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Eurovision 2019 Rehearsals: Day 1 Review

Shalom and welcome to Kibbutz ESCtips for the first day of Eurovision 2019 rehearsals. The halcyon days of April are well behind us as we enter the heat of Tel Aviv.

First up today was Tamta with Replay for Cyprus. The annual press centre gremlins meant that we missed the sound for all of Tamta’s run throughs. That wasn’t so important as we know she’s capable of delivering the goods live. The stage features six illuminated boxes with a monochromatic lined backdrop with pink and deep blue accents – this adds great depth to the stage.  The intro features fast camera cuts and appears music-video ready. It’s straight out of the box ready like Fuego was last year. The dancers have a Robin Bengtsson slickness, yet with the addition of Tamta it has a more voteable Dum Tek Tek appeal. There is a costume change halfway through as Tamta is stripped of her PVC jacket to reveal an almost clear PVC body suit.

The Czechs rehearsed out of sequence this morning and we were finally gifted the luxury of a sound feed in the press centre. The staging is bright with the backdrop featuring lots of alternating vertical lines. There are three door-frame-like structures behind each of the band members which enables the picture editors to isolate the contents of each frame (the band members) and move them around on screen in a similar way to D-Sound from Norway’s national final. It’s extremely effective and again looks music-video ready. In the final run-through there was a shot of two seats in the arena labelled ‘kiss cam’, so it appears a couple will kiss on camera. The backing singers need to tighten up their harmonies in places and lead-singer, Albert Černý, needs to temper some of his enthusiasm – he did by the final run-through. At its messiest, Friend of a Friend has the feel of PER from 2013, which is something to bear in mind when factoring in the Czech televote.

The freshness of Cyprus and Czech Republic exposes the dark and dated nature of Darude’s Look Away. It’s a song trapped in the the early noughties and would typically be the track everyone skips on their dance mix CD. Sebastian Rejman’s vocals are particularly poor, not in an off-key sort of way, but in an uninspiring why bother voting for Finland way. Sebastian has a tendency to over-sing and by the end of the song the Look Away refrain grates. Finland are making up the numbers in this first half tussle.

Continuing the disappointment Poland were under-rehearsed and vocally suspect. Tulia start on a rotating platform wearing their customary regional garb, though with the addition of some rather strange gold headwear and red veils. The veils are swiftly removed, so their relevance is questionable. The staging features lots of long shots which doesn’t afford much connection to TV viewers. When the cameras did get close, the girls looked away as if they were too shy. The jury vote will be poor for Tulia and the televote is also likely to struggle.

After a sunny shawarma lunch, Zala & Gašper took to the stage. Sebi remains in national final form, albeit the improved starry plasma cloud backdrop which looks stunning on the TV feed. The problem for Slovenia is the lack of connection for TV viewers along with the reaching for that soundboard instrument. Purists will like this song. It is beautifully staged, but I question its wider appeal with the Czech Republic following in the actual running order where we transition from hypnotic monotony to colourful fun. On the other hand, Slovenia might benefit from a poor Poland.

Over to Montenegro now and Falling is what you might call weapons-grade shit. The cloying desperation is what lets this song down the most given the likes of 3+2 (Belarus 2010) managed to tack on some butterfly wings and qualify. Whereas Darude is stuck in the noughties, D-Mol are rooted in the 90s with their dollops of cheese and the dated Eternal ‘Stay’ pop/hip-hop beat. What’s worth considering in respect to the last place market is that Montenegro are allegedly known to deal.

Returning for his second participation at Eurovision, Joci is alone on stage against a gold sparkly backdrop. The message focusses on pride in his father and how he wants his children to share the same pride in him. As the song progresses, black and white photos of fathers appear on stage. It’s incredibly touching and the market moved quickly to solidify Hungary’s qualification chances.

Belarus have thrown loads at this performance, and as a result, it lacks a concept and definition. There are tour cases, incoherent graphics, break dancers and co2 jets all battling to form a non-existent narrative. Zena’s vocals have come on leaps and bounds since the national final, but Like It feels very much like a filler song in a quality sandwich.

Last up today was Serbia which sounds even more like a solid qualifier with its starry backdrop and swirling floor. Classy Kruna is walking the same path as Hungary’s Az én apám and both should earn respectable jury support. It’s not a market I enjoy getting involved in, and depending how North Macedonia does, 12/1 top Balkan isn’t a bad punt. North Macedonia is dutch-able at 8/1. More women have to crash into the top-10 and Serbia is potentially more vote-motivating than some of the other regional songs.

One thing to note is that the stage is technically superior to anything else before it. The LED backdrop has a truly immersive quality that appears almost 3D. The live shows will be magnificent.

We’ll be back tomorrow reporting on rehearsals for the second-half of the first semi-final.

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. For all the excitement waiting for rehearsals to start, this was probably the least telling day. Cyprus had the typical SJB lighting and camera work, Finland was uninspiring, Montenegro terrible, Czech Rep colourfull and energetic, Hungary and Serbia solid if unspectacular, Slovenia same as nf and Belarus brought out the kitchen sink. So far so predictable. Poland the only one to move in my estimation. I was already sceptical about qualification but those were some bad performances.
    Tomorrow should be more telling with a few more questions to be answered.

  2. Hey Gavin? Which country so far has the most inventive, well-thought-of camerawork?

    • Well that’s a difficult question because it depends on the context. In terms effecting camerawork one might highlight Slovenia, but it’s a song that has its own weaknesses and challenges. Cyprus, however, was quite brilliant even without the sound. Cyprus would be my answer to you, but it is a combination of camerawork, choreography and the ability to dominate and own the stage.

      • You seem to be a big Cyp fan Gav…me not at all, we’ll see how it pans out. The 30 sec of sound I heard was not great and I think she comes across a bit like Eleni’s Auntie who’s stayed a tad too long at the party.. I don’t see this being Top 10. Maybe 11th to 15th at best. Thanks for comments.

  3. Is it fair to say it’s pretty much ‘as you were’ after the first day of rehearsals?

    The consensus from different commentators seems to be that among those in the top 9 that were considered borderline for qualification (Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Belarus and Serbia), Hungary and Serbia have taken a small step forward while Poland and Belarus have taken a small step back.

    But as Hippo says, tomorrow is likely to be more telling.

  4. Winner of today’s rehearsal is the Czech Republic imo. Lot’s of positivity out their for them. Bookies odds shortening on various markets as well. Very vote friendly going by the clip avaliable.

    Loser of today’s rehearsal is Poland imo. I can’t see Poland qualifying tbh. Vocal seems very screechy to me and the staging is not great either tbh. Like Gav said going by the snippet available the camera features a lot of long shots and that’s not good at all when you will be relying on public support to qualify for the Grand Final.

    Cyprus, Czech Repulic, Slovenia, Hungary & Serbia should all qualify.

    Belarus is borderline.

    Finland, Poland & Montenegro look set for a Semi-Final exit imo.

  5. A bit off topic- Shi from escgo published this today. I think she perfectly sum it up:


    • Thanks Shai. I read that previously. Wonderful friendly homage to someone who is missed so much 💖👍
      With us in spirit 👍

  6. I very miss his insight. Eurovision betting without him feels alone this year. He will always be remembered.

  7. I think perhaps if we can identify the ‘live’ challengers that could help our Team out a lot. Those with a live challenge to the Trophy that are very much alive and capturing that vital ESC ingredient – Momentum. Podium finishes and their positions are where we respect each other’s views and choices and no need to ‘dispute’ that – at the end of the day, it’s your book and you place it accordingly.

    For me it’s a tale of 2 cities this Eurovision 2019: we have the live challengers of whom all things being even they have a real live pulsating route to the Win, then there are the compromise winners waiting and snapping at the ‘live challengers’ heels.

    The Live Challengers for me are NL. Australia and France. The road here which brought with it half a dozen or so ‘nailed on’ contenders has been turned it on its head. The danger now is to not reset your Eurovision Sat Nav to where we – shockingly very newly and last minute dot comly – have now arrived at. NL is still the best song by far and all things being even in a very uneven year they may still take the crown. Australia and France I feel will do well with the juries but will do AMAZING in the public vote. If they both (Fra has already) land second half and NL 1st half that margin that NL has closes considerably.

    If none of these 3 live challengers takes their moment – and not taking your moment has REALLY been the story of ESC 2019 so far – then the group of very able, but each with something lacking, compromise winners are waiting on the wings. They are for me a dangerous trio in Swe, Rus & Italy with Azerbaijan, Malta, Iceland – the list goes on – all posing a threat.

  8. Australia now closing into 3rd on the exchange.

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