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Eurovision 2017 Rehearsals: Day 1 Review

Welcome to a sunny Kyiv where the press centre security carry batons and guns, and where the perimeter fence is patrolled by police with angry looking Alsatians and mirrors to check for concealed car bombs.

Kicking off this semi-final, Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson retains the Melfest backstage entrance and the CGI neon landscape backdrop. We were missing sound in the press centre, but visually it’s the perfect show opener. The aloof and cold nature of five guys strutting, posing and pouting at the camera is the achilles heel of this package. There is a moment when all five of them have their backs to the camera for around 10-seconds. That shot needs to change. Without the Melfest playback assistance, Robin does sound a little exposed which could be interesting come next Monday’s jury rehearsal.

Any faith people had in Tamara will have been eroded after this rehearsal. The staging for Georgia features deep red plasma clouds with the odd white flourish to complement the Georgian flag. Dry ice is deployed to start and ends with a ring of fire jets during the climax. Tamara was in good voice, but looks sooooooooo lonely on that stage. Given she has a gospel climax, it’s surprising her backing singers didn’t walk on halfway through to develop the visual narrative. During the second run through, Tamara was sporting a red voile cape. This isn’t the sort of visual package striving to qualify from slot two.

Having suffered the Georgian scream fest, Lindita gave us four run throughs of World for Albania. She seemed to be going through the motions, if not, her lack of camera engagement was a major concern. The staging switches between a submerged water world with ships and roman numeral chronograph faces. The concept lacks any sort of continuity or story telling ability and we’re told Lindita hates it. This is as meh as meh can be.

Isaiah’s staging prop was a rotating platform that relies on sharp camera angles. He switches between standing still and walking as the platform turns. It creates a slightly more pedestrian version of Sweden’s treadmills in places. Australia’s backdrop features Isaiah, in what looks like an MTV video promo-cum-fashion photoshoot. It’s a work in progress, yet the obvious issue here is Isaiah’s inability to emote – his face is dead. The vocal mix has been adjusted near the end with a few downward scales, but it still loses way too much energy as it plods through final 20-seconds. A pyro curtain of sparks was added for the final run through.

Somewhere behind the stage there’s a padded cell reserved for Blanche; she looks on the verge of a meltdown. Her nerves were obvious and the watching press winced with every shaky note. The staging is based on her performance on The Voice Belgique with a constellation and orb design on the backdrop. There were no dancers. Blanche performed a bit of armography, but it was so half arsed it looked like she’s wafting a fart. Belgium are cruising towards non-qualification. Top-10, top-5, top-4, top-3 and outright bets are settled. The 3.5 non-qualification odds available at Bet365 & Unibet were a gift earlier. I would still be tempted to take anything around 2.85-3.0.

Oh Slavko, what have you done? Expectations were low, but we expected way more than that. Slavko starts in a body stocking and blue skirt, which is tossed aside to reveal silver sequined trousers once the beat kicks in. The staging is full-on gay disco with pink/purple and yellow graphics and a writhing Slavko. As if it couldn’t get much tackier, Slavko repeats his ‘hairy-copter’ routine. I’m going to be bold here… non-qualification for Montenegro. 😂

Happy happy Finland now. Blackbird was well below the vocal standard of the national final. Leena may have been suffering a few technical gremlins, so maybe we’ll wait until second rehearsal before judging it properly. The staging is a facsimile of UMK and the view here is that they needed much more lighting contrast during the refrain, instead of just relying on the switch to red after the middle eight. There’s enough here for Finland to qualify based on how poor the previous two songs are. Dry ice sets a nice mood during the final run through.

Someone call an exorcist. Skeletons starts with Dihaj gyrating on a box before throwing herself against the blackboard mini-set. Zoom out and there’s suddenly a man on a ladder wearing a horse’s head. What was in the cappuccino I just drank? Then Dihaj writes ‘thorns’ on the blackboard, climbs the ladder to grab horseman’s leg before her blackboard set is dismantled. Find me a narrative, please! The vocals are messy, the sound levels aren’t perfect and the overall impression is… WTF were you thinking, Azerbaijan?

Ending on Portugal now, and as highlighted in our podcasts, Salvador was replaced by his sister, Luisa, for today’s rehearsal. Salvador will only take part in the jury rehearsals and live shows. The staging features an enchanted forest which gradually brightens during the last 15-seconds with glowing sprites rising from the forest floor. It’ll be difficult to gauge Portugal until Salvador turns up, but it’s expected to be a jury favourite.

That’s it for today. Quite a flat performances, so I think the semi winner will come from the second half.

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. Cant decide if the horse head is amazing and quirky or will just make Azerbaijan look like a joke entry.

  2. Can you make a selfie of you, Daniel and Rob laughing your…balls off :-P?

    But really, it seemed to be a ‘hard’ day rehearsal-wise?

  3. Based on what ive heard and seen from the video’s and reaction’s I need to say the following

    Sweden : I didnt even bother getting up to watch this, not because of the song or anything but because we all knew exactly what we were getting and as expect I might aswell copy and paste what I wrote on the melfest performance. Overall a very slick package that should land Sweden a top 5 finish but im afraid they wont be the one’s stopping Italy this year.

    Georgia : I dislike the song quite intensely so it would have taken A LOT to impress me and goes without saying they didn’t, she is a great singer so she might get enough points to get Georgia into the mix for qualification but I still sort of doubt it.

    Australia : Very professional and overall impressive staging but unfortunatly it’s not the staging that suit’s this song imo, should get Australia through with ease and get them a top 10 finish but I cant see this matching or bettering Guy Sebastian or Dami Im.

    Albania : Really not my kind of song so from that perspective ive not got much to say, like Gav said it’s just meh and really doesnt stand a chance of qualifying from so early in the draw, it needed killer staging to get through.

    Belgium : One thing Lindita does though is make Belgium’s bad performance seem even worse, Looking at all her performance’s and today’s rehearsal im actually baffled she was ever even considered for eurovision as an internal selection, at least pick her through a NF selection so we know she can perform under pressure, obviously its a great song and because of that Belgium cant be ruled out as I still see juries ranking her highly on song qualify alone, maybe not everyone but quite a few will. If it wasnt for the song quality this would be the most obvious non qualifier we would have seen today.

    Montenegro : Just awful, for the best chance possible of qualifying Slavko should really try NOT singing and if he does that successfully he might be one of the top half of the non qualifiers.

    Finland : Another nail in Blanche’s coffin, its not a whole lot different from UMK but that performance was already really striking and they have improved on that with some more striking effect’s. Like most I saw the 5th spot in the first half to be a fight between Finland and Belgium and after today there is just no contest, Finland all the way and it would be a crime if the latter wins.

    Azerbaijan : Just typical of Azerbaijan, really stupid staging that make’s no sense at all. Unlike Belgium I dont think it detract’s from the song at all and Dihaj does pull it off vocally so Azerbaijan are still a certain qualifier and should still challenge for top 10 and if they can just fix some of the weird stuff in staging it could challenge for top 5.

    Portugal : Like Sweden just Copy & Paste, Doing everything it need’s to do to get Portugal there best result, all they need is Salvador to turn up and replace the sister this time next week and Portgual imo should win the semi.

    Overall I disagree in regards to semi winner, Bar Armenia ( And Greece if their prop is good) I think the winner of semi 1 will have performed today.

    • Catriona colville

      I think the reason Gavin said the winner would come from the second half was purely because he has a thing for the Armenian song. I imagine the staging will be excellent, but they kind of forgot to bring the song along.

      • Not just Armenia, but they have potential to attract plenty of support.

        • Greece and Armenia are the only 2 surely? Greece is surely too generic and tacky to win the semi ( The only reason I don’t rule them out is because of there diaspora and how poor the 2nd half is) leaving only Armenia imo.

        • By process of elimination it could well be Armenia who emerges victor from this semi.

          • That’s a good point when you also take the running order into account, Armenia couldn’t have asked for a better scenario from that perspective if they tried. They are contender’s for the semi win but imo its out of their hands and its down to how other rivals perform as the Armenia song I believe isn’t as accessible Europe wide like some of the first half song’s. For me if he show’s up and sing’s the butt off the song like he has already in every performance Portugal are surely the winners of the semi.

  4. Im sure Gav will feel generous to all those backers he was laying below 10s on Belgium many months ago and void their bets.Every fan site had Belgium as a danger to win the whole thing and made every excuse for why it would all be ok.Hard headed gamblers knew different.The last few years we have seen more and more younger people selected who are let down badly by the delegation.If your going to select a very average singer,then she/he needs a song they can deliver.The delegation also need to consider how to cover up any problems.Belgium gave Blanche a song only world class female vocalists could pull off,and even then only ones comfortable keeping in tune in the hardest pitch.No wonder Blanche is in tears.The delegation should be ashamed of themselves.
    Sweden i still have quite a big red and im still not sure if to run it or not.If it drifts i might cut it,not sure yet.
    Australia is poor for me.Will the jury really go for it?.It might get a lot better and work on the night,but i dont see any hint of a challenge for the top places.
    Id kept Azer green on song quality,but was actually very glad to see it fail so badly.If Italy are to be pushed then someone in the east needs to unite the block.Armenia have an artist who is top drawer who now might be able to do just that.Azer are going for the Turner prize rather than the ESC trophy.They might save it yet however.
    Portugal will feel very genuine after this lot and if the jury dont go for Armenia then surely they will go for Portugal.Sometimes less is more.Not rehearsing is risky,but then the beauty of the song is it looks like its spontaneous anyway.
    Tomorrow should be interesting.

  5. Are Montenegro dead cert to be last because they are still 9/2 on betfair behind georgia?

  6. I think we’ve seen the semi winner today. Armenia being quite overrated I feel. They’ll stage it well but the song isn’t up to standard for juries or public to rate first. Same for Greece.
    Azerbaijan have totally lost the plot it seems. It’s not interpretive its just a mess. I think they’re looking at the right hand side of the table now.
    Belgium probably still through but I wouldn’t touch it either way, top ten has gone though. Will wait and see how the two countries I have just out (Moldova and Poland) get on.
    Australia isn’t doing anything for me. Was a good song but it just isn’t working well. Juries will push it into a nice top ten but probably nothing more.

    Portugal should take this semi, followed by Sweden.

  7. I could easily see Finland coming third in this semi-final. It’s haunting enough to collect a barrel load of televotes and jury scores.

  8. All seem sure that Finland will qualify now at least. It sure deserves to. It will be up against Sweden, Armenia, Greece, Portugal and perhaps Azerbaijan for third though so I’m dubious of a ew bet.

    Belgium and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan getting a kicking. I think we must give Belgium time as it’s a good song and doesn’t need quite the performance to lift it, only a good enough performance. Top 10 does seem to be it’s limit though.

    Azerbaijan seems to stand out, which can never be underrated, but personally I do hope they haven’t made a dogs dinner out of a good package, again.

  9. From what Ive heard today apparently Belgium also had issue’s in terms of camera angle’s and something else that is meant to enhance the performance which for the life of me cant remember so from that point of view I don’t think it would be wise to be completely writing off Belgium just yet, however based on today’s performance while it was missing a few thing’s it seems that Belgium’s problems are even deeper than that. It’s seems bar the song choice Belgium have got nearly everything that was possible to go wrong, wrong so far this year, hopefully they can redeem themselves a little on Thursday.

  10. All eyes on ARMENIA for Monday’s 1stRh then. With reports of how well staged this could be..if it comes true it could score top 3… Certainly has a great running order spot.. Alongside Azerbaijan it definitely stands out in ‘sound’. “I’m gonna tell you a story” is a great way to start a Eurovision song. With lots of soft votes to get it off the blocks I can see Armenia doing well if today’s presentation looks tasty.

  11. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ffqIa1L4TBE

    Portugal will be the winner this year.
    Lisbon 2018 for sure

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