Eurovision 2017: Grand Final rehearsal

This afternoon the press centre watched the first rehearsal for tomorrow night’s big event. Not everyone was in their battle outfits, and the important pre-show run-through is tonight for the benefit of the juries. Follow us on Twitter for our views on that as it happens.

Israel’s Imri was an example of the Eurovision performer who looks more relaxed now he’s made it into the final. ‘I Feel Alive’ is a great show opener. Poland’s ‘Flashlight’ is a complete buzzkill afterwards, but I will give Kasia Mos credit for her excellent vocals.

There are six more minutes of white costumes against a largely dark blue backdrop, but at least Belarus’s Naviband bring the fun, sounding delighted to be here. Like that duo, Nathan looks an ideal entertainer for kids’ birthday parties. He nailed the bridge of ‘Running On Air’, which has been slightly problematic for him during rehearsals.

Armenia’s Artsvik brings a good contrast to proceedings, and was in excellent voice this afternoon. The sight of three women on stage, combined with very solid vocals, continues with O’G3NE. They are always reliable for The Netherlands with ‘Lights and Shadows’.

There was a brief cut to the hosts to give a social media plug before we moved onto Moldova. Sunstroke Project with ‘Hey Mamma’ were as before, though one of the backing singers’ costume changes didn’t work. Hungary’s Joci was in excellent form again with ‘Origo’, showing no ill-effects of a punishing schedule for the second semi-final qualifiers.

Francesco and his gorilla were in their civvies this afternoon. The charismatic Italian had toned down his Dad dancing and on-stage antics, but I’m not sure whether this was his idea of going through the motions. Tonight’s jury rehearsal will tell us much more. It doesn’t feel good for Denmark’s Anja coming straight afterwards, because it emphasises the blandness of her song. She was in great vocal form as before.

Portugal’s Salvador was improvising and ad-libbing more than ever, using his hands to create a megaphone effect a few times, missing the occasional line, then using his hands again to create a trumpet sound during the instrumental. He apologised at the end, saying that he’d got bored rehearsing the song so many times. It’ll be edge-of-the-seat stuff for viewers and punters alike when it matters.

There’s a brief cut to a member of the audience so that Azerbaijan have time to set things up. Dihaj has been ill over the last few days, but coped well enough here. Croatia’s Jacques Houdek was wisely saving his voice this afternoon, but ‘My Friend’ is no less memorable in this final field.

Australia plays it very straight in comparison, and Isaiah wasn’t hitting any bum notes this time. The commercial break comes at this point. Greece are trying different things with their big notes: Demy and her backing singers were all going for the high one again this afternoon, with mixed results.

Spain has actually improved from absolutely hideous, but it’s still aiming low and missing. Manel was playful with the cameras and in slightly better voice until hitting a really bum note near the climax. Norway proved me wrong last night by qualifying, and JOWST justify their inclusion by bringing something modern and different to the rest of the field.

There was a long comedy skit at this point before we moved onto the UK. Lucie has managed to make her song less monotonous by softening her voice in the first verse and chorus, then going heavy on the reverb for the final chorus. The staging is as effective as before. Hovig was in excellent form afterwards, and the Cypriot choreography remained tight.

Romania’s Alex and Ilinca need a full, flag-waving arena to be seen to best effect, but ‘Yodel It’ remains an entertainment highlight. We go from the most colourful, characterful staging, to Germany’s drab greyness. It’s not an advantageous juxtaposition for Levina.

Ukraine’s O.Torvald offer the only rock effort in the final, and there’s not much more to say about it. Belgium’s Blanche had a good run-through, offering us that shy smile halfway through ‘City Lights’ to let us know she’s coping better than many of us thought a week ago.

Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson offers a complete contrast, and I don’t think it harms either him or Blanche. Viewers will merely prefer whichever one they prefer.

The same can be said for Bulgaria’s package, which is the most obvious jury bait in this field. Kristian was in fine voice this afternoon. France’s Alma is in the pimp slot with the aptly-named ‘Requiem’, and she looked and sounded relaxed on stage.

Keep your thoughts coming below as the big day approaches.

42 comments to Eurovision 2017: Grand Final rehearsal

  • Keanu

    Kevin hatchard of Betfair tips and his thoughts on grand final

    I’ve posted here his tips and open and settled bets on Eurovision 2017.
    I’m going with this guy on Bulgaria from now on and I think he makes good point about Armenia and could top 5 rather than Belguim.

    Recommended Bulgaria to win the Eurovision Song Contest at 6.00

    Lay Belgium in the Top 5 market at 2.00

    Open bets from his previous columns:
    Layed Italy in the Winner market at 2.00
    Backed United Kingdom in the Top 15 market at 2.40
    Backed Australia in the Top 10 market at 1.65
    Backed Armenia in the Top 5 market at 2.76
    Layed Portugal in the Top 5 market at 2.70

    Settled bets:
    Backed Poland to qualify at 2.10 – won
    Backed Croatia to qualify at 2.40 – won
    Layed Austria to qualify at 1.58 – lost

  • Here’s Portugal’s performance from this afternoon.

  • Jimmy

    Anyone think that Hungary is a solid top 10 in the final? I was really moved by his performance and it’s charting well.

    • Chris Bellis

      Backed it way back, ignoring some of the noise on eurofan sites about no-one liking gypsies….I thought that if that were true, the Gypsy Kings wouldn’t have totally sold out houses on every tour, and none of my non-gypsy East European friends would ever have a gypsy band at weddings etc. Except they all do. People may not like some parts of gypsy culture, but they all love the music.

  • wef

    @Chris Bellis

    I’ve put a bit on UK Top 10/ Top 5.

    Can’t see it not being Top 10 and I think the running order (lots of filler around it) suggests that TPTB think it will do well too.

    Also laying Sweden… risky I know but can’t see how all of Bul/ Bel/ Swe did well and then have been placed together. My guess is at least one of them hasn’t…. I reckon that was Sweden.

  • Chris Bellis

    wef – agreed. Sweden is slick, but juries won’t like it. Dangerous to think one’s own view is going to transfer to the televoters, but I find it fairly awful. First time listeners may take to it though. I bet on UK when the price was really good, but there’s still some value in there. Think about all the acts – Lucie is the only one that’s delivered every time.

    • wef

      I think you’re right about the UK.

      My assembly of the facts have made me come to the conclusion that:

      The song is one of the best dozen
      The singer is right up there- possibly the best
      The staging is the best

      The running order is in its favour… got Top 10 at 7/2 awhile back so we shall see.

      Apparently no act that has been in the Top 4 in either semi has been placed next to each other since the Producer decided on the draw

  • BT

    The official channel posted a very interesting video above about deciding the running order. From what I can tell, Sweden and Belgium were placed in 20th and 21st position respectively for a long time during decision making with Germany and Romania in 23rd and 24th just before Bulgaria instead. It looks like they had Portugal and Bulgaria set in stone from the start but had Italy as early as 7th at one point.

    I’m not really sure what to make of these observations or what the number 2 that’s circled on Norway, Romania and Bulgaria means. I would have guessed semi final 2 but that’s already marked in the top right corner. Any guesses on what moving Sweden and Belgium from their original 20th/21st spots mean or is that reading too much into things?

    • Sagand

      Interesting what they were happy to move around and what was fixed. Bulgaria was always 25 and Portugal had their place and Poland was always 2nd.

      (Norway, Romania and Bulgaria were the three acts to draw second half from the second semi final)

      If anything is related to the voting it’s the little stars in the bottom right corners. They are the entries that either got slots towards the end of halves or with non-stars either side.

    • zat

      Indeed. Sell your IBM shares as fast as possible. Their “Watson tone analyzer” is nothing but a box with hidden monkeys inside typing on keyboards without knowing anything about the world outside.

      • All that and they conclude “Watson’s hot favourite is France – not a bad bet given the current political element either. But we could see Croatia or Belarus take the crown.” I’ve never read such gubbins!

        • johnkef

          it is funny though! i love all those ‘analysis’ that check for whatever they want promote. oh there’s eurovision this week let’s make some noise with a crazy prediction

  • Simon 'le chat'

    I cannot see either Italy or Portugal winning. If you don’t sing in English you don’t win. Question for Daniel and team. When was the last time a non English singer won? English is the international language. Four hundred years ago it was between English and French but the turning point was Caxton and the distribution of Chaucer, and then in the last 60 years the invasion of English and American popular music.
    I’m sure most viewers tomorrow will know the words of ‘Twist and Shout’ but will they understand what Portugal or Italy are singing about?
    I think not.

    I’m going for a double Romania and Sweden to be in top 10.
    Not very good odds but there’s no such thing as a bad profit.
    The winner?
    The top three in the betting are very similar songs and styles and might cut each others throats.
    UK have no chance. We don’t want Europe so they wont want us.
    Sweden could do it but I’ll put my money on Romania each way at 66/1 with Betfred.
    Wont have a big stake but at those odds I don’t need to.
    Good luck all.

    • Stoney

      Can’t agree with you on portugal but definitely agree on your views on uk. It doesn’t matter who we put out there to sing. Even the beatles would flop in the eurovision now days. Can’t believe people are investing in our chances.

    • Marek BP

      In the past 17 years, 3 winners haven’t been sung entirely in English: 2004 (mix of English and Ukrainian), 2007 (Serbian) and 2016 (mix of English and Crimean Tatar).

      Furthermore, a song performed in Italian won the televote in 2015.

  • I have an awful theory. Imagine Portugal wins the televote but not the jury vote. We’ve seen time and again that juries favour slickly packaged Western MOR radio-pop over artistic/non-Anglophone entries, and indeed Portugal was “only” 6th in Eurojury, behind Sweden, Belgium, Australia et al…

    • niko

      That is absolutely plausible. The majority of the jury members work with music that is much more like Sweden, Bulgaria, Belgium and Australia. And perhaps you can argue that Italy is also closer to their day-to-day work. Still, there are too many amateurish entries for them to totally dismiss Portugal, but I do not think Portugal is the favourite to win the jury vote.

    • shimritfs

      Italy did win the jury vote in 2011 though. And by a good margin.

  • beckettfitz

    The Eastern European countries might give their 12’s to Bulgaria but out of Italy and Portugal, which of the two will get their 8’s or 10’s?

    Maybe that will determine the winner? Portugal may get a lot of 10 or 12’s or a few nil points. What about Italy?

  • Anyone else found Bulgaria’s draw of second half slightly fishy? Their delegation does seem to go all-in this year, in all respects:

    • Hippo

      Yeah, no mixing straight from the top. Ksenia form Naviband doesn’t look impressed, and the Belarusians know rigging when they see it. In all likelihood it’s nothing, but the Ebu shouldn’t give anyone ammunition to say otherwise. That bowl should have clearly been mixed up.

      • If any other country, I wouldn’t even have thought about it. But the talk in Kiev is that the Bulgarian delegation this year has both plenty of money and ambition, and aren’t stopping at expensive videos and staging. One explanation mentioned is that the Russian would-be ESC budget now is funneled into getting the Russian-born Kristian to win – in Ukraine at that.

    • John

      Ksenia’s face is a picture. More so looking at Kristians bizarre reaction. She’s like ‘Kid…please’

  • Johannes

    1. Italy -> long time “obviosly” winner. Then I saw staging 6/10, so messy. If at least little improvement staging and success vocally, naked gorilla torilla=win.
    2. Portugal -> atmosphere 9/10. Thrilling and vulnerable, but also maybe little bit boring… Maybe east not good points at televote?
    3. Bulgaria -> staging, voice 9/10. But song maybe has to be one level better, if winning. Last minute intensity gone at the staging, not good.
    4-6. Sweden, UK, Belgium. Keep an eye on it Sweden and UK. Especially UK, Staging WoW efect, anyone else the same this year?
    Blackhorse maybe Hungary, but at least 6-8.

  • Here is my TOP 13, as posted earlier in here:

    Left hand side of the scoreboard:

    01. BULGARIA
    02. PORTUGAL
    04. ITALY
    05. SWEDEN

    06. ARMENIA
    07. BELGIUM
    08. MOLDOVA
    09. CROATIA
    10. NORWAY

    11. ISRAEL
    12. AUSTRIA
    13. ROMANIA

    Right hand side of the scoreboard:

    14. Hungary
    15. The Netherlands
    16. Azerbaijan
    17. France
    18. Australia

  • Mark-Jay

    I feel, whether we like it or relish it, the ESC have elevated itself in recent years and so have we in terms of the winners. Let’s be honest, every year we look at the “markets” but the so called markets look at us because we are the people who are watching, reviewing, assessing and loving (or disliking) a country. The reason why the bookies don’t always get it right with Eurovsion is because we ourselves are evolving with our expectations and tastes. Sometimes that’s something spectacular and unexpected like Ukraine or a proper ESC tune like Euphoria.

    Similarly, it can be something as simple and authentic and vulnerable like Belgium with City Lights. Never mind the markets. We decide what we, the fans think. Very rarely, if you actually think about it, are we wrong. The markets follow us so let’s stop thinking about what they think and let’s discuss what WE think!

  • John

    I’d like to say before the show my hope is for an Italy win. I think it’s the best song. Portugal and Bulgaria are nice but Portugal is a little too simple and for Bulgaria I think there’s been a little too much fiddling in the competition with Ukraine an it’s neighbours. To the point where it would almost be amusing to see a ‘Russian’ singer win in Kiev. It’s Chinatown, as they say.

    Not that Portugal getting a win would be a bad thing. After that I think Blanche winning would be nice after her fortnight, Dihajs art getting a top 4, and the lunacy of Croatia and Romania getting vindicated too.

    Worst would be Bulgaria or Sweden, there’s something cynical there. I’m fickle though, I wanted Sergei to win last year purely because he was such a good sport.

  • 360

    One thing I will say about Italy; I know in Italy it’s been praised for its lyrics and humour etc, which some people are using as a strike against it…

    But for me personally, I have no idea what the song’s about, or what any of the lyrics are, and [i]that’s fine[/i]. What sells it is the melody and Gabbani’s charm, really. In that sense it’s got basically the same appeal as Las Ketchup’s Ketchup Song from back in the day.

    On the flipside, Portugal, I think probably makes more of an impact if you know the words and what the guy’s actually singing about. There’s less clues from the style of the track and/or the big screen than Italy uses.

    As for Bulgaria, I feel it’s the kind of song that most years would come 3rd or 4th. I can see it winning this year because I’m anticipating a large split in the number of top votes going to about the top 5 or 6 songs; less of a two- and three- horse race than it usually is. A lot of the front-runners do very different things this year. This is almost bringing XF-style analysis in here, but I feel in terms of all the boxes there are for a track to tick, Bulgaria hits more of them than any of the other top tipped tracks.

    Exciting times.

  • Stoney

    Portugal and Italy swapping places in the odds a few times this morning, Bulgaria creeping up the rear. A lot of covering backsides I guess

  • Bulgaria for me… interesting thing this year is that a lot of bettors as opposed to gamblers have been picking the same songs, and it seems that Bulgaria is the ‘pros’ choice

    long version of my views (I’m not a pro… i just like to make then spend money from betting)

  • Personally I find it remarkable that Bulgaria is being beaten in the charts by no less than three songs from the _first_ semi (who peaked much higher and have faded strongly since) and one song that hasn’t even performed.

    If an entry with such strikingly poor charting wins, it would be unprecedented. Make of that what you will.

  • Matt

    I must agree Squall. Bulgaria is underperforming in the charts, which though not the only consideration, seems a small red flag. If I wasn’t worried about the dark arts of their delegation/EBU/Russia* (delete as appropriate), I wouldn’t be counting them in the same conversation as Portugal and Italy.

  • Rob4

    lets talk about Greece and Ukraine. it seems that these perennial top tenners are being written off for top ten this year. i’m not sure they should be. Greece has a decent running order with one of the most powerful diasporas. ukraine also has massive voting power, a good running order and the usp of the only rock song – there’s usually a rock song challenging the top 10.

    the other two diaspora heavy countries are azer and armenia. armenia is hard to judge as it is striking but has a poor running order – it could be considered a little marmite. azer i think is too leftfield this year to do top 10.

  • niko

    Well, I’m soon off to my Eurovision party, so for the heck of it, here’s my prediction that we all can laugh about tomorrow:

    1. Portugal
    2. Belgium
    3. Sweden
    4. Italy
    5. Bulgaria
    6. Armenia
    7. Moldova
    8. Romania
    9. Cyprus
    10. Hungary
    11. Greece
    12. United Kingdom
    13. Croatia
    14. Netherlands
    15. Norway
    16. Austria
    17. Australia
    18. Belarus
    19. Azerbaijan
    20. Denmark
    21. Poland
    22. Israel
    23. France
    24. Ukraine
    25. Spain
    26. Germany

    I think Cyprus could be this year’s Danny Montell and get a shocking top 10. It is contemporary with a memorable staging and good vocals and it is in a good spot in the running order.

    I like the French song, but that staging… woo, boy, I don’t think making people dizzy with the last song of the night is going to be popular.

    Poland is probably a bit too low, but I still have no idea how much influence their diaspora really have.

    Epic Sax Guy will storm the televote, he was a European phenomenon seven years ago and the song as a whole is more fun and upbeat this time around. I think Moldova beats Romania in the battle of the novelty songs.

    As for the top, I think Portugal has the momentum to carry it over the line. Italy is still too weird to take home the win, and I think Belgium and Sweden will be much clearer in the minds of televoters at the end of the night. Bulgaria as fifth is a bit of my own bias, I must admit, but I really see the first four songs as having more mass appeal.

  • Sagand

    I see this year as a contest between three songs from three different eras of the contest.

    First you have Portugal from the orchestra era. It’s a song sung in its own national language that will mainly appeal to juries. If this was still a contest run under 1997 rules it would be hard to oppose, but every change since then made it weaker. Is it a televote song? The number of countries it is charting in on iTunes says it might be, but through comparing country to country to Belgium its support may well be a mile wide but an inch deep. The audience is also different on a Saturday night, it’s bigger, it’s drunker and it’s more likely to be at or going to a party, none of that I feel favours Portugal. Is a non-English language waltz in the first half with no gimmick going to be remembered enough? I doubt it.

    The change for juries to rank all the songs also hurts it, since this change has been made the televote winner has always been more emphatic than the jury winner which favours the televote winner overall. The ranking system helps the songs no-one dislikes, the winner of jury votes under this system have been Dami Im, Mans and Conchita (probably Emmelie de Forest although we don’t have enough information to be certain). All in English, all contemporary in their own way. Italy 2012 may have won the jury vote but he did it at a time if someone didn’t ‘get’ a song they couldn’t hurt it like they can now. Portugal could well find itself near the bottom of some ranking of jury members who find it dull or old fashioned; taking away the jury points it needs to dominate. The third change is the way Juries and Televote is combined or as it is now not combined. This change took power away from juries and favoured countries with televote diaspora. It isn’t a coincidence Australia would have won in the old system and Ukraine won in the new one. It doesn’t help Portugal that Italy and in particularly Bulgaria already have some televotes in the bag.

    Italy is from this era of the contest. It has national identity but international appeal. It has a strong sense of fun and gorilla plays into making it memorable. It still has the language barrier which I think hurts it with both televote and juries and if it had drawn second half it would be my predicted winner. But to win from first half the audience has to decide during the performance that it doesn’t matter what comes after that’s the one they’re voting for, that’s what Conchita did and Mans didn’t. If he doesn’t seal the votes they bleed off to Croatia and Romania (and Portugal and Bulgaria). I don’t think the package is strong enough to do that, it wasn’t instant enough to win San Remo night 2 (or night 4). The song is better fit for Eurovision than San Remo but I think it will fall short.

    Bulgaria is an example of where the contest is going. The song could have been released by anyone, from anywhere and is rather self-serious. In the coming years there is a risk Eurovision loses its identity to chart music. Apart from being quite soulless it is the complete package. He doesn’t get enough credit for how good a singer he is. Juries will give him that. It has the running order, it has the English language, and it has the geography (with added Russia support). He clearly won the second semifinal and should be closer in the odds (if not favourite).

    (Wildcard: Belgium topping EscTracker iTunes, only entry to make any real impact on Spotify outside their home country, sings in English, perfect running order, only female in contention 6/10 last winners were solo females only 3/10 solo males, odds reflect press room doesn’t like the way she performs it audience doesn’t seem to care. (Juries?))

    1. Bulgaria
    2. Italy
    3. Belgium
    4. Portugal

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