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Eurovision 2019 Rehearsals: Day 5 Review

After yesterday’s day off, the pace picks up and days get longer as we enter the second rehearsal phase.

Just a warning to those ruling out acts based on extremely short first rehearsal footage: lots can change over the next two days as delegations adapt their concepts and potentially unveil new elements. I know of at least one country with more to show.

Tamta was first up this morning and we finally got a sound feed. The vocal mix wasn’t as sharp, but this was first thing in the morning. Everything was sorted out for the final run through. Cyprus is looking sharp on screen, though I would still have to concede that Replay is no Fuego.

We tried to go to the arena for Montenegro but gave up in the end. They’ve managed to make D-Mol appear even more desperate to camera. The whole package is painfully amateurish with each member of the group looking as simple and naive as Michael Rice.

Finland’s staging is lighter, but unfortunately for Darude & Sebastian they remain lumbered with a dated horror of a song. Finland are finished.

Poland have improved their visuals with the members of Tulia showing much stronger camera interaction. The staging is also brighter and the vocal mix clearer. This isn’t a friendly semi for Poland, but at least they’re doing everything possible to qualify.

Zala Kralj & Gašper sound and look even more uninterested for second rehearsal. There are minor tweaks to the lighting which have made Slovenia drift backwards in my opinion. Somewhat forgettable.

We didn’t see the rehearsal of Czech Republic, but we were reliably informed that their vocals were stronger.

The staging for Hungary seems to glow more. It looks far more impressive on stage and Joci is positioning himself as the main ethno act in this semi-final, especially with his new Jamala-inspired tree. Also vying for that accolade is Serbia who continue to grow with improved swirling graphics. The latter benefits from a lot of televote power in this semi and could be value in various markets. Before Serbia Belarus also showed signs of improvements with changes to the backdrop and better vocals. Like It remains a tough sell for the juries.

Opening the second half of the first semi-final, Belgium is in much the same form as first rehearsal. Eliot looked a tad nervy during the first run through but settled for the final two, even taking time to show some personality for TV viewers. Important marginal gains.

Oto Nemsadze is as strong as ever for Georgia, though I question who will pick up their phone to vote for what is quite a dark performance, especially being followed by Australia. There are one or two visual changes, but it still suffers from a surprising lack of movement once the beat kicks in. Australia are doing enough to qualify. Beyond that I believe their options are limited.

Iceland has managed to close down the gaps on the stage so is delivering more impact compared to last rehearsal and it’s on a par with their national final performance. Some of the aggressive sexualised choreography has returned, which will probably count against the group in the more orthodox nations. There is an audience for this sort of music, I just question their numbers and whether they will be watching Eurovision.

Victor Crone looks like one of those X-Factor auditions that tries way too hard to get the crowd going. It looks way too desperate and sickly when there’s barely any audience in the arena. Storm looked fine in national final form, yet feels rather flat straight after Iceland. Estonia were backed for qualification during this rehearsal, yet I couldn’t work out why based on what I witnessed.

Portugal ended the day and are very much in first rehearsal form with no discernible changes or improvements. Conan will need to convince many more people to secure enough votes to qualify.

All videos can be found on the official Eurovision.TV YouTube page.

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. I’m trying desperately to make predictions and this semi is just so hard to pinpoint a winner – there’s many red flags for every country at this point. I’m still tipping towards Greece but if you asked me why, I’m somewhat hard pushed to give you a convincing reason.

  2. I’d like to echo the “value in various markets comment” for Serbia. Top Balkan is appealing given this is a race that could be won just by coming on the left hand side the market is wide open. 17s can be had on this which is far too high.
    It’s not a hard semi to call the qualifiers and the odds reflect that but I can’t give a winner or top 3 with any confidence.

  3. Gavster, does the girl join Victor in the bridge like we saw in Eesti Laul?

  4. Late to the party this year so doing a catch up: Both Serbia and Estonia seem underrated. The Serbian song is quite powerful and will score good jury marks and has a Balkan support base in the SF.

    Yes Estonia is a bit sickly and dated but it has a catchy hook, and unlike a lot of songs this year has a smooth flow from one section to the next that builds progressively. It will appeal to people who just want a straightforward song without (obvious) gimmicks, vocal gymnastics, ethno appeal, or up its own arse.

  5. I should add that I wouldn’t bet on Estonia in this SF. I just think it has a fair stab at the lefthand side come the final.

    I do think Serbia is a great value bet for an EW 1/3 finish in SF1

  6. Showlad’s Big tip of 2019:
    OK I know this is going to go against the grain of many bloggers and indeed our esteemed Gavin too:
    Australia will WALK Semi 1 and the Win is not out of the question and they are nailed on Top 10 in the Grand Final.
    If we were talking about that ‘experience’ on here yesterday – this is it with bells on. It crept into my 2019 tips overview because it was nagging away at me and I had a discard of this when I read the ‘complicated’ reviews after 1st rehearsal.
    This is your Fuego firecracker of the year. The song reminds me at times of Kate Bush bonkers/barmy touches ala Wuthering Heights and the self empowerment message in the song is inspiring. The melody and song itself is ‘catchy’ and ‘gettable’ enough on first listen, but WOW – the visuals and staging the public are going to EAT THIS UP.
    This is my ‘Germany’ of last year tip. I expect it to be summarily dismissed on here now but I have a very strong gut on this and I will stand by it.

    • Erm, you need to see the whole 3-mins. Not sure how many times I need to say this.

      • Saw all of it it today Gavin. Not official vid but from someone in arena. I think it’s going to be huge.

      • Actually Gavin, I tend to echo Showlad’s sentiment as well. To be very honest, on this particular contest, of which the stage can do way more visual tricks than last year in Portugal, lots of countries are upping their game, staging-wise.

        From Jamala-like LED-trees, to the typical dance choreo’s from SJB. From the typical Balkan-ballad emotions, to Fokas’ boxes doubling the actual performer. From Cyprus to Switzerland, from Russia to Balkan-ballads from Serbia, North Macedonia and Hungary. From CATS-esque staging, with high amount of sleeping pills, to sand drawing. Most of the nations are upping their game in Tel Aviv, with slick visual packages. But also with packages that we have seen before, and that become interchange-able.

        Hence I think the rather ‘static’ simple, yet pretty acrobatic choreography from Australia stands out. In a good way. Not in a negative way. It’s good to see that the Australian delegationis is daring enough to turn this into a stylish Cirque-du-Soleil space dance. I think it works. It fits the personality of Kate. Look at her too. I think she’s very charismatic while she sings, has a wonderful smile, and she loves that floating around.

        I also think many people underestimate the song quality here. This is IMO the best ‘popera’-oriented entry in a long time.

        So the staging here totally enhances the song and Kate’s charisma. And it’s not taking over everything. By doing so it becomes more of a high-quality entry and way less of a cheesy popera act.

        I also think now Australia will win this semi-final. Let’s wait a bit for Greece tomorrow. But I have to say Katherine’s charisma, or lack thereof, is no match to Kate’s. No Australia, keep it like this :-). PS: Let’s not get ourselves drawn into staging too much. It is very well possible that this year, like in 2012 and 2017, the song alone does all the power towards a victory.

        • PS, a first ranking after most rehearsals took place:

          1 Q Australia
          2 Q Czech Republic
          3 Q Cyprus
          4 Q Greece
          5 Q Hungary
          6 Q Iceland
          7 Q Serbia
          8 Q Belarus
          9 Q Belgium
          10 Q San Marino
          11 Slovenia
          12 Poland
          13 Slovenia
          14 Portugal
          15 Finland
          16 Georgia
          17 Montenegro

      • Catriona Colville

        The entire press centre saw the 3 minutes several times and seems to be completely sold. You really are sticking to your guns on Australia aren’t you?

        If you are right, you’ll look like a freaking genius. If you’re wrong, you’ll look stubborn and a bit arrogant.

        We shall wait and see how it goes. For the record, I’m being cautious betting wise on Australia, but my confidence continues to gain. It’s going to do very well (I think), but I’m not sure where it’s upper limit is.

        • I should just point out that the entire press centre isn’t sold on it. Wiwi/escXtra perhaps, but they’re the target market. I just think your opinion will change once you see the full 3 min broadcast.

          That’s not me saying the concept is bad. It’s a great USP. Even so, this sort of song – combined with this concept – isn’t particularly jury friendly. Nor are Australia in a friendly semi. And mixed with some of the frailties in the staging, I do believe the winner comes from elsewhere.

          • Gav, Australia has been consistently topping all the press polls! Are you sure you’re not being objective with your views?

            This will be one of the most iconic staging concepts in Eurovision history – Im sure of it!

          • As I said, the press centre is the sort of environment to like what Australia is doing. It is absolutely the target audience. When it comes down to wider Europe, Australia will have a more critical audience to please. As Hippo mentions, Australia could potentially over achieve due to other nations not maximising their potential. Nevertheless, I should also state that while Australia has a great staging concept, it is also not fully maximised/exploited, which is why I’m constantly saying folk should watch the TV feed.

            Just to be consistent as I was with the Portuguese fans, I must point out that you are commenting from Australia.

    • I remember laughin’ every day when i saw the odds for Australia Top 15 before the rehearsals…and i still am from time to time when i look at my placed bets.

    • Mike G'Day Mate

      Remember MGM called it first! I did say big things were in store for Oz and not to underestimate them… Now how many of you followed my tip? =D


  7. Hi Gavster, good evening. Whο you think will win the first semi final?

    • We haven’t seen all of the second rehearsals yet, so it’s still open. I’ve never been keen on Greece, but they have to be respected if they sort out the concept. I did rate Serbia yesterday in terms of appealing to juries and their diaspora.

  8. Well, this semifinal is indeed very hard to call. Overall, I would say that I’m rather underwhelmed with what I saw today, but there’s some interesting variety to choose from.

    I think that the results will be very close, and it seems very likely that jury and televoting will have a completely different top 3. The huge contrast between Australia and Iceland actually benefits both of them and they could very well finish 1-2 in televoting, but I’m afraid they will finish far lower with the juries which have quite a few songs to spread their votes to (Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Serbia). I will reserve my predictions for tomorrow, after seeing Greece’s rehearsal.

    I’m also not very convinced that the market has all the qualifiers correctly predicted. I still think that Hungary is overrated and what I saw today isn’t changing my mind (many long shots and Joci not connecting with the cameras), so I can see them losing easily the ethnic ballad vote to Serbia. I would actually swap Hungary with Poland which looks and sounds much more convincing than initially suggested. I also think that Estonia looks and sounds very flat to be saved either by the juries or the televote in this crazy run of songs in the second half of the semi. At the same time, I’m not convinced either that they can be replaced by Portugal, which unfortunately looks over-rehearsed and less original compared to FdC, although I do not want to underestimate the power of first impression.

  9. Well said Showlad!

  10. The rehearsals are becoming quite the test of nerve. Especially for those (like me) who like to pick up info but not spoil the show rotten by tucking into rehearsal clips. But losing money is worse so here we are. I’ve an annual fit trying to fade out breathless reactions and reviews loaded with expectation. My notion of what’s going on….

    Semi 1:
    A wide open affair with Iceland and Oz likely splitting the televote, but perhaps less jury votes. Greece are well positioned for both, but the vocals seem an unsure element and it is rather gonzo staging in an already daft as a brush semi.

    There may be value then in Serbia (but gosh I find it DULL. It’s no Adio that’s for sure, and lacks a moment) and in Czech Rep, which is contemporary enough for some jury points. But have the Czechs ever had much voting power? The wisdom for me is if you do not know, then just nibble at the value bets and play safe. I’ve had a wee go on Oz and Czech to win the semi though.

    I have been lucky to favour Georgia, Oz and Belarus pre-hype, so they have a bit of trade off value (but keeping most). Still plenty to be had on Georgia top 10. They tend to stage well and the song has emotional authenticity in an incredibly esoteric semi. (It’s The Simpsons watching the opera, don’t know what he’s saying, but he sure means it). Portugal and Slovenia are the hipster choices, staging in brave but stubborn fashion. The artists will leave Tel Aviv with their artistic visions intact, but may also find themselves leaving early. I have laid both early doors against qualification and was relieved to see their stagings have stayed impenetrable!

    Stung a bit by Montenegro not being as memorable as their harmonies, and Estonia lacking the polish of their NF. Ah well.

    Semi 2:
    Arguably the superior, competitive semi (isn’t there always one)? Armenia seem endangered, though I always have grudging respect for a Sofi Marinova figure taking the stage alone. Norway too, have had very mixed reviews, but as much as I like it, this one really does seem to be this years fanw*nk entry. What is the casual viewers USP to vote for these metaphorical lyrics and joiking?

    Ireland, Moldova and Latvia have failed to convert adequate entries into qualifiers (probably) so I’ve got stung here too. But boy did I bounce around when I saw the drop on Azerbaijan, much appreciated.

    Russia and Netherlands, and frankly Macedonia really will be up against each other in this semi. All 3 could diminish each other or pull away from the pack. I actually favour Russia. The camera simply likes Sergey, he emotes in a generous, open way that Duncan does not, and his mirror gimmick is an idea more than Casio boy and his keyboard have. If Netherlands don’t bring out their sonic moments in their staging Russia will leave them behind. Sometimes something simple, but tangible is enough for the casuals on Saturday. I wouldn’t mind a Russian win, even at the poor Dutch’s expense. The lad is a class act and it’s nice to see a Russian entry that refuses political winks in favour of pure competition. They get snarks for being earnest and eager to win, but if everyone brought this A game every year….

    Azerbaijan of course have beguiled the press, and I do like how the synthy tune is complimented by a bit of sci-fi staging that has at least tangential relevance to the lyrics. If it was a little less repetitive I would be calling this a done deal. But it isn’t. Chingiz is vote bait though.

    I’m only interested Big 6 wise in Spain and Italy. Spain’s staging looks ambitious, so crossing all fingers for tomorrow. If it’s good, the juries could help, if not, well it’ll be business as usual for Spain then won’t it? Italy still have a song that is jury bait, but meanders in the second half. It is simply unproven in a televote. Israel have devamped the unique identity of their song with a stupid revamp. More fool them. My incredibly premature feeling is:

    Iceland / Greece

    • Ta ta! There you have it. A little flaw being made during the rehearsals and in the excitement of the press bubble. We. Forget. The. Song! That’s still a pivotal aspect in judging its result. Netherlands have that; an uttermost contemporary song oozing a bit of ‘Euphoria’-like emotions even without connecting that much. Russia however have a more dated song with less developed verses. Perfect performer that Sergey. Charismatic even. But so are the Hungarian and Serbian singer. It’ll do well, but it’s way way too early, even a bit ‘over-enthusiastic’, to say Russia will score better on the expense of The Netherlands.

  11. As a big punter and layer on Betfair, I have taken some chunky positions in the market. I have opposed Sweden big time in all the markets, win, top 3, top 5 and top 10…I see it getting no traction at all with the televoters.

    although I am cold enough on the song, it is crystal clear that Australia has the stand out WOW factor in the contest. it is foregone conclusion it wins semi final 1…what can beat it Greece(really!).

    …and if Aussie gets a late slot in the final, the first time final night viewers are likely to be blown away by the uniqueness…a 2019 Lordi.

    With Netherlands at the moment failing to capitalise on a charming song, via a boring presentation, the runners for a win whilst slim are narrowing the gap…are we down to Neths, Aussie and Russia?…in this scenario aussies could win the final.

    • I think we should put things into perspective here. We just had the 2nd rehearsals for semi 1 (almost) finished. Lots of the responses here reflect the sometimes frantic press poll results. I mean, for instance an improvement for Australia is going down as the ultimate winner of this semi final. I find that too early. And based on one rehearsal for Netherlands, where expectations were way too high pre-rehearsal, and where the first rehearsal was good (but not great as compared to some other staging triumph), it now is being titled ‘loser of the rehearsals’.

      A charming song needs a stylish presentation, like Australia and Netherlands. To me that’s something different as compared to ‘boring’. Australia will be mostly a visual videoclip of Kate and her two Circque-du-Soleil dancers floating in near-Earth-space. Netherlands takes into account a large audience filled arena instead of an empty one (would love to see everyone bring a LED-stick with them). And they want to highlight the musician, its simplicity instead of complex staging developments.

      So let’s not get too locked into ‘press bubble behavior’. Yes, it’s showing trends of how staging packages of all various entries evolve. But in the end you have to tone down that excitement again and apply a bit of pre-rehearsal vibe again as well (especially when we talk about song quality). So that Australia might indeed win the semi final, but did so in a rather weak one. That Netherlands did not impress as much as fans hoped to, but eventually came together on the actual night (like Portugal 2017 and Israel 2018). And that Azerbaijan is indeed a staging triumph, but that a victory might be slightly too much to ask and in the end settles on a 3rd to 6th place.

      Breathe in, breathe out :-).

  12. Laura Bretan not winning the Romanian NF with her popera song was the best thing that could have happened to Australia.

  13. Australia might have some chances in this semi but that’s down to the weakness of the field as much as anything else. It’s visually impressive and Kate is charismatic but let’s not get carried away, this is a long way behind the heavy hitters of semi 2. Australia’s televote has always fallen below predicted levels as has that of any (p)opera song except Il Volo. 8/9th in the odds is a fair reflection on where this will likely finish-a low top 10.

  14. There’s a simple saying that goes –

    “Never say never…. and never say always”

    This no doubt will capture the public’s imagination with its visuals and originality… and also capture juries attention with the complex vocals (ala Estonia 2018)…

    Don’t be the one left sitting on the sidelines watching the train pass-by haha… the odds will go much lower! Im predicting less than $6 on GF night!

  15. I find Netherlands very cold and clinical, and Russia calculated and professional (for the first minute and a half – it loses steam for me after that). But have backed Australia and North Macedonia (surprises to myself). Both made my usual stoic and unemotional self well up with feeling. I’m certain the profits are there this year, but when should I pull it is the question?

  16. I echo Hippo’s comments on the weakness of this semi and would caution anyone against extrapolating outright victory possibilities after a SF1 triumph. A certain SF2 song in 2018 emerged as a winner and in another lopsided contest where the better songs all came in SF1, it ended up 15th in the final. I can see the vocal and visual appeal in Australia, but like Estonia 2018 (“La Forza), it’s not very compelling as a piece of music for a Saturday night audience. In fact like Estonia, a low top ten may be the height of its realistic ambitions for me. One day we get get a piece of “popera” that breaks all the conventions and actually wins the ESC, but this is not it for me.

    Changing topic….I wonder which country Gav you were teasing us with, with your reference to at least one country with a substantial “reveal” still up its sleeve? I have heard rumours but here is not the place for loose speculation!

    Hope Mahmood has his sore throat fixed for later. Poor Michael Rice having to follow him…a case of “Après Moi Le Deluge.”

  17. Australian hype trains is going over board now.

    Opera & Pop opera are soo divisive it’s like Marmite you either love it or hate it their is no in between. No way is this winning the Grand Final. Be lucky to get top 5. It may win the Semi-Final but that will be down too it being a weak field

    If you don’t like Opera then you wont like this song. The staging will be irrelevant to people who don’t like opera. People will not be rushing to vote for this.

    Then Australia has another problem in bloc voting. They don’t have any neighbouring countries.

    Australia possibly win the weak Semi and Top 10 in the Grand Final but that’s it’s limit imo

  18. Team Australia. 1-2 place semi-final I think. But not a big player in the final.

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