TOP 10 spot 20 years ago:

    My TOP 13:

    01. ITALIA !!!!
    02. SWEDEN
    03. FINLAND
    05. ARMENIA
    07. ROMANIA
    08. PORTUGAL
    10. BULGARIA
    11. SPAIN
    12. AUSTRIA
    13. HUNGARY

    Just outside of it: Belgium, Moldova, Iceland, Croatia, Ireland, Estonia

    • 11. SPAIN

      Well, this is trolling. Please, stop 😀

      • Chris Bellis

        I htink having Spain at 11 and Bulgaria at 10 is strange. Bulgaria is only one place above Spain? If he can get a bookie to take the bet, that should bring a good return.

      • Well, let’s respect each one’s opinions in here shall we :-)? And let’s stay open-minded about possible outliers and dark horses too shall we?

        I mean, I will not let a bunch of crazy Spanish Eurovision fans cloud my own personal judgment. And I do think this has clouded the odds of Spain, not to mention ridiculing Hans Pannecoucke.

        I will not dwell in the past with certain entries (ughh, I’m getting really tired of Common Linnets here and there. no one will remember them when actual voting happens in two weeks from now. Common Linnets are dead, FINISHED, like ‘M’ once said to 007 in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’).

        I will stay with my firm belief that, ballad-wise, Australia, Finland, Portugal, UK and even Netherlands offer stronger, more rousing, more ‘direct’ packages (for whatever aspect of the total package possible: vocals, song-structure, memorable melody, harmonies). Bulgaria can slip into the TOP 10 for me yes, but barely.

        And I won’t use the word ‘diaspora’ at will when, factually, Poland only got ONE TOP 10 spot in the final SINCE 2003. Only ONE! This to me, is a huge overreaction stemming from more Brexit-minded bloggers? I mean, come on, be a sport, and then also say that that same ‘diaspora’ got Poland into 24th spot in 2008, 23rd place in 2015 and a whopping last place in the semi final in 2011.

        Obviously one can ridicule me for that. But I don’t care. I trust my own judgement. And sometimes it does have its advantages…..

        Ooowh by the way? Please read my first post attached to Daniel’s blog up here. Let’s not overreact all stuff about staging either. Yes, it’s important, but even Sacha Jean-Baptiste can’t bring four countries in the TOP 4 ok?

        • Chris Bellis

          SFW – don’t get offended. It’s through debate that we can tease out the truth and hopefully make some money by defeating the bookies. I can’t speak for Montell, but I think he was joking when he called it “trolling”. I personally can’t see Spain coming anywhere near BG, and I don’t carry the prejudices against that sort of music that some do here. After all, I bet on Belgium top ten last year despite its being almost universally despised. I saw that it had an appeal, despite not being my cup of tea. I’m not the least influenced by Spanish fan hostility to the song – I just don’t think it will do very well. Major respect though if you are right and it gets close to Bulgaria in the final.

          • Mark

            It has to be a toss of the coin for Spain or Germany to get the wooden spoon. That is one of the easier predictions for 2017. Assuming Lithuania , san marino Slovenia and Georgia all fail to qualify. Spain’s song is worse than their ” chiki chiki “even.

          • Mark

            It has to be a toss of the coin for Spain or Germany to get the wooden spoon. That is one of the easier predictions for 2017. Assuming Lithuania , san marino Slovenia and Georgia all fail to qualify. Spain’s song is worse than their ” chiki chiki “even.

          • I know Chris hehe;-). Sometimes I get a bit carried away hehe ;-).

            By the way, I love to detach from Eurovision music heavily these days. I am listening something completely different. Something from Dutch singer Sevdaliza(Rotterdam-based artist). Listen to the tracks ‘Amandine Insensible’ en ‘Bluecid’. Truly georgeous album:

        • Montell

          Songfestivalwerk, don’t get offended. It’s just very unexpected for me to see Spain in someone’s top lists. Any song could be a dark horse but if it’s Spain this year then we’re dealing with a really really dark horse 😀 To tell the truth my first impression of “Do It For Your Lover” was quite positive. Only after I listened to other songs I realized how poor the song is this year’s competition.

          • Chris Bellis

            If anybody could convince us that Manel stands the remotest chance of getting into the top ten, please do it. The odds would be very favourable, whereas the odds for bottom five are poor.

          • It bobs along inoffensively and has the cute floppy-haired boy with guitar factor. I see it more 16-21 than bottom five. I’d be v surprised if it comes 26th, something like Germany is indeed more likely to IMO. Someone needs to mash it up with Reggae OK though.

  • After the withdrawal of Russia, I believe that Bulgaria’s chances for the win are enhanced a lot. I put a bet on Kristian’s win just the day before the announcement of the withdrawal. And I don’t think that he will win just because of his “Russian” influence. I think that BG’s song matches more to the tastes of the baltic and eastern countries that usually vote more for Russia. And since Russia isn’t available for voting, they will vote for what sounds closer to them. Italy is by no means audible to them. Even I thought at first that it is ridiculous. Only after hearing it a bunch of times and with subtitled lyrics in English, did I start liking it.

    Belgium and Azerbaijan are also not attractive songs for those countries. In terms of diaspora voting, I think that Latvia will take a lot of points from the Baltics and Armenia a lot from eastern countries. But Bulgaria is the next best thing for all of them to vote.

    All in all, here is my personal taste first and my prediction second:

    1. Belgium (This is very good but not for Eurovision top10)
    2. Bulgaria (Polished, with good promotion, perfect voice, perfect age, perfect camera-face, think the staging will give the final boost, will win the televote and if the jury back it up to 5th place, will be the winner)
    3. Italy (Very good, but first-time listeners/voters won’t get it, will win the jury vote, 6th-7th to televoting, will it be enough?)
    4. Hungary (This is the song that I like the most, up to the rap part… The first part reminds me of Mahmut’s Orhan “Feel”)
    5. Moldova (What ever happened to eurovision being uptempo and funny? Epic sax guy for ever!)
    6. FYROM (Loved the videoclip, not sure about Jana’s ability to perform…)
    7. France (Finally, they take it for serious…)
    8. Estonia (A very nice duet)
    9. Latvia (Good vibe, powerful song)
    10. Norway (I like it a lot, though I think it won’t do well)

    1. Bulgaria
    2. Italy
    3. Greece (Not a great song from my country, but she is Kalomoira times three, and Fokas will work his magic again. Ever since Kalomoira came third, the talk in Greece was that the next best result for Greece would come only with Demy. The diaspora will be activated highly for this as well. Could end up second in televoting)
    4. France
    5. Portugal (Personally I can’t see how this can happen, but the appeal of this song is truly amazing, even to people close to me)
    6. United Kingdom (Yeap, I think they can do it this year!Fun fact they sent to eurovision “I Will Never give Up On You” the year after the Brexit…)
    7. Armenia
    8. Latvia
    9. Sweden (Though I will not be surprised if this doesn’t even qualify…It’s the worst song they sent for years, reminds me of “In Las Vegas”)
    10. Australia (His voice is very good, but I just can’t listen to all of it, will do well with juries but not as good with the televoters…)

    • meridian_child

      How on Earth could Greece end up second on televote? I’m pretty sure the greek diaspora will be voting like crazy, but what about the rest of Europe?
      And putting Greece 3rd overall assumes they will get a great jury result as well. I just can’t see this happening.

      • Chris Bellis

        She sings well, she looks nice, it will be well staged, and the performance has a good vibe. Instantly forgettable, but that doesn’t matter. Greece has many friends and few enemies. I don’t agree with 3rd position, but a top ten finish is entirely possible.

        • meridian_child

          So much is possible 🙂

          I can imagine it sneaking into the Top 10 of Televoting, but I can also imagine it getting into the Bottom 5 with the juries.
          If the odds with such a non-song for Top 10 are that low, it makes me wonder where the odds would be if the song would be halfway decent.

  • Chris Bellis

    Johan Your list is very persuasive. I’d have Romania and Azerbaijan in there instead of Latvia and Armenia, but like you I think Greece will do a lot better than people think. Uk may just scrape in to the top ten, but don’t hold your breath. Australia is doubtful too. Belgium will be in there, but not as high as the odds suggest.

    • Chris Bellis

      Thanks for that Guildo. I had forgotten some of them. I didn’t realise we’d come second so many times either. Plus you once could get a winner who sang way out of tune (France Gall) – good song though.

  • niko

    I never go into the Eurovision bubble until a couple of weeks before the shows so I don’t get tired of the songs and can still see and hear them with fresh eyes and ears during Eurovision week. So I’ve only heard a couple of the songs before this week. With that in mind, here are a couple of observations from a somewhat outsider (not gonna do a top 10 right now):

    I must say that I’m really surprised by some of the odds. Bulgaria is second favourite? For me, it is just another one in the long endless row of dreary ballads. The best ballad from my point of view is without a doubt Finland. I see it as this year’s Kuula or Birds, a beautifully haunting song (well, I wasn’t that big of a fan of Kuula, but I understand why many people liked it). If they nail the staging, it will be three magical minutes. Perhaps not a winner, but top 5, maybe top 3?

    The Netherlands is an interesting one. The song isn’t that strong and actually a bit boring the first minute, but then the harmonies set in, which are beautiful. Then there are the weird tonal shifts, which intrigues me very much and might keep viewers on their toes, and when they get to the last part with the clapping, I’m sold. Still, I’m having a hard time figuring out whether this is something Europe might go for.

    Belgium are trying to do a second version of Rhythm Inside and I think they are failing. The chorus is not nearly as strong as two years ago and the artist not as good or charismatic.

    Why is Norway not talked about more? It is pretty contemporary, different from a lot of the other songs and I think the chorus is pretty catchy.

    Austria is in the same category, a breath of fresh air, and sounds like a song which you’ll hear on the radio. It is hampered by its draw in the semi, but it is in the weakest semi. I think viewers will remember it when they see the recap as a fresh, happy song with a cute guy. I would compare it to Malta 2013, which finished a surprise 8th. I think it qualifies.

    And then there’s Italy. I get why it’s the favorite and I… kinda find it fun, but I’m not blown away by it. My doubt is that it might be too weird to win. And I’ve watched the San Remo performance and found that to be pretty weak compared to the video, so if that is what we should expect in Kiev, I am not quite sure this can go all the way.

    Which brings me to… Portugal. The more I think about it, the more I really think this might be a winner. If we have learned anything from the last couple of years, it is that a good story can win you the contest. There is no better story this year than this quirky (but still good-looking) guy with some weird tics who suffer from health problems singing a beautiful love song in his own language. I know some might bring up Poland 2015 as an example of something equivalent that didn’t work out, but firstly, the song was worse and secondly and most important that felt cynical and way too on the nose with the pictures on the big screen. Plus, many people love an underdog and when commentators all over Europe mention that Portugal has never finished better than 5th, that might be another reason to vote for them.

  • Paddington

    Bulgaria vocal rehearsal. It’s a bit Blackstreet boys nonsense to me

  • johnkef

    Now that we did the Top10 pre-rehearsals lets do the same for the semis. With all the facts that you know and based on your experience or instict which are the 10 countries from each semi that you think that they will qualify? Just 10, not certain, 50-50 and no chance.

    Mine are

    Semi 1

    1. Armenia
    2. Portugal
    3. Australia
    4. Greece
    5. Sweden
    6. Azerbaijan
    7. Belgium
    8. Finland
    9. Cyprus
    10. Iceland

    Semi 2

    1. Bulgaria
    2. Hungary
    3. Denmark
    4. Romania
    5. Israel
    6. Estonia
    7. Macedonia
    8. Switzerland
    9. Netherlands
    10. Norway

  • My pre-rehearsals prediction.

    01. Portugal
    02. Armenia
    03. Sweden
    04. Greece
    05. Australia
    06. Azerbaijan
    07. Belgium
    08. Moldova
    09. Finland
    10. Albania

    01. Bulgaria
    02. Romania
    03. Israel
    04. Estonia
    05. Norway
    06. Denmark
    07. Hungary
    08. Switzerland
    09. Netherlands
    10. Belarus

  • Jack

    My qualifiers in no particular order:

    1. Sweden
    2. Australia
    3. Belgium
    4. Azerbaijan
    5. Portugal
    6. Greece
    7. Poland
    8. Armenia
    9. Moldova
    10. Cyprus

    1. Austria
    2. Malta
    3. Romania
    4. Netherlands
    5. Denmark
    6. Norway
    7. Belarus
    8. Bulgaria
    9. Estonia
    10. Israel

  • In no particular order:

    1. Sweden
    2. Australia
    3. Belgium
    4. Finland
    5. Azerbaijan
    6. Portugal
    7. Greece
    8. Moldova
    9. Armenia
    10. Latvia

    1. Serbia
    2. Malta
    3. Romania
    4. Switzerland
    5. Belarus
    6. Bulgaria
    7. Estonia
    8. Israel
    9. Macedonia
    10. Hungary

  • I’m not sure if I should my pre-rehearsal prediction now. People will ridicule me anyway if I do that :-).

    By the way eurovicious. You say ‘no particular order’? Still it confuses me your list. Macedonia performs before Malta. Hungary performs before Switzerland

  • John

    Hmm, a top 10 pre rehearsal. Feels more like really putting yourself on the line.


    Although Greece could usurp Azerbaijan

  • Lol:

    She looks really happy to have someone pestering her for a selfie before she’s even got her bag off the luggage belt. I’d have told him to fuck off… the entitlement!

    • Chris Bellis

      She probably realises that she is now in a real danger zone. BTW all you fans who are already in Kyiv, make sure you keep a dummy wallet and watch out for pickpockets. Kyiv is not as bad as Barcelona or Paris, but you will stand out as potential victims much more obviously. The pickpocket gangs have spotters looking for easy prey. If you are a victim, don’t expect any help from the police. I’ve had two holidays ruined by my pals ignoring this advice – something to do with cheap vodka. Keep your wits about you.

  • James Martin

    Am I alone in actually really liking Do It For Your Lover?

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