Welcome to Super Saturday: a 12-hour slog for us in the press centre, but worth it for the second look at Ukraine. First though, we get to see Germany, Italy and the UK.
Jamie-Lee retains her manga/cosplay outfit. The stage remains in national final form with laser-projecting-trees against a moonlit backdrop. Very Tim Burton. Even so, this is bad from Germany. Not even the backing singers are in tune and I’m afraid this will be a career-damaging performance for Germany’s The Voice winner.
Italy have Francesca stood centre-stage flanked by random objects perched on stands – the most random being a seagull. The backdrop features a tree against a bright blue sky which is lit with fairy lights during the chorus. There are also sweet little doodles added to the TV feed. This has distinctive, Kedvesem-type branding, which could earn Italy a respectable top-10 finish.
Joe and Jake were actually very good for the UK. There, I said it! This is classic BBC staging with the two guys joined on stage by two drummers. The lighting is blue and purple with the rumoured selfies displayed on the LED screens. The guys work well together, but Joe could do with additional vocal support. Based on this rehearsal, the UK should do much better than originally anticipated. The 40/1 available for top-Big-5 and the various top-10 and top-15 trades appear good value, as it seems the UK bettors could come for this in-running. Moreover, it seems Italy and France are the only acts in the race and the UK offers a much more cohesive package than France, where Amir looks isolated and misses crucial big notes.
Justs now wears all black. Latvia are still fine tuning their stage graphics. They were struggling to convey the song’s bass line, but this eventually came together in the final rehearsal. Latvia looking more solid for top-10 now.
Poland is like nails down a blackboard to me, and having to endure Michał Szpak pulling his finest sex-face and constipation grimace for three minutes makes me look forward to the insanity of Rykka. Poland are probably qualifying, but 1.4 is a crazy short price for a song SVT tried to bury in the running order. Borderline.
Rykka has straightened her poodle locks and looks like an Emmelie de Forest fallen on hard times. She still has dry ice emanating from her arm pits and Switzerland are still aiming for the Last [place] Of Our Kind in this semi.
Earlier this week, Israel gave us our first wow moment. Today Hovi delivered another spellbinding performance that appears miles ahead of most nations in this year’s Contest. As I mentioned on twitter, Israel should be battling in the top-10 this year.
I watched Belarus from the arena today and it’s amazing how much better the stage looks compared to the TV feed. Ivan has tweaked his visuals, adding a fiery, volcanic/Saturn landscape. Help You Fly is still struggling to qualify, though.
Serbia is the same as first rehearsal, but with Sanja in a black tasseled dress. She’s a tad aloof at times, but I guess that matches the song. The stage is also a little too dark and the package would benefit being brighter during the climax. Nevertheless, this is a quality, well performed song that should be in the top-10.
Ireland’s staging has come together, though it still lacks a sunny feel. Nicky is finding the camera, but like Amir yesterday, his attempts at smiling appear strained and disingenuous. This could be a car crash during the jury rehearsal, so one to watch.
FYRoM added Sanna lights to their staging. It’s looking nice and really shades Irelands’s Sunlight. Kaliopi is on my ‘no bet’ list at the moment, but if the price gets big enough, it might be worth a back to just sneak through.
From Dona to Donny – although it could be Donna given his permed hair today. Big changes to Lithuania’s stage graphics that are far too numerous to list here. Perhaps a bit too busy for my liking, but it’s another nail in Nicky Byrne’s coffin.
Dami Im is still perched on top of that box for half of the song. The augmented reality parts work better, but the stage is far too gloomy. Dami Im just seems incapable of expressing any emotion and I’m afraid to say that I’m left cold by Australia’s song.
Going back to Nicky’s coffin, Slovenia is looking and sounding great, so will be another country ahead of Ireland on the jury ranking. Manuella sings well and the staging feels more dynamic. Roman candles during the climax.
Bulgaria took a few steps forward in terms of camera angles and presentation, however, that was negated by Poli’s nervy and breathy display. Bulgaria are much closer to non-qualification than the odds suggest.
I’d rather watch paint dry than sit through another Denmark rehearsal. It’s dull, bland and shouldn’t get anywhere near the final.
Ukraine second rehearsal was a good as the first. The only major change was Jamala’s blue dress, which is probably a step backwards. Hopefully they’ll go back to black. Jamala lives every moment of this song and it’s hard to see it failing to make the jury top-3, or indeed topping the jury vote.
Norway is like first rehearsal, but the dancer wears a black outfit. Agnete continues to sound flat at the start. If Norway qualify, it’ll be in 9th or 10th. Likewise, Georgia also stick with what worked so well for them in the first rehearsal. It’s lively, credible, has a strong USP and will come with a bold epilepsy warning.
Eneda is dressed in gold against a glittery gold backdrop. That’s as positive as I can be about Albania who are just the sacrificial lamb before this year’s party song from Belgium.
Laura Tesoro is in even better form for Belgium. The choreography looks stunning on camera and What’s The Pressure nails this end of the final and heaps the pressure on Bulgaria’s Poli. Possible top-10?
Tomorrow we have the second rehearsals for the automatic-qualifiers before hitting the business end of our two week betting escapade.