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Eurovision 2018: Day 1 Review

It’s the first day of Eurovision 2018 rehearsals live from the Lisbon rabbit hutch that is this year’s press centre. One could say it’s cosy.

Anyway, a barefoot Aisel starts the show for Azerbaijan dressed in a white negligee. The staging is blue and white (I reckon we’ll get a lot of that this year) with Aisel running up various white ramps. Some of the camera angles are unflattering and I’m reminded of Safura’s awkward satellite stage sprint from 2010. A male singer/dancer enters the stage at the start of the second verse with three other backing singers joining for the second chorus. Live ‘star’ graphic overlays are employed at this point.

What is evident from this concept is that the Azeri cannonball is looking weak.

What can you say about Iceland that hasn’t already been said? Ari Ólafsson’s Our Choice is the perfect choice for number-2 in the running order. More blue and white staging which eventually shifts to orange/red for the climax(?). Unfortunately, Ari’s boyish charm fails to improve what is this semi-final’s worst song. Iceberg ahoy!

Eugent Bushpepa can always be relied upon for his crisp John Farnham-like vocal ability and affable on-screen charm. Mall serves up the first bit of warmth in this semi with the red/purple lighting hues which contrast nicely against the mainly blue/white openers. There’s a sincere and credible air about Albania this year and they are among friends in this semi. If Albania’s envelope comes out next week, there will be more than one big name fall from this half of the semi.

If you’ve watched the film The Ring, then the opening of Belgium will bring back memories. A Matter of Time starts with a corpse-like Sennek in silhouette with only her red eyes lit. It’s typical of Sennek’s performances to date with little attention given to the camera. The number of aimless long shots and flashing lights go against the stylish intimate concept Hans Pannecoucke should have developed. As a performance, it’s utterly charmless. To her credit, her vocal is better than at the pre-parties.

After a light lunch Mikolas Joseph brought the day’s first solid concept. The theme is pink and blue lighting with the break-dancers performing in front of two light boxes. The first run through was messy, but Czech Republic improved with every subsequent rehearsal. Mikolas knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to bark out orders at the stage hands. Henric von Zweigbergk will be inviting Mikolas back for detention!

The camerawork is fast and there’s a useful split screen effect later in the song. The choreography feels bit limp in places and Mikolas does have a habit of singing to the floor. It’s early days, but the Czech package should come together nicely by next week’s live semi-final. Mikolas had to take a precautionary trip to hospital following today’s rehearsal after injuring his back.

Lithuania’s Ieva remains in national final form but with cinematic overlays of random idilic family and friend scenes. It’s a tad nauseating to the hardened gamblers among us, yet it gives Lithuania a solid USP and a fighting chance of qualification with the underwhelming Belgium earlier in the running order. The overlays are tad distracting at times, so the delegation needs to find a way of softening their impact. The song ends with Ieva on a bridge joined by her husband. This is the money shot.

The market needed to see what Israel had to offer and predictably expectations were not met… or at least in the press centre. The staging features two cabinets of maneki-neko, or lucky cats to the layman, flanking a kimono-clad Netta. It’s a strange juxtaposition given chickens are the prominent animal in the lyrics. The dancers are in black surf-type all-in-one suits and aren’t as prominent as in the official video. Bizarrely, I think this is a problem, as the the production seems to lack energy and appears rather disjointed. As mentioned in our preview article, the looper machine intro is a confusing distraction and is superfluous to the routine. The final run through featured Co2 jets.

Golden Boy brought Israel’s best result in recent years. At the moment the Golden Boy concept is miles ahead of Toy in terms of simple, easy to understand fun.

Gone is the kitchen sink: Belarus have thrown the rose garden at this. Alekseev starts with rose in hand, which is then passed to a steady-cam operator. The rose then turns into an lady-in-red performing interpretive dance who then fires a rose – by use of a bow – right back into Alekseev’s hand complete with tomato ketchup blood from the canteen. Yuk! Why not just catch it and hold it against his heart? At the end of the middle-eight, petal overlay graphics shoot from Alekseev’s chest. The ending sees Alekseev turnaround to reveal a gory looking rose tattoo on his back. More yuk! With wholesale changes likely, it’s worth staying neutral until second rehearsal. However, things are far from rosy in Belarus.

What’s new with Estonia? Well not much actually apart from some different graphics projected onto her dress. Elina still appears too cold and distant, failing to connect with viewers at home. Moreover, the dress graphics lack a theme; it’s just a kaleidoscope of random effects like some Windows Media Player visuals.

Now it was Bulgaria’s turn to justify its suspiciously low odds on the markets. Common framework was an apt description for Equinox when first mooted by the PR team, as they certainly don’t look like a cohesive group. The staging is dark. Too dark. And the group look too harsh on stage. The Americans aren’t as strong as one would expect and Zhana looks like she’s miming. Back to Zhana, she continues to wear that white wig along with a futuristic dress. The whole presentation is harsh and far from vote motivating. Interesting times for Bulgaria given how open this semi-final is.

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. Sasha is such an overrated director. She doesnt get the songs at all. Only 1 out of the 10 performances she does is a hit.
    Bulgaria needed something esoteric and atmospheric, what the heck are they doing on Josh Dubovie’s bars?

  2. Somehow, you are against Bulgaria these last few years only to see them climbing on the table (and only 1 ladder left).
    You will be eating your words come the Final. AGAIN. For the third time in a row.

    • How’s that given Bulgaria was one of our tips last year? Bulgaria’s concept isn’t working this year and their odds have been artificially manipulated.

  3. Well, well… Netta ended up with a Harajuku-inspired dress AND staging. I wouldn’t mind manikineko cats if they had any incremental performance value apart from being glitzy. I though she would smash them (I am not your toy) or the cats would be destroyed playfully some other way. But no… they are just there because why not. To be honest, I suspect the big names’ fall will start here. Even though Bulgarian- American vampires are still questionable too.

  4. Interesting day. 🙂

    Scenarios I see happening:

    – Compromise winner. Sweden the only real slick wow-staging with a stylish song. This might win over the juries and scrape enough televotes to win in a close field.

    – A winner like Lena. A fun, easy to get into song, on a stage without LEDs. I guess quite a few can fill in this role: Australia, Norway, Czech and maybe Israel?

    – Waylon will hit it out of the park with a burst of pure sex and rock & roll (or another surprise will stand up with a great performance)

    Still happy with my Sweden and Netherlands bets (and a nice profit if Israel pulls it off anyway). Israel still seems way too short (many, many dislikes on the rehearsal clip) and no one stood up until now, still a open race. Let’s just hope Bulgaria drifts away and won’t be a contender, otherwise they might cheat themselves towards the compromise winner option as well.

    Also, great article to check out: http://escinsight.com/2018/04/29/eurovisions-unwritten-rulebookand-the-winners-who-broke-them/

    There is one, however, that trumps both the unwritten and written rule books: artist self-belief. Every one of these artists believed in themselves, their song, and how to present it. It is very difficult to win a 40+ entry song contest. But if you don’t believe in yourself and your entry, if you don’t walk out on that stage supremely confident (all four times), it is so much harder to convince jurors or the public to put their confidence in you.

    These entries all appeared on the Eurovision stage on their own terms. They were presented in ways that allowed them to be confident, and thus were able to deliver great performances when it mattered.

  5. Belgium is falling like a rock on the bets, now at #10 behind Greece

  6. Pretty much as expected today.The big guns struggling to stage their songs.No doubt delegations will be looking at ways to improve.The market is pretty much just churning money around the top challengers now (real or imagined).The songs this year all seem to lack something.Its all a bit flat.Hopefully things improve as we move forward.

    • Would you mind me asking if you retain your investments into Alekseev? I am inclined to think that his ‘mild psycho’ estetics are still an attracting proposition to young girls. But I started to worry that jury would find an amount of gore somewhat excessive.

  7. I still think a lot of people are underestimating the “wow” factor of the first time you hear Estonia.

    • Totally agree with you Jack, Elina took me in another dimension for the 3 mins first time i saw it. Same with Sweden, i know it’s trashy somehow but the first feel was a good one.

  8. I dunno guys from the rehearsal video I saw netta could still sing… Its still going to take something special to beat her…

  9. Yeah, as expected. I suppose the only thing to really say is that Bulgaria have not brought that staging necessarily to justify the odds. If there’s any price manipulation, I suggest they save the money for next years attempt.
    Interested to see Greece tomorrow, its probably the only one in that half that could make a move on the outright. I don’t think we’ve seen the winner today.

  10. Interesting first day of rehearsals with all the big favorites underperforming to a greater or lesser extent in terms of staging, while none of them had major issues with the vocals, including Belgium that was quite ropey in her live performances so far.

    Actually, it was only Estonia that managed to live up to expectations, but then they had a finished staging concept that didn’t need major changes to adapt to a new stage.

    I don’t think that this is coincidental and I have the feeling that it could be the stage itself with the lack of LED screens that seems to expose easier all the weaknesses of the songs that have performed so far.

    Therefore, I tend to be very cautious in interpreting the reactions to these first rehearsals and I’d like to see how things will shape up in the following days. If the trend continues, I can see countries with ready staging concepts, like Sweden and Norway, jumping up in the odds after their first performance.

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