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Eurovision 2016 Rehearsals: Day 1 Review

God morgon från Stockholm! Or good evening etc. and welcome to the first day of rehearsals.

The benefit of coming to Sweden this year – rather than Italy – is that the wifi works, rehearsals start on time and the press centre monitors spring into life from the off… for now at least.

finlandChrister Björkman intended Sandhja’s Sing It Away to be the lively show opener, but the dull purple/gold staging lacks the visual impact Finland needed to stand out in this semi-final. By the third rehearsal the camera angles framed the interplay between Sandhja and her five backing singers, though it’s still a rather lacklustre package. Sandhja takes to the satellite stage during the bridge before shimmying back to the main stage for the climax. This looks awkward in an empty arena and does show some of Sandjha’s more unflattering angles, as this tweet suggests:

Greece’s rehearsal didn’t really happen for us due to a lack of sound. Visually they look destined for the slot-2 nuking owing to the same dull gold staging as Finland. Argo have dropped a band member in favour of a more telegenic dancer who interacts well with the rapper. The rapper looks an unwilling passenger in this partnership, but it does elevate Greece, albeit from an extremely low base.moldova

It was the same story for Moldova, though the sound did return for the final run through. Lidia Isac stands alone against a blue/white fragmented backdrop. Surprisingly, she was interacting well with the cameras, more so than Sandhja, but she retains that amateur, karaoke-singer look. After the first chorus, Lidia is joined on stage by a cosmonaut – not even Britain’s own PR-hungry astronaut, Tim Peake, would volunteer for this gig. It all looks rather pointless for the 10-seconds or so before he removes the helmet and takes up his role as sole dancer. What is he waiting for? confirmation that the O2 levels had stabilised? Non-qualifier.

Hungary remains in national final guise with deep red staging, three backing singers and a drummer, who doesn’t actually make contact with the drum. Freddie looks and sounds sharp, but stays rooted to his centre-stage perch for the entire 3-minutes of Pioneer – he did wander during the final run through. As a song it’s directionless, and it seems as if the staging mirrors this vulnerability. With other telegenic males to follow from Netherlands, Russia, croatiaCyprus and Estonia, Freddie can’t rely on Europe’s middle-aged women to vote him through.

The Contest is over: Croatia are winning this thing. That is this year’s Barbara Dex award, of course. Nina starts the song draped in what looks like a sheet of decorative bubblewrap with an alienesque collar as if she were going on a first date with Ming the Merciless. This intergalactic-chic is ripped away during the first chorus revealing Nina’s normal attire. We’re told the main dress will be white and feathery. Even worse for Croatia, Nina’s normally reliable vocal deserted her and the four backing singers sounded off-key in parts too. At this rate, Lighthouse is in danger of becoming this year’s Horehronie.

After four low key songs, it was down to Douwe Bob to raise the bar with Slow Down. The stage floor features a large clock face and they’ve lengthened the tick-tock intro of the song. The backdrop is a bland beige, which I guess suits the song, but I have to admit to wanting more from the Netherlands.  Douwe takes to the satellite stage for the close where the music cuts for about 10 seconds – my guess is that the audience will be prompted to sing along. I TH0000123suspect Slow Down will come to life at the next rehearsal.

If we were in Amsterdam, one would think they’d just entered the red light district. Iveta opens with the spoken “Hello it’s me…”, the camera switches suggestively between face and body showing her fishnet-clad thighs with a red pulsating light above. The apocalyptic opening isn’t as explosive as the song demands: during the final run through, fire jets were deployed to accentuate this passage, but it’s miles apart from the ‘going nuclear’ effect we all anticipated. If you think about it, the rest of the song lacks the same level of impact, so to miss such a clear open goal for staging is a glaring error on Armenia’s part. The budget was blown on a holo-gauze effect, where blurry versions of Iveta writhe behind her like some ghostly drug fuelled hallucination. It’s impressive, but does it really add to the package? I don’t think so and have been laying the win and top-5 markets.

I was looking forward to Serhat’s I Didn’t Know, but was left disappointed by the dark, blue and red backdrop. Like Armenia, San Marino have exploited the holo-gauze technology to project another line of dancers to the rear of the stage – this took a while to get right, but the final run through looked sharper. It’s obviously not qualifying, but TH0000123_16whether it finishes last or not is debatable.

Last up and most anticipated was Sergey Lazarev for Russia, and if their staging proved one thing, it’s that Fokas can’t think outside of the box. Like Iceland, Fokas has cloned the Måns-style projection concept minus the simplicity and emotional connection. Rather than Måns’ flat projection screen, Russia’s has various disguised platforms that allows Sergey to climb and jump around the CGI imagery. Sergey fell from one of the platforms during the first performance, so it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure of a live audience. The imagery has no relevance to the lyrics and the whole package is overblown and typical of Russian extravagance. There is no journey, no wow climax and is instead a series of flashy, over complicated graphics. We haven’t seen the winner today.

Tell us what you think of the day’s events below.

About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. Russia you disappointed me! What on earth is that ridiculous performance? And he also fell..OMG!! I would give a chance to Malta to win! They want it so much! Unless we see something extraordinary from France…

  2. Douwe Bob told people can fill in the 10 seconds themself, be quiet or singalong, he wil just let it happen. So probably a singalong then

  3. Full version of Sergey without falling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro40HYHp-b4

  4. For me best reheasals today Armenia, The Netherlands, Greece
    Good Russia, Hungary, Moldova
    Not good Croatia, San Marino, Finland

  5. It’s a day that underwhelms for me nothing standing out at all. Armenia seems to be the best of the day but I don’t see it from the photos or video clip available. Russia is a complete mess as far as I’m concerned too much going on and distracts from the song and I have layed it on that basis. Looking forward to a good day tomorrow from the Czechs, Malta and Cyprus.

  6. I can only see Czech Republic surprising now. Perhapssss Malta and Estonia. But all other entries in the 2nd half of semi 1 are not really a threat for Armenia and Russia.

    Standouts of today:
    1. Armenia: Dark horse for the victory of semi final 1?
    2. Russia: Certified TOP 10 final, certified TOP 5 maybe, but no-hoper for victory
    One of these two will take the semi final and win it.

    After that I’d say:
    3. Netherlands: Need to see this with audience to get a ‘Malta 2013’ vibe
    4. Hungary: Very static, but not in a good way
    5. Greece: OK-ish…same Sirtaki blabla again from Greece

    Then some no-hopers:
    6. Finland
    7. Croatia
    8. San Marino
    9. Moldova

    • Stephen Colville

      I know Croatia didn’t have a fantastic rehearsal today (although apart from the dress, which isn’t on for long, there was little wrong with it), but to call it a no-hoper is just plain wrong. The strength of the song alone should be enough to see it through. This is not a Horehronie, as some seem to think.

  7. Question for me tomorrow is the Czech Republic.Its a very strong modern ballad that could take the third place in this semi and do very well in the final.I cant see anything else getting close to Armenia and Russia.The Netherlands could be the other main challenger for the 3rd place maybe.
    Malta might be able to sell themselves very well,but something is just missing for me.Still respect them though.

  8. is there a precedent for acts being marked down for imitating the previous year in terms of presentation? if so, you have to consider Russia may not even make top 5

    Armenia looked the best today but i guess Russia are winning in terms of voting power so far.

  9. Russia managed to destroy their chances to win but I cant see that not being top-3 at least. So who is next? France? Amir said the staging will not be like the one he had at the TV show! Malta? They really want it and I am waiting the staging tomorrow! However it lacks the power of being the winning song!! I cannot find any other challenger at this point…

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