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.

Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson is every bit as slick as you’d expect opening the show. ‘I Can’t Go On’ is very much in Melodifestivalen form. Georgia’s Tamara is selling ‘Keep The Faith’ well, and the staging has become more polished: there’s now a minor smoke effect from the microphone near the start, and an impressive shot zooming back during one big note with pyro.

The staging has also come together nicely for Australia’s Isaiah, who was vocally confident here. Albania’s ‘World’ is as before, with Lindita screwing up her face for the many long notes she gets through. It feels like the weakest link so far.

Belgium’s Blanche, now in a black prom dress, is showing some improvement. There are fewer shaky vocal moments, and on occasional angles she now works with the camera – although not yet enough. She’s not helped by the fact that are too many long shots.

Slavko is giving us three minutes of cabaret at your local gay bar. It looks like an uphill struggle to get Montenegro to the final this year. There follows a break after his performance.

I’m not sure it completely helps Finland for something so downbeat to come after the break, and Leena biffed one note badly, but this looks as gorgeous as before. Azerbaijan is treading a fine line between being interestingly avant-garde and plain awful. For the most part it’s avoiding the latter, but the bridge is a concern right now.

This was our first opportunity to see Portugal’s Salvador. The tics were more pronounced than in the national final, and he failed to look at the cameras once. But there’s no doubting the charm of the package. We have room for improvement in the camera angles, and we have to give Salvador a chance to get used to performing in this arena.

There was a very short interlude at this point. Coming next, the same problems remain for Greece: big notes being biffed and the waterfall projection not producing the goods. Poland’s Kasia was on better form vocally today, but it still feels rather aggressively sung. Moldova is a blessed relief of well-executed fun after all this. The backing singers are still doing the costume change, and Sunstroke Project have this routine down pat.

Iceland’s Svala is as before: well performed but not feeling particularly voter-friendly. There was a break after her performance, which included interviews with Finland and Moldova (with a nice shout-out for Epic Sax Guy). Martina Barta was in better vocal form for the Czech Republic this afternoon. But it’s difficult to envisage ‘My Turn’ qualifying in this competitive heat.

No one is giving better camera in this semi than Hovig from Cyprus. The balancing tricks are now very sharp too. Armenia is another thoughtful audio-visual package. The last minute from the bridge onwards is particularly powerful. Slovenia’s Omar Naber is also giving it everything for the climax of ‘On My Way’, and the staging is effective.

Latvia’s Triana Park end proceedings. The band were put into relative darkness during the bridge – I’m not sure if it was accidental or not, but it wasn’t helping. Afterwards, we got performances from Spain, the UK, and Italy. They will show one-minute clips from their performances from the jury rehearsal in tomorrow’s show.

Do let us know your continued thoughts below. And don’t forget to check back on Twitter for tonight’s action.

29 comments to Eurovision 2017: First semi-final dress rehearsal

  • Mr. Accumulator

    Think Czech & Albania are the two dark horses in the entire competition and ideally both should easily qualify in this.

  • 360

    Triana Park might squeak in as one of the rare upbeat entries, also with the pimp slot. Although that impact would probably come stronger if they were in the middle of a bunch of ballads as a ray of sun to stand out firmer.

    Sweden has been going from strength to strength. Blanche I would now be very comfortable betting against. At this point I’m not quite convinced by either Finland or Portugal. Portugal is very charming, but I think on the night (grand final, that is) will be pushed out of contention by some of the more pushy performers. Finland also stronger than I initially gave it credit for, but ultimately is giving me Anouk vibes from when she entered; yes, she managed top 10, but only just. I’m wondering if its appeal is stronger within the fandom bubble.

    I’m wondering which of Blanche and Montenegro will benefit more from that running order – it could go either way. Montenegro will be an upbeat dose of fun, coming late enough into the show that viewers will have had a drink or two, and will seem especially more upbeat after the darker Blanche. But, on the other hand, Blanche might seem immediately more professional and competent being followed by a highly campy, almost joke act style performance.

    At this point I think there’s still an outside on Montenegro qualifying because it is pure Eurovision, and not just what the British think of it. Reminiscent of Romania’s ‘vampire’ from a few years back. It’s coming late enough in the show for people to throw votes at it for a laugh.

    • “Professional” and “competent” wouldn’t be my first two choice of adjectives for Blanche and Belgium at this point in time.

      Thank goodness she dumped the bridal dress though.

    • eurovicious

      Montenegro is absolutely terrible. And I’m not sure Blanche switching the (admittedly frumpy) virginal white innocent dress for a dark funereal one is a good idea. Honestly they should have put her in a better white/light-coloured dress and projected lights onto it.

    • Montenegro is just awful, I really don’t see how anyone would vote for this other than a joke. I doubt it scores hardly anything from juries.
      Latvia meanwhile, sounded pretty awful infront of the juries last night. I think that puts the nail in its coffin

      • 360

        Oh true, I was forgetting the jury aspect again. That sinks that ship then, as well as elevating Portugal and Finland higher. I was predicting from a pure public vote perspective.

        • with this format, a pure televote song can qualify, but only one that would get a lot of televote support – like Romania. Middling support with little jury would spell doom I would think

  • Mark-Jay

    I must be the only one who believes that Blanche is a strong contender for a top 5 position. Her voice, lyrics and music are dark but beautiful. It’s clear seeing her interview and perform that she’s an introvert. To me, only a person who is of a shy disposition should sing about being “alone in the danger zone”. It absolutely suits her. I would hope that the Juries see that book matches the cover. I.e. She’s not trying to be someone she’s not! I think she can do it.

    I know we are all tired of discussing the Common Linnets but I have to say it; I called it then when the vast majority of contributors here were anti the Netherlands. So I’m calling it again: Blanche can do it and end in a strong left hand side position.

    • I really hope that your optimism comes off…for her. She has been through the mill this last week. I´d see her qualifying in maybe 7th-8th spot and ending up mid division Saturday. But I hope you are right and I am wrong.

    • eurovicious

      Big up. It’s a strong package and the fact she looks scared/upset doesn’t harm it too much IMO given the content of the song. If she was performing eurodance or a Disney ballad while looking distressed it’d be another story.

    • johnkef

      I agree that Blanche still has chances for a Top 10 finishing. The quality of the song and her fragility will be a plus. I actually bought Belgium’s Top10 after the rehearsals and i think there is value there

      • It’s actually my favourite song, from the first time I heard it I loved it. However, I probably wouldn’t think that on the live version. Still really hopeful it does well on Saturday (if it Qs)

    • Dana

      I agree with you. It is still one of the best songs of the year ad her performance isn’t as bad as the fan press have been making out. Top 5 is still within reach.

      I’ll risk further ridicule with the unpopular opinions that a) Portugal won’t do as well in the televoting as people are assuming and b) France will do a lot better than people are predicting.

    • 360

      I do think it will definitely get through the semi and into the grand final, but from there, I have my doubts.

      I’m a little gutted I didn’t bet against her being top 5 when she was a big favourite earlier in the season.

      At the minute the act she most reminds me of is Maraaya (headphone girl) from a few years back. Also decently popular going in, but ended up not making enough of a connection on the night and bombed.

      Blanche has a decently strong song and juries should probably like her, but only if she manages to nail her performance. Any nervy issues or similar and she’ll be marked down and harshly, and televoters won’t give her sympathy votes either.

  • Alpie

    I have heard that Armenia may win the semi 1 but Portugal may have a shot at winning in the final. what is the thinking behind this?

    • johnkef

      Armenia has plenty of allies in this Semi ( Greece, Cyprus, Georgia, Belgium) so it is more probable to win. Portugal will get votes might stay away from the 12’s and 10’s that can secure the victory. Final is a different story.

      Last year Ukraine came second in its semi behind Australia and i remember as well back in 2008 Russia losing the semi from Greece but won in the final.

      In semis you have only half of the countries voting so allies do help

    • Ukraine failed to win its SF, the televote or top the jury score last year – but still won the whole thing

    • Black n Blue

      The momentum factor too. Ukraine made a lot of the papers after the semi final. I had an exam on the day of the final and Jamala was on two of the three front covers on the stand outside the hall. That sort of exposure is what’s needed sometimes to give the televote a necessary boost come Saturday.

      What’s interesting tonight is that both Portugal and Italy are performing. I presume like last year we’ll only hear 90 seconds of the big five’s songs so in that sense Portugal will still get more exposure. Which one of those two do we think the international press will feature tomorrow?

  • Alpie

    to whoever has seen Portugal live: Is there still a room for improvement for Portugal? I am still having difficulty how the song will be connected with the young viewers. If an old fashioned song is connected why not Denmark then?

  • Black n Blue

    Portugal are down to under 7’s on Betfair exchange. How low do we think their price can go before Saturday? I think if Salvador performs it to the standard we know he can reach and if they draw 2nd half, I can see Portugal getting matched at 3’s.

    • Ben

      Only 3’s,,,,, I could see this shorter than that!
      The momentum for this, and before the live semi final is something I have rarely seen!

      Can see no alternative right now, that a comfortable Portugal win for portugal on Saturday.

      Glad I got it at 12’s last week

    • Black n Blue

      Well matched at 3’s provided Italy stays under 2. I think a Portugal win is possible but I’d still expect Italy to remain as the market leader.

      • meridian_child

        Portugal around 3 and Italy still under 2 or around 2 does not make sense to me. What are Armenia, Sweden and Bulgaria going to have then? 40+?

  • Does any bookie do accumulators on the To Qualify market?

  • Simon '' le chat''

    Ill post my views on who will win tomorrow but I cannot understand how Italy are odds on. The song is reasonable and the performance good but the artist does not sing in English which is going to be fatal. Do these people never learn? Odds on? Do me a favour. Best lay of the year.

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