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Eurovision 2016 Rehearsals: Day 2 Review

Always a keen tourist, I covered about half a mile with Rob from EntertainmentOdds yesterday evening looking for the nearest Subway. “It’s just down here,” said Rob. Trusting as ever – and eager for a decent sandwich after our ‘salad and protein’ buffet – we plodded from one end of the mall to the other. Considering sending out a distress signal, Rob asked a local using his best arm gestures while repeating Subway at varying volumes.

Thankfully we found Subway on the bottom floor way before the search party were dispatched. Spicy Italian here I come.AP6_0973

Gabriela Gunčíková, or Gabriela Phwoarčíková as she is known in some quarters, was up first today. Wearing the previously reported white dress, Gabriela is centre stage with purple/pink geometric patterns behind her. It’s a nice effect, but appears rather overpowering and negates the intimacy I Stand demands. During the climax the staging transitions to the floral effects seen in the official video. Gabriela then unclips her hair for the full on Disney Princess wind machine finale. There were significant improvements for the Czech Republic with each of the three run throughs, but in my opinion, the staging needs more white-light impact during the big moments.

“Finally some rock,” cheered Jon Ola Sand from the arena. Minus One are in cages which looks a direct rip from Outtrigger’s Melfest 2014 staging, albeit minus the Hannibal Lecter mask. The cages were quite off putting at first, but by the final run through the lighting and camera angles started to work. The big talking AP6_1053point will no doubt be the pre-recorded wolf footage interspersed throughout Cyprus‘ song. I’m surprised it hasn’t been used before, but barring a few tweaks, Alter Ego could look very polished come next week’s semi-final. Francois Micheletto could do with some war paint to focus more attention on his eyes.

Austria looks like a like a group of small children had dined out on blue Smarties and host of other E-number-laden treats and projectile vomited all over the stage. It’s a 3-minute sugar-trip in Willy Wonka’s garden, but even the Umpa Lumpa’s song had more charm than this dated kitsch.

Jüri Pootsmann wears an unflattering, double-breasted blue suit against a playing card themed backdrop of black, gold and red. Estonia haven’t got a great staging record and this concept is set to continue the trend. The confidence shown in Amsterdam is history and even his shimmying looks like a nervous tick. Halfway through, Jüri pulls a card from his pocket and performs a sleight of hand trick before flicking the card away. This pedestrian 3-AP6_1568minutes is struggling to make the cut based on the other entries seen today and Estonia need a bigger ace up their sleeve to ensure qualification.

I was hoping Samra would deliver today, but her first run through was perhaps the worst performance since Christina Metaxa gulped her way through Firefly. The gold staging and armography is everything one would have hoped for in this song: it’s classy and slick but is somewhat undone by Samra’s tendency to snatch at notes. Azerbaijan’s final rehearsal was like a New Year’s Eve firework display, so it seems the delegation are doing ‘everything in their power’ to produce a Miracle.

AP6_1696Montenegro is a conceptless mess of dark, black and red staging, blue strobing lights and the addition of a girl who stares angrily at the camera. There’s a moment near the end when the girl turns her back to the camera – most televoters will have turned their backs on this 30-seconds in.

Iceland bring the second interpretation of last year’s winning projection concept, and on paper, it should have been an easier-to-understand 3-minutes than Russia’s big-budget emotionless extravagance. Someone in Iceland clearly read our song review, as Greta has two passages where she sings straight down the camera lens. In this age of high-technology, it’s so easy to overlook the basics of connecting with a TV audience. Greta still found herself in the wrong position now and again, but overall, the Icelandic qualification is looking more secure.

I am reliably informed that the guy who designed Nina Kraljić’s dress is also responsible for Bosnia & Herzegovina’s staging, and specifically the sheets of foil draped around Ana Rucner and Dalal like roadside crash victims suffering from shock. The leaked barbed-wire concept is present too with Dean and Dalal gesturing at each other through the divide. Dean overacts every part of this, but that’s the least worst part of this confusing assault on the senses. I haven’t backed or laid B&H for qualification, as it is one of many below-par rehearsals in this semi.AP6_2049

Ira Losco’s first run through of Walk on Water lacked the miraculous high-tech motion capture projection we were promised. Ira is first introduced on the big screens in CGI, but ends up looking like one of those squidgy stress ball faces. Ira eventually appears wearing a brown gown, which is meant to display watery projections. At the moment it looks like an unfortunate choice of attire and is eventually cast aside by the Scorpion dancer. Malta’s staging is similar to Tinkara’s whirlpool from 2014, but there are golden, fiery elements too. Molly Pettersson-Hammer hits the high notes for Ira and the vocal package is one of the most impressive in this semi.

Due to the automatic qualifiers’ rehearsal footage being shown during the semi-finals, it was Frans’ turn to perform for Sweden. During the first run through Frans’ backdrop wasn’t working, but this was quickly sorted. If I Were Sorry is in Melodifestivalen form apart from a satellite stage expedition at the end. The camera work still needs refining during this part as it loses momentum and intimacy.

That’s it for today. Much like yesterday, most of the songs disappointed. A quick update: Malta are considering dropping the projection concept, so second rehearsal might be totally different.

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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. So Gav, based on the rehearsals, who are your 10 qualifiers from SF1?

    • Way too early to post a certain list, to be honest. Sweden’s production so far is dreadful and every song has underwhelmed. I only have one or two certain positions.

  2. I personally think that the catwalk bit is more suited to The Netherlands than to Sweden. Sweden is way more about connecting straight away with people at home and in studio’s (televoters, judges), The audience is less necessary there I think. Whereas the charm for Netherlands could actually include the interaction with the audience.

    What do you think Gavster? They really should have copy-pasted the MF-performance in full. Exclude the catwalk. To a lesser extent that also goes for Estonia. The Eestilaul performance for me was way more effective. Less is more…

  3. Predicted QFs

    1. Russia
    2. Armenia
    3. Malta
    4. Czech Republic
    5. Iceland
    6. Hungary
    7. Greece
    8. Azerbaijan
    9. Croatia
    10. Netherlands

    • Way way too early to make a TOP 10 list of qualifiers for semi 1. I find it very difficult. The 2nd set of rehearsals will tell more.

      If I have to call out something, I would do it like this:

      Almost certain qualifiers (in descending order of probability):
      –> Russia
      –> Armenia

      Also close to qualification, and could even become better during 2nd set of rehearsals (in descending order of probability):
      –> Iceland
      –> Cyprus
      –> Netherlands
      –> Czech Republic

      In the mix, but they will have more trouble reaching the TOP 5 in this semi. Possible borderliners (in descending order of probability):
      –> Malta
      –> Azerbaijan
      –> Hungary
      –> Bosnia-Herzegovina
      –> Greece
      –> Estonia (why ditching the top-notch staging from Eestilaul 🙁 )
      –> Finland (despite what people say its quite lively)
      –> Austria

      Possible no-hopers and probably won’t improve enough to become a borderline (in descending order of probability):
      –> Croatia
      –> San Marino
      –> Montenegro
      –> Moldova

      But to call out 10 certified qualifiers is way too soon. And Malta will probably change everything. One thing is for sure for me: Semi final #1 won’t give us the winner of the 61st edition of Eurovision.

      Hence I heavily betted on the “Winner not in semi finals” market :-).

    • I pretty much agree with your top5, Clark, but I think 6 female acts to qualify is at east one too many.

      It is of course early days still, but Russia, Armenia, Iceland, Czech Republic and Malta (in that order) seem to be quite safe qualifiers so far. I would also add the Netherlands to the same list of apparently safe qualifiers (at this stage). In my opinion the Dutch is food for the jurys, and the boost from the running order also really helps it. I can imagine it will feel like fresh air to the televoters to finally get to hear some real music after the quite mediocre songs and performances in spot 1-6.

      Of those six opening songs, the Greek one is probably the worst, at least in theory. However, staging-wise they seem, yet again, to be accomplishing miracles. To me the snippet from the first rehearsal looked very promising visually, and it seems like they may have succeeded in covering up the quite obvious weaknesses of the song (which is quite an achivement). Greece´s voting power is well known, and although they miss some very good friends in this semi (such as Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia, not to mention Romania), they still have their best friend Cyprus, plus the likes of Armenia, San Marino, Serbia, Azerbaijan and Malta. If they can put on a memorable performance (which seems possible), there will be more support awaiting Greece, at least from Western Europe, who simply love when Greece goes Opa style. Currently I actually have Greece 7th on my list (up from 14th pre rehearsals).

      Then it becomes more tricky from 8th-10th, but I still think Estonia has enough going for them to qualify. The song itself is more than good enough to at least gain some jury love, and the place in the running order is quite good I must say, coming after Zoë (who is cute, but oh so dull) and before Samra (who will make Jüri sound like Andrea Bocelli). It would be no exaggeration to say that there is room for improvement in Jüri´s performance, and he really needs to step up his game in order to bring in the televotes, but if he manages to say goodbye to yesterday and plays his cards a bit better in the second rehearsal, I am confident that he will be at least in the mix for a place in the final. The 2nd half is not a very competetive one, but no matter what it is difficult to see LESS than 5 countries from the 2nd half qualifying. I would say 5 or 6 from 2nd half will qualify, and if we look at the songs Jüri has up against him, I would easily rank him 4th, 5th or at worst 6th of those 9 in the 2nd half. In that case he´s in with a very good shot.

      Cyprus looks solid enough at the moment, even though I never liked the song or thought it would qualify (I especially dislike the europopy beat in the chorus, because that kind of beat always give me fanwank vibes). It is perhaps also a bit naive to call both Greece and Cyprus (fighting for the similar votes geographically, plus both being a group act), but Cyprus is nevertheless the 9th country on my list at the moment. In my head it has been either Cyprus or Hungary, and I think Cyprus has both the better song, better staging (barely) and of course the best slot in the running order.

      I still think Hungary is in the mix (of course) for the 10th place, together with Azerbaijan, Austria, Croatia and even Bosnia-Hercegovina. But I think two group acts (Greece and Cyprus) is maximum, and in that case Bosnia-Hercegovina is cancelled out (that is of course not the only argument to have them NQ, I thought this quite strange put-to-gether group was a very messy concept from the very beginning). I think Azerbaijan is in deep trouble because of Samra´s potentially very week vocals, and one can also envoke the argument that there is a high amount of female acts who clearly has a better package (such as Armenia, Malta, Iceland and Czech, all of them more than likely qualifiers). The same argument I would use to put both Croatia and Austria NQ. Croatia has the better song without doubt, but Zoë is ten times more voteable as an artist, but I fear it won´t be enough for her. The backdrop and the overall staging is just too dull.

      That leaves me with Hungary as my number 10 (although I have said either Cyprus or Hungary). Austria is 11th and just missing out on my list.

      The no-hopers for me (as with most) are Finland, Moldova, San Marino and Montenegro. However, I don´t think there is any value in the NQ prices being offered on these countries.

      My 10 for now is Russia, Armenia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Malta, Netherlands, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus and Hungary. If this is correct, that would mean 5 qualifiers from each half (not the 4/6 I normally prefer) and only 3 out of the last 6 (instead of 4). Out of these 10 there are 4 male acts, 4 female acts and 2 group acts. I expect one or two of my ten to be wrong, but I am of course unsure of which one(s) it will be – suggestions anyone?

      I think Azerbaijan and Croatia NQ – and Greece Q are the three bets representing best value in the semi 1 qual market at the moment.

  4. Well at least we’ve learnt for sure Malta are going nowhere in the final. The staging needed to be perfect for them to do any damage but it’s not even a-ok at the moment 😉.

    Also for Iceland, did Greta get through the song once without messing her timings?

    Czech Republic best of the day.

  5. Yep…Czech Republic looking promising in a “Less is More” kind of year. Mans has bequeathed quite a heritage.

  6. Great day for the Czech Republic wining the jury vote by a country mile going on 1st rehearsals. I now think it can actually win the semi .Have backed it to do so each way as I will be shocked if it’s not top 3 at least. Simple is best and in between the mess of Russia and cages of Cyprus this is going to stand out for all the right reasons.
    With the rumours of great staging for Malta pre contest what a let-down of the highest order. Good song ruined by crap staging.
    Find the small drift on Sweden baffling as we all knew what was coming. Going with simple is best routine I have also made Sweden green.
    I’m not one that comments on stages as I think a stage is a stage but not this year as it looks terrible and I can’t remember a worse one to be honest.
    Roll on Latvia tomorrow .

    • I agree Dec,iv backed this semi assuming the top 3 contains Armenia and the Czechs right from the start and iv seen nothing to change that only confirm it.Russia has to be thought of as the other place.The bookies lack of markets are a pain though as top 3 was hard to get much,but dutching the win was easy.Malta was always one to watch,but Ira is out of her depth against Iveta and Gabriela by a long way.
      The stage is a shocker so artists who are genuine class who can deliver might be key this year.

  7. I’m wondering if we’re giving Montenegro a fair shout to be honest. Based on rehearsals, it hardly sounds different from Cyprus (just Cyprus has a poppier song). I ask because their vocals are fine, I assume, it’s visually striking for better or worse, and because Estonia and Azerbaijan both have more notable weaknesses. Any thoughts?

  8. The barbed wire bit in BiH works really well for translating the story on screen, and lifts the song. It should qualify (and take Estonia’s place if they keep the card theme), and do fairly well in the final.

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