All Kinds Of Everything for Eurovision

The build-up to the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in Baku

When the music dies
Keith SP
akoe07

And so another Eurovision Song Contest comes to an end and P.E.D. (Post Eurovision Depression) sets in throughout the Eurovision fan community.  Unfortunately the over-run of the show, the logistics of getting back to the hotel from the venue and doing a full re-pack after I discovered I only had a 20kgms baggage allowance, meant that I never got to react on the spot to this year’s contest. Also I wanted to see how the shows came across on television, before finalising my thoughts.  So here is my final report on the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

THE SEMI-FINALS

I must admit that at this stage, I like the semi-finals a lot more than the final show.  The ratio of music is better, the postcards are fresher and there are ten winners in each show. This year was made even better by the fact that the pre-amble to the first song was mercifully short and for me at least, the intervals were much better than in the final. I predicted 9 out of 10 qualifiers in the first semi, letting my heart rule my head by making a last minute substitution of Austria for Hungary, which was in my initial list. Austria’s result in the emi-final (a distant last place) was the only real shocker for me and looking back on it on screen it does come acrosds as rather “In your face” for a family audience.

I only managed 8 out of 10 in the second semi, but as no one in our extended company did better, I ended up winning the “napkin of death” on a tie-break. Again I’m afraid that I allowed my heart to rule my head, choosing Portugal and if there’s any song that I think undeservedly missed on getting to the big night, it was the haunting Portuguese entry.  Alas, my ultimate dream of having two weeks of Eurovision in Lisbon will have to wait another year.

I liked the use of the “Golden Ticket” to highlight the last of the ten qualifiers but I would probably have chosen Hungary and Malta as the tenth, as it was quite obvious that Ireland and Turkey would qualify, ever before they were drawn.

THE FINAL

In contrast to the semis, yet again I found the final a bit of an anti-climax. By that stage I had heard the songs a lot more, the postcards were all too familiar and a little repetitious (although nowhere near as bad as Athens, Belgrade or Moscow) and the voting was interminable as we knew the winner after sex countries had voted. In my opinion the show was too long and in needs to be brought back to three hours and after the fantastic interval acts in the semis, Emin’s flying circus was a bit of a let-down.   

It didn’t help that once again the Irish OGAE tickets were behind the stage, for the third year in a row and that the scoreboard was invisible to us, meaning I had a quick dash back to the Press Centre, for the last half hour of the show.

The atmosphere that came across on camera was also a lot calmer than in previous years and that is not a bad thing in my opinion. Whether it was the later local start time, the lower number of flag waving foreign fans or the predictability of the voting, this year’s contest seemed to be a bit more subdued.

THE WINNER

I’m not going to pretend that I like the winner, but then I haven’t liked the winning entry for the last two years, so I’ve long since learnt to detach the result from the overall Eurovision experience and not allowed it to cloud my opinion of the event. Sweden’s entry generally drew a very different reaction from people, depending on their age and musical background. For those of us on the mature side of 35 and who were all too familiar with the euphoric dance music that pumped out of clubs in Ibiza, in the years around the turn of the century, Loreen’s song had an air of underwhelming deja-vu. For those that were unfamiliar with the genre, either through age, or never having been exposed to it, “Eurphoria” appeared to be something new and fresh for Eurovision. 

However the result speaks for itself, the winning margin was huge, no song has ever won as many “douze points” and “Euphoria” looks like being a pan-European hit (with the honourable exception of Italy), even exceeding Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale” from 2009. The one interesting thing to see will be the split result, as the Swedish performance in the Jury final was very poor, so did the jury rate the song based on that or the much better performance in the previous evening’s semi-final. If it turns out to be the latter, then France and the U.K. (which were also poor in the Jury final) have every right to feel more than a little miffed.

IRELAND

I was on the same return flight as Jedward and the RTÉ delegation and it’s fair to say that no one really saw the disappointing result coming. In fact having initially thought that we were in for a worse result that 2011, as I watched the jury final, that Jedward could do better than he 8th place they achieved in Dusseldorf, but it was not to be. I still believe that “Waterline” is a much weaker song than “Lipstick” but the later draw should have helped us a lot more.

There’s no question that Jedward did not attract anything like the same publicity as they had done in 2011 and like everyone else, ended up playing a distant second fiddle to the hype of the Russian grannies. Reporters from our two main newspapers seemed to struggle to get access to the Jedward team and I don’t believe that Linda Martin’s presence as a former Eurovision winner was used as well as it could have been, to generate interest in the Irish entry.

Jedward have confirmed that they will not enter the contest next year which leaves the door wide open for everyone who would like to represent Ireland in Sweden.  Jedward’s legacy of engaging a new generation of Irish Eurovision fans should not be under-estimated and I think we should give thanks to the boys for the increasing the interest in the contest in Ireland, with the subsequent impact on television ratings (again, the highest of the year) and general discussion on the contest.

The Swedish music market is very open to Eurovision and it could prove a valuable European launch-pad for a new Irish entrant. Already the names of former Eurosong finalists like Nikki Kavanagh, Leanne Moore and Donna McCaul have been mentioned, but it is an open secret that if Imelda May decided to throw her hat into the ring, then RTÉ would be more than willing to take her up on the offer.

UNITED KINGDOM

However disappointing the result was to Irish fans, things seem to be going from bad to worse for our neighbours in the U.K., despite being one of the Top 5 favourites with bookmakers. With only one Top 10 finish in the last ten years, the U.K. is going through its worst ever run in the competition. Despite drawing on the talents of experienced performers, Engelbert Humperdinck followed Blue the previous year in killing the chances of his song in a poor performance in the Jury Final. There have to be questions asked as to whether the U.K. entrants are being told of the importance of the Jury Final and whether big names are being brought in to help ratings, irrespective of their suitability for the contest. I say that with a degree of hindsight as I would have supported the selection of Blue and Engelbert.

BAKU

Baku is my twelfth foreign city that I have visited specifically for the contest (not counting Dublin, where I lived during the 1990s contests) and the whole trip is right up there with Belgrade and Moscow as my favourite Eurovision experience.  As well as being an interesting a beautiful city, the people truly made the fortnight memorable for all the right reasons. After the dullness and lack of variety in Dusseldorf and the overly expensive prettiness of Oslo, Baku really charge my Eurovision batteries. No city made the same effort to brand itself as he Eurovision host or went out of its way so much to accommodate visitors.

Yes not everything was perfect, the Welcome Party (such as it was) was a severe let-down, two Days without coffee in the Press Area was a struggle and it appeared that taxi drivers had been beamed in from Mars, just before the event, but it wasn’t an expensive city y any means, the weather was fantastic and special mention must be made of the fantastic Euroclub, for its location, its facilities, ease to access (none of the overcrowding of Oslo or the general tedium and nastiness that ruined the second week in Dusseldorf). Of all the cities that I’ve been to for Eurovision, Baku would rate beside Belgrade as somewhere I would like to return to, away from the contest.  

POLITICIZATION

One very minor downer for me was the attempt by the media in certain countries to politicise the event, and I would lay the main blame on the BBC, Sweden’s SVT and the German media in general. The Eurovision Song Contest has to thread a very fine line in international relations, as it is one of the few competitions where every country competes on an equal basis (Big 5 rule, expected). Therefore if a country is allowed to enter the EBU and consequently compete in and stage the contest, then that right should be respected. Furthermore if a country is willing to pour the money and effort into hosting the contest as Azerbaijan did, then they should be admired and not hectored or lectured in any way.  The comments made by the German spokesperson that “Europe is watching you” were to my mind unacceptable and doubly so, coming from a country that has seen fit to interfere in the democratic process in its Eurozone neighbours, in the last year and beyond.  If journalists are concerned about freedom of speech in other countries they have the means to raise this throughout the year rather than trying to use the contest as an opportunity to sling (often ill-informed) mud.

2013

So Sweden gets the chance to host next year’s contest and it will be interesting to see the approach that they take. The EBU hinted at their press conference that it would like to see the scale of the event being reduced and for there to be more concentration on the television show. The recent trajectory of “bigger is better” Eurovision would suggest that the event will be staged in Stockholm, most likely at the under-construction Friends Arena in the Solna municipality with its 50,000 plus capacity.

However if the intention to stabilise the contest at a more modest size, then the 15,000 capacity Malmo Arena may end up hosting he contest. Malmo also wins on the fact that SVT likes to rotate major events and the fact that Stockholm is co-hosting the World Ice Hockey Championships at the same time as Eurovision.

I’ve personally decided to take a break from next year’s contest, assuming that it is more likely to be staged in Stockholm, as I have no desire to spend a fortnight in a city that I have already visited for Eurovision (and several subsequent trips) but I might just be persuaded to go to Malmo.

CHANGES I’D LIKE TO SEE

In general I found very little wrong with this year’s contest, either as a television viewer or as a visitor to the event. Anything the visiting media wanted, we generally got and the show was very entertaining.

The only part of the show that I found completely underwhelming was the voting. It wasn’t just the usual complain about neighbourly and predictable voting, which are being increasingly irritating, but the fact that we had a runaway winner meant that the voting sequence which was once a highlight of the contest, has now become a chore. For me the contest needs to be brought back to three hours and the voting sequence should be shortened.

There are two ways that I would suggest that this could be done; firstly by only allowing the finalists to vote individually (calling out 6 to 12 points) and then combine the losing semi-finalists into one “super-jury” at the end where they have the power to change the result, having the weighting of 18 countries.

Another option would be to combine countries so that they voted together in groups of three or four (a combined vote of U.K., Ireland and Malta, for example). This would shorten the voting sequence and lessen the impact of predictable votes. I’d also like to see an end to international SMS voting. The current rules allow you to vote in another country’s televote, if you know the number to use and have access to online resources which allow overseas texting.  The current rules allow this, but it certainly isn’t in the spirit of “fair play”. 

I would also like to see a ban (and proper censure) of all political comments, during the voting.

For me the rehearsal schedule is too long. Yes certain countries do need two full rehearsals, but others don’t. For example this year, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania and many others changed very little from first to final dress rehearsal. Countries should be allowed to choose to have one or two individual rehearsals and pay for the privilege of a second rehearsal (as well as the additional hotel nights).

As well as the voting and the rehearsals, a third change I would like to see is the running order. This year (as in previous years) we get a run of ballads or up-tempo songs which doesn’t help anyone. I think countries should be allowed to swap their position in the running order with another country, if it suits both.

Finally, I would like to see the “wildcards” in the semis given to the countries that have gone the longest without qualifying and in the final, the “wildcard” should go to the country that has gone the longest without finishing in the Top 10.

AND FINALLY….

My deepest tanks to Elaine and Andrew on the sterling work they have done for the blog, it has made the time so much more pleasurable for me and for those that read the blog. I would also like to thank everyone who has made comments either here or on our Facebook page or YouTube channel and finally to the people of Baku and Azerbaijan, who should be proud of the wonderful event that they have staged and the welcome that they have provided for their guests.


They Think it's Moldova......... It is Now!!!!!!!
Elaine
akoe07
Well folks that is Eurovision done for another year. As Pasha and his Moldovian dancers minced off the stage last night, we had seen the last performnace. No more rehearsals, no more press conferences - just an interval act, some (mostly predictable) voting and a great winner and reprise for Loreen and Euphoria!!!! I am delighted to be heading to Sweden. It will be my 6th contest in a 6th different country and i am already excited. There were people at the airport booking up hotels in Sweden already.

I do hope our esteemed editor and chief Keith Mills will change his mind about not coming, nearer the time. I will be there with bells on and I reckon the thought of leaving his website in the hands of Andrew Main and myself might override the one of disappointment in going to Sweden next year.

Again I apologise to the people of this blog for my terrible prediction success but as I have said before I am merely a fan not an expert. Of the 14 countries I predicted could share the top 10 spots I got 8 of them correct which looks pretty decent until you see that the 6 i never got were nowhere near - UK Iceland Ireland Cyprus Ukraine and Romania. Never go to the bookies on my say so.

I am now checked in at the Travel Lodge at Heathrow with the final leg of the journey home tomorrow - bliss. I will leave you with a little annecdote of my flight from Baku to Istanbul!!!
You know you are living the high life when you have to scoot past Zeljko Joksimovic on the plane to get to the toilet in a hurry only to find Kaliopi waiting to get in when you are finished."Elaine Dove - seat warmer for the stars at 35000ft!!!!"

Thankyou all and see you in Sweden 2013 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

So the fan favourite wins for a change, Sweden win Eurovision.
pic1
akoe07
So it was in the end a bit of a romp to victory for Loreen from Sweden.
I am delighted as I love the song and love Stockholm where we will most
likely end up next year.
Keith has already departed for the airport and I am waiting to depart.

In the meantime how did my predictions do?

1: U.K.   16-20th Finished 25th, a poor result.
2: Hungary 21-26th Finished 24th so spot on.
3: Albania 11-15th A great result for Albania finishing 5th
4: Lithuania 21-26th Finished 14th so also better than expected result. 
5: Bosnia-Herzegovina 21-26th Finished 18th
6: Russia 1-5th Finished 2nd so spot on here.
7: Iceland 16-20th Finished in 20th so just spot on.
8: Cyprus 6-10th Finished 16th which was so unfair.
9: France 21-26th Finished 22nd which is spot on.
10: Italy 1-5th Finished 9th slightly disappointing.
11: Estonia 11-15th Finished 6th which is a great result.
12: Norway 16-20th Finished 26th a very poor result on Tooji's birthday

13: Azerbaijan 6-10th Finished 4th which is a good result for the hosts.
14: Romania 11-15th Finished 12th which is spot on again.
15: Denmark 16-20th Finished 23rd so a big disappointment here.
16: Greece 21-26th Finished 17th which is better than I thought it deserved.
17: Sweden 1-5th Finished on the top spot and was a runaway winner. 
18: Turkey 16-20th Finished 7th another good finish for Turkey.
19: Spain1-5th Finished 10th a little bit lower than I would have hoped.
20: Germany 21-26th Finished 8th another top 10 now 3 in a row.
21: Malta 6-10th Finished 21st a really sad finish for a great song.
22: Macedonia 6-10th Finished 13th slightly lower than I wished it to do.

23: Ireland 6-10th Finished 20th a huge disappointment for Ireland.
24: Serbia 1-5th Finished 3rd so spot on here.
25: Ukraine 11-15th Finished 16th so just missed this by 1 place.
26: Moldova 11-15th Finished 11th so spot on.

So I got 8 countries positions correct and a few more were just outside
my suggestion either up or down.

No waiting at airport with Elaine and some of the rest of the gang
ready to board  our first flight to Istanbul.

Cheers Andrew

My predictions for the Final results.
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akoe07
Had a lovely night and then day off from the whole Eurovision bubble.
Went for cocktails on top of the Hilton in the revolving 360 bar, the cocktail
list had a different cocktail for each country and I had a Sweden.
Some of the gang from OGAE UK were in attendance.
Then a final dinner in the.... yes you may have guessed... The City Cafe
on Fountain Square. Wonderful food and waiters , great atmosphere sitting
outside and cheap, its been a godsend for the whole 2 weeks.

Now in the Press Centre with just under 2 hours till show time.
One lovely thing I realised last night is that the shot of the Crystal Hall lit
up with the countrie flag is a live shot as I was looking out my bedroom window
just after midnight last night and saw the UK, Hungary, Albania and Lithuania
before I went out for drinks.

I am going to run through the running order and predict where on the scoreboard each country will finish.


1: U.K.   16-20th
2: Hungary 21-26th
3: Albania 11-15th
4: Lithuania 21-26th
5: Bosnia-Herzegovina 21-26th
6: Russia 1-5th
7: Iceland 16-20th
8: Cyprus 6-10th
9: France 21-26th
10: Italy 1-5th
11: Estonia 11-15th
12: Norway 16-20th

13: Azerbaijan 6-10th
14: Romania 11-15th
15: Denmark 16-20th
16: Greece 21-26th
17: Sweden 1-5th
18: Turkey 16-20th
19: Spain1-5th
20: Germany 21-26th
21: Malta 6-10th
22: Macedonia 6-10th

23: Ireland 6-10th
24: Serbia 1-5th
25: Ukraine 11-15th
26: Moldova 11-15th

I am sure some of this will be right and some totally wide of the mark,
its often the case but I would be surprised if the winner is not
among the ones I have selected for 1-10th on here.

Thanks once again for all the lovely comments and even the not so
lovely ones, all comments are always welcome.
Enjoy the show wherever you are watching and may the best song win.

I may stay for the winners press conference dependant on who wins
or I may head to the after show party at Euroclub.
I will blog my reactions either late tonight or more likely tomorrow.

Keith is the first of the team to fly home tomorrow around 10am and me
and Elaine around 2pm.


The final countdown - Keith
Keith SP
akoe07

I’ m back in the Press Area for the last time, before heading into the Arena. I’ve had a lovely relaxed day seeing the city and soaking up all that Baku has to offer for the last time, before heading into the Crystal Hall for tonight’s final.

If you’re wondering what’s creating a buzz here, it’s probably Russia and (to a lesser extent) Spain. The fact that Israel votes last suggest to some people that Russia may be a close winner. I wouldn’t be hugely impressed with either, but at this stage my personal preferences have nothing to do with it. The buzz that was around Italy earlier in the week has slightly subsided, along with the early hype on Sweden. People are still wondering what the major issue with Sweden and Romania’s performances in the Jury Final are going to have on their chances.

Because my taxi pick-up is 7am for a 10am flight, I’m probably going to have to forego the Winners’ Press Conference and certainly the After Show party. I hope to get to put a reaction blog online before heading home and  I will try to write a report on the contest on the way home.


Rolling blog of the 2012 Eurovision Jury Final
Keith SP
akoe07
I'm back in the Press Area after a lovely meal in a Lebanese resteraunt back in the city. I managed to get from Fountain Square to the Press Area in 20 minutes, a new record.

Expect a full house for the show tonight, every bus we passed was full of people heading out to the Crystal Hall. So as not to have tickets wasted I gave Andrew's (who's taking the night off) and my tickets for tonight's show to a couple of members of the wonderful volunteer team as a "thank you" for the help and friendliness that have shown in the last two weeks. They seemed delighted and I can only imagine what they'll think when they find themselves three rows from the front of the centre of the stage!

My duty tonight is a rolling blog of the Jury Final which will make up 50% of the votes in tomorrow night's show. Five music experts from every country are seeing tonight's show live, each one will pick their Top 10 songs in order and from these a Top 10 Jury vote will be compiled and this will be added to tomorrow's televote.

I'm also going to make predictions as to where I think each song will finish tomorrow night. and the latest betting odds.

There is a Press Area poll but it's totally useless as it basically just shows who has the greatest number of accreditations here (Azerbaijan is first and Spain second). The Press Area is very empty tonight as there are a couple of parties going on.

THE SHOW BEGINS

Monday night's firwork display over Baku and the Crtystal Hall open the show before we have some traditional Azeri music mixing with some modern dancers with men flying through the air and then back to some local dancers in some beautiful ethnic costumes. The we get the drummer from Tuesday's interval act back again. We end with a firework wall and Ell & Nikki reprising last year's winning song. Nikki is in a short silver and white dress while Eldar is in a white suit. 

The two female presenters start their introductions, seven minutes into the show. We then get a 60 second reprise of the building of the Crystal Hall. The 60 seconds give Eldar a chance to join the two female presenters on the satellite stage.

1. UNITED KINGDOM (20/1 - fifth favourite).
Nice art based postcard for the U.K. before Engelbert sings in a spotlight dressed in a dark suit and shirt. Engelbert's vocal sounds a little raspy to my ears. The backing dancers making fleeting appearances. The colour-scheme is green and purple then going to blue before we have another firework shower and pyro spirals. Rather suspect vocally throughout and I'm now predicting this to finish 16th to 20th.

2. HUNGARY (250/1)
The lead singer of Compact Disco now wears a black PVC coat with red lining and there seems to be more red in the stage lighting. Very similar to the Tuesday performance. Vocally fine and could do well with juries but it's doomed from the #2 draw. Prediction : 21st to 26th

3. ALBANIA (150/1)
Rona is her black and blue dress and that now famous hairstyle. Red backdrop. The crowd go wild for those amazing high and sustained notes. Totally OTT and operatic and it will be remembered, but I suspect that there is a limited audience. Prediction 21st to 26th.

4. LITHUANIA (250/1)
I suspect that being performed last had a major part in Lithuania qualifying last night. Donny is still performing this song amazingly and he seems more confident tonight, perhaps because his aim of qualifying has been achieved. Best backdrop of the year and a virtuoso performance, but is the song strong enough to do well from an early draw? Prediction 21st to 26th.

5. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (150/1)
Lovely long spotlight shot that gradually closes in on Maya to open the song. Like Lithuania, virtually identical to last night's semi-final show. This is another song that benefitted from a late draw in the semi and now has to be performed early. I still think that this would benefite from a falautist on stage for the instrumental part, but Maya is singing well and I like the subtle use of the wind machine. Prediction 16th to 20th

6. RUSSIA (13/2 - second favourite)
Still off-key to my ears in the firsat 30 seconds. The audience go wild for this and for the first generally uptempo song it really standds out after what went before. I still think it's a cute novelty act selling a second rate song but it's bound to do well, very well. Prediction 1st to 5th (I'll spit these at the end).

7. ICELAND (80/1)
I'm not sure why Jonsi has opted for a lower key at the start. It does sound more dramatic but it means that the voices blend less smoothly. Nice staging, but far from their best performance of the week. PREDICTION 11th to 15th.

8. CYPRUS (50/1)
Personally I'd prefer this in a higher key but vocally it's fine and Ivi and her team are very tight and the camerawork is great. Ivi looks stunning but the instrumental break is not getting the reaction I'd have hoped for. It's not got a great draw either. PREDICTION 6th to 10th

9. FRANCE (150/1)
Dreadful vocal by Anggun who's off key and no amount of gymnastics, shiney bodies can compensate. Worst performance so far. PREDICTION 16th to 20th.

10. ITALY (12/1 - Fourth Favourite)
So it was "product" that Nina had on her hair this afternoon.  Looking great in her silver dres and really delivering the song down the camera. The backing singers now look like they know what they're doing. Really helped by France being so Poor. PREDICTION 1st to 5th

11. ESTONIA (100/1)
Ott is a lot more smily and not closing his eyes as before, he's still putting in swirls and holding notes that are not in the original version and I suspect this is getting lost, despite Ott's photogenic appeal. PREDICTION 21st to 26th

12. NORWAY (66/1)
The vocals in the verse are just totally under-par and it's only the chorus that saves it. Some very nice camerawork. The pyros are amazing and it's far more attractive to the eyes than to the ears. PREDICTION 16th to 20th.

Unusual place for a break but it helps the build up to the home country's entry.

13. AZERBAIJAN (66/1)
A few dodgy notes from Sabina at the start of this and her pronounciation is way off at times but visually the "dress of many colours" is fantastic. The little "genie on a box" warbling over the last minute of this song really adds nothing to non-Azeris, but it gets the locals go wild. Rather under-par for me. PREDICTION 11th to 16th.

14. ROMANIA (33/1)
Initially much more assured performance than in Tuesday's semi but then the singer drops a line and it all goes to pieces for the last minute. They are still missing the impact of the passge into the last chorus. Disappointing. PREDICTION 11th to 16th

15. DENMARK (40/1)
Same as it ever wa, Soluna smiles a bit more and her hair looks better, otherwise identical to every previous performance. PREDICTION 11th to 16th

16. GREECE (50/1)
Sounding aful as there is a clear split between the lead and back-up vocal. The routine still looks too simple and not polished enough. There are so many better Europop songs in the contest. PREDICTION: 16th to 20th

17. SWEDEN (11/8 favourite)
With so many songs being underpar tonight, things could be moving in Sweden's direction. Loreen was very poor this afternoon, but was clearly holding back, but this goes badly off the rails when she appears to swallow some of the snow effect and never fully recovers. Very disappointing. PREDICTION: 6th to 10th

We get told about Switzerland's first victory and the annual Lys Assis in the audience shot before there's a special introduction to "our neighbours, Turkey".

18.TURKEY (80/1)
I really think this is a nothing song being sold by a brilliant stage show, but Turkey are masters at this (remember 2007?). The crowd support is as strong as for the home entry. Like it or not, I can see this doing well. PREDICTION 6th to 10th

19. SPAIN (40/1)
Another underwhelming song being sold by a good performance but at the opposite end of the spectrum to Turkey's floor show. Pastora in a duck egg blue gown which is rather old fashioned but catches the wind machine well. By God is she delivering it in buckets. I still don't see the need for a choir, which only break the intimacy of the performance. What a shame that she doesn't have a stronger song. PREDICTION 6th to 10th.

20. GERMANY (40/1)
I'm not sure what the instumental lead-in add to the song bar making synchonisation easier. Romanis in a plain black shirt over a white t-shirt. Fantastic stage lighting. Really sweet charming ;performance and vocally fine. Juries are likely to lap this up. PREDICTION 6th to 10th.

21. MALTA (150/1)
Again a lovely contrast to what went before. Best backdrop and lighting and if this could qualify from #4 in a tough semi, what can it do from this draw? I still don't like the backing vocal but Kurt is playing the audience for everything and they are paying him back. PREDICTION 1st to 5th

22. MACEDONIA (150/1)
Another one that qualified from an awful draw and now gets one of the better places in the running order. Kaliopi is a master craftswoman in action. She really delivers this song and with so few rock flavoured songs this could do very well with juries, but is it instant enough? PREDICTION 11th to 16th

23. IRELAND (33/1)
There's a long pause before the backing track kicks in, suggesting a problem with getting Macedonia off stage and Ireland on in time. The fountain which wasn't used today is now in full effect. Vocally fine, and they are using more overrhead shots which add variety. The boys havce to drop their mics before jumping in the shower. It's well performed and has a good draw, so anything is possible. PREDICTION 1st to 5th

24. SERBIA (10/1)
No question that this has been the big beneficiary of the draw. A solid song, well staged and performed and likely to hoover up votes from those that like songs with an ethnic twist. It's vocally perfect. PREDICTION 1st to 5th.

25. UKRAINE (40/1)
The camerawork is better tonight and the draw is great. Why does she have to thump her chest to get a vibrato effect? PREDICTION 11th to 16th.

26. MOLDOVA (100/1)
This look to have the best draw until Ukraine got number 25. It's fun, slick, well performed, but I think many people will have chosen their favourite before we get to this. PREDICTION 16th to 20th.

So time to split the Top 5 of Russia, Italy, Malta, Ireland and Serbia.

I only just put Malta and Ireland in there so I call Ireland 5th and Malta 4th.

Then it gets tricky. Italy is my favourite song and singer, but I'm not sure it has enough going for it to be a big televote getter from an early draw, so I'm putting that 3rd.

Then it's Russia vs Serbia. Very tough to call, but I think Serbia may stuggle for televotes in the west and Russia will not do well with juries, so I give the win to Russia as I think this will hoover up televotes everywhere.






 

Review of Dress reahearsal for final by Andrew.
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akoe07
Watched the songs all the way through in the Arena and felt it was a great selection
of songs and lots of variation and contrasts in the running order.
UK was really good today vocally but I dont think the draw does it any favours.
Hungary is a good contrast to the UK but its a bad draw on so early
Albania is simply stunning and stands out big time.
Lithuania is great vocally and the disco part helps it stand out a bit.
Bosnia is a lovely song but fear it could get a bit lost in the mix.
Russia stands out a mile, so cute and endearing on camera.
Iceland is a good contrast after Russia, a strong performance.
Cyprus is a great confident performance, and stands out as the first decent uptempo.
France started badly on the first note and proves to be too messy, Cyprus before kills this off.
Italy stands out after France and is very upbeat and sung well, Nina in blue hairpiece.
Estonia WOW this was stunning, total contrast to Italy and coud do very well.
Norway started with a malfunction when one dancer lost all his battery pack etc on the flips  
and it was off vocally, I think it has no chance of doing well.
Then we had a break which isnt such a good thing for Azerbaijan. However the performance
is stunning both vocally and visually. A strong contender.
Romania sounded fine today but I dont see it doing really well.
Denmark was a refreshing change down in tempo and is a bright song.
Greece is very busy performance with a nice beat and ok vocals today.
Sweden was a fab performance and could win from this position.
Another ad break does Turkey no favours. But it was a good bouncy performance.
Spain WOW I was in tears at the end of this. Big stand out now for Spain, could win.
Germany is still good but is now lost after a stunning Spain song.
Malta is standing out after Germany a good contrast.
Macedonia is fab , this could do really well too.
Ireland was a great competent performance with no water.
Serbia was simply fab too another serious contender.
Ukraine was another great stand out song and may get the late uptempo votes.
Moldova  was good really love the simple routine.

Rolling Blog for Dress Rehearsal 1
Elaine
akoe07
Well I arrived in the arena just as the rehearsal started and El and Nicki were singing their winning reprise from last year - Running Scared. Unfortunately the live link to the arena has now stopped so currently we are looking at still pictures from last night.

We now have a picture back but have missed The U.K. and Hungary and currently Albania are on screen but we have no sound.

Lithuania - we now have a feed of sorts back and just caught very end of Lithuania, 5th in the running order but still having technical difficulties with the picture. We can at least hear now 

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Maya in long black sparkly dress. This song on gets going for me when she stands up from the piano to sing latter part. She looks great on screen and last camera shot. Hard to judge as part of running order as we missed the previous songs. Don't see it doing much.

Russia - the same routine from semi final and still the most endearing thing you will see on screen this year i reckon. Makes a big impact coming on after Bosnia. The close camera work on little granny is genius as she is by far the most sought after and famous of the Babushkie This draw has given Russia a great chance now as it is the first upbeat song of the final in 6th place in the running. 

Cyprus - Casual clothes for Ivi and the gang. The main thing that strikes me about her performance is how much she is enjoying herself whilst she performs and this translates through the screen to the viewer and will hopefully encourage people to pick up the phone. I have heard Ivi give a better vocal performance but as long as she is saving it for tonight and tomorrow night I think we can see a very favourable result for Cyprus.

Iceland - Rehearsing in casual clothes. This is still a strong powerful vocal performance - will it's draw after Russia affect it's chances? I hope not as it is still a top 5 contender for me. 

France - 2nd of the big 6 entries. Anggun is in dark gold sparkly bodice with chiffon floaty skirt and still has the whispy attachments for the gymnasts to play with during the performance. The slow motion shot did not happen in this rehearsal but the final shot with the wind machines blowing the chiffon scarves up in the air looks good. I just feel this performance has been messed around with too much and there is a bit of overkill. They have concentrated on the performance and not the song. 

Italy - Nina Zilli is on stage in her silver sparkly dress and has bright blue hair up on top of her head. I actually think this is some form of setting her hair for tonight's dress rehearsal. Nina is definitely not giving this performance 100% but she doesn't have to. We are still suffering link problems and this has been interrupted several times. I have no doubt Nina will be brilliant tonight.

Estonia - Ott is in casual clothes but I actually think this dark jeans and dark jacket with white t-shirt is a better look than his waistcoat ensemble. Sound has gone again so no idea which one of the 11 versions of this song he is currently singing. Still think this will do well.

Norway - Tooji on stage in casual clothes but we have no sound. I feel he needs to improve his vocal performance but very hard to judge today. This is definitely one of the dance routines that has improved the most since rehearsal day 1. Tooji certainly knows how to work the camera. Some very dreamy looks down the lens to the voting public at home.

I do apologise for the lack of clarity in this blog - i am struggling against a very poor link to the press centre affecting sound and vision 

Green Room Break

Azerbaijan - Sabina is in her stage dress. White and floaty with feathered shoulders. Lights are projected onto the dress thus changing it's colour during the performance. She hit a very dodgy top note during this performance but apart from that gives a confident and assured vocal. I am still not convinced that the man singing in the second half doesn't take away something from this song but I am sure Azerbaijan will be very proud of her on the night.

Romania - another good contrast to the ballad from Azerbaijain. Without doubt one of the most upbeat and fun dancy tunes in the contest. This had the arena jumping in it's semi final. All in casual clothes for today's rehearsal. Elena sounds a little bit out of breathe over the microphone today. 14 is a good draw for this song - I want it to do well.

Denmark - Soluna is in a grey casual suit and large neck scarf today and has her hair up in big loose curls. I really like this look for her. Gives the song more of her own personality. First time I have seen her perform without the hat. I imagine all will be as was for toinght's jury final though. She looks relaxed and confident. Perhaps I have just totally let this song pass me by as have never really felt it's appeal but it made it to the final and a good draw in position 15.

Greece - It is definitely the catchy uptempo tune that gives Greece it's appeal this year as the performance I  find messy and out of tune in many parts. I can't help but compare it to Cyprus and I think Ivi does it much better. The Greek dance performance is not as tight and the vocal far poorer but they also have a far more favourable draw in the final. May Greece take points away from Cyprus? 

Sweden - Loreen gave one of her best performances last night and it got a massive reaction in the arena. She looks far more confident on the stage now than she had done in earlier rehearsals. Perhaps the pressure to qualify when she was the out and out favourite had been affecting her a bit. Looks great today on screen. This still top 5 potential for me. 

Break - and the annual wave to Lys Assia in the audience

Turkey - by far the biggest reaction we have seen so far in the arena when they performed last night. The golden envelope was a massive anti climax as everyone in the hall knew it contained Turkey - This song is going to get nearly as much support as the home country of Azerbaijan. I like this ethnic song but the performance is definitely even better than the song and puts Turkey in with a good shout of a top 10 finish. I actually began to wonder last night whether this could be a dark horse for the win???

Spain - gorgeous ballad from Pastora. Stands out greatly against Turkey. We really do get a far better mix and contrast of songs in the latter half of the draw than the beginning and this could really benefit Spain. Pastora is in long pale blue floaty dress. Her long high note is totally stunning. and the yellow/orange lighting really helps build this song to it's terrific climax. Should put Spain in top 5 . Great reaction in press centre.

Germany - Roman Lob wearing brown trousers, white t-shirt and navy shirt. Still has the beanie hat on - a good look I feel. This is such a simple song and performed with ease which i feel is part of it's charm. Roman's eyes are gorgeous and he makes the most of them with his smouldering looks down the camera. This song could quietly pick up points from lots of countries and sneak up past some of the favourites. 

Malta - probably the surprise qualifier from last night and one of the favourite qualifiers of last night. This was definitely his Night and a great song to have in the final. Kurt has definitely provided us with the dance routine of the contest and many press and fans can be witnessed doing it in the Euroclub every night. A draw towards the end of the final is great for Malta coming after 2 ballad type songs. Let's hope this picks up points and gives them a good result. Deserves to. I am still not keen on the small solo for the female backing singer - never seems to be in tune but a good relaxed performance in casual wear for Kurt.

Macedonia - delighted for Kaliopi and Macedonia. First time in the final for 5 years and what a draw they have been given. 22nd out of 26 - they must be in dreamland. Kaliopi is a tremendous performer and deserves a good result. I just wish the song appealed to a wider demographic as she really could figure highly in the top 10 with cracking performance. 

Ireland - well the boys got a cracking draw. On near the end of the final with the best finishing shot in the competition. Jedward are performing in their final costumes. They are still performing with hair down. This definitely gives the fun element to the end of the draw. There was no fountain involved today and it shows how important to the performance it is as the routine looks messy and disjointed without it. Hard to judge this afternoons performance as it is about the effects and the energy. Will give 100% on the night be in no doubt!!!

Serbia - Zeljko could not have asked for a better draw. Position 24 after the madness and chaos of Jedward with a stunning Balkan ballad. One of the biggest contrasts in the competition weighing heavily in Serbia's favour. This performance is in casual wear today and still looks stunning. Will be amazing on the night - may have to provisionally book my room in The Park Hotel, Belgrade again. I would be delighted to head back there.

Ukraine - big dance number now with Gaitana. Full of energy and colour. Hr dancers also give 100% which adds to the appeal and performance of this track. Singing better rather than shouting today too. Casual clothes for this performance. I imagine this will be in the top 10 on Saturday night.

Moldova - what a draw for this over the top fabulously camp number. Great song to end the final. I just wish one of these last uptempo numbers was in positions 2 or 3 just to split up the slow beginning to the final. Moldova could do really well due to being on last. I hope so as Pasha is a great performer. 

Now i seem to have about 8 predictions for the top 5 which poses a problem. As there were so few in stage costumes today and no special effects, and add to that the technical difficulties we had, my top 10 could be way off and change later in the day but at present in no particular order I see the following 14 countries vieing for top 10 places

Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Iceland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Sweden, Romania , Cyprus, UK, Ireland, Azerbaijan

Press Rehearsal
Keith SP
akoe07
I'll be doing a fulling rolling blog on tonight's jury final so for today's Press Rehearsal Andrew is in the Arena and will tweet my thoughts and do a summary blog at the end.

My Tweets are here;
http://twitter.com/#!/KeithM

Final dress rehearsals and big 6 conferences by Andrew
pic1
akoe07
Another great but late night /early morning at Euroclub.
More free beer and dancing till beyond dawn.

Up for a spot lunch with some of the lads at Pizza Inn on fountain square
we are all now in the Press Centre ready for the day ahead.
Shortly at 3pm local time the Big 5 plus host conferences begin.
So UK on at 3pm then France, Italy, Azerbaijan, Spain and Germany at 
20 minute interval. This should take us up to 5pm then the press dress
reharsal starts at 5.30pm.
I will go into the conferences to get some photos and to give Nina Zilla
an icon t shirt. The I will head into the arena to watch the dress rehearsal live.
I hope to blog my overall thoughts after that then take the rest of the night off.

Reaction to Semi Two result and draw
Keith SP
akoe07
Delighted to see Macedonia and Malta make it, but disappointed to see Portugal and Slovenia failing to make the cut.  I got 8/10 which is probably slightly above average in this field.

Things very slow to get going here, Lithuania, Malta and Macedonia seem to be the most delighted delegations. The Dutch seem to be quite disappointed.

We're getting a live feed tonight so the updates will be instant. The one most people sem to be interested in is Sweden. Ireland will be hoping for an early draw for that one.

In order here's how the qualifiers will draw their positions in the final
Lithuania
Bosnia-Herz.
Serbia
Ukraine
Sweden
Macedonia
Norway
Estonia
Malta
Turkey

Ideally Ireland would like Serbia, Macedonia, Estonia and Bosnia drawn around us.

UPDATE :
Lithuania draw number 4
Bosnia draw number 5
Serbia draw 24
Ukraine draw 25
Sweden draw 17
Macedonia draw 22
Norway draw 12
Estonia draw 11
Malta draw 21
Turkey draw #18



Here's a reminder of the running order for the final right now.
1: U.K.
2: Hungary
3: Albania
4: Lithuania A poor draw but he is the first uptempo song in the final
5: Bosnia-Herz A really slow start to the contest and playing into the hands of Russia?
6: Russia
7: Iceland
8: Cyprus
9: France
10: Italy
11: Estonia Helping Cyprus & Italy?
12: Norway A pretty anonymous draw

13: Azerbaijan
14: Romania
15: Denmark
16: Greece
17: Sweden draw Ireland's lucky position. 4 uptempo female sung songs in a row.
18: Turkey sets up Spain nicely.
19: Spain
20: Germany
21: Malta Fantastic draw coming after Spain and Germany and before Macedonia, but doesn't help Ireland.
22: Macedonia A good draw for them and a great draw for Ireland.

23: Ireland
24: Serbia A real contender now and it also helps Ireland
25: Ukraine A really good draw but it does hurt Ireland and Moldova.
26: Moldova

The prime draw positions are 21, 22, 24 & 25

My Napkin went up in flames!!!!
Elaine
akoe07
OK I should be officially sacked as an AKOE predictor. As of next year I am going to take a hat, put all the names inside and get 10 blind nuns to each pick a name out of the hat - I cant do worse surely than my educated guesses after watching all 84 rehearsals.
Luckily we have 2 other bloggers to keep the side up. I am gutted for Joan but have heard that she was not great tonight. My major problem now is it is time to head to Euroclub and I cannot remove my Netherlands wig as I have not done my hair!!!!

Oh well I am quite fickle when it comes to my disappointment - it is nothing a few free beers at the Euroclub wont fix :-)

Reactions to the result from Andrew
pic1
akoe07
Well I did not do so well tonight only getting 7/10 , Slovenia failing was the big surprise for me.
Also I felt Georgia would make it but it was crazy so fair enough. Poor Joan from the Netherlands.
I thought its charm would appeal to enough voters to qualify, but sadly the Dutch fail to make the final
now for the last 8 years. Well done to Malta who deserved the place and to Macedonia who were delighted.
Finally I did think Lithuania could go through but did not have the guts to pick it.

Keith is rolling bloggin the draw while I am in the press conference hall for the draw and to take some pics.

After that we will head off to Euroclub for the after show party and the free beer.
Tomorrow hope to have the morning free then head into Press centre for the big 5 conferences.

Thursday in Baku.
Keith SP
akoe07

I’m back in the Press Area after a day off to explore the city, do some shopping (Eurovision visitors get 15% discount in many shops) and generally chill out, in preparation for tonight’s second semi-final. It was a great opportunity to escape the Eurovision bubble and totally play the tourist. Baku is a fantastic city and probably the prettiest Eurovision host city, that I’ve ever been to. I’d come back in a flash if it was affordable.

It didn't stop me picking up two interesting rumours; the firstr being that Sweden wasn't in the Top 3 in the Jury Final last night and the second is that Belarus are buying votes, in that they are hiring companies in countries with low televote numbers to block vote for Belaus. I have no idea how true either of these rumours are, as you pick up a lot nonsensical fluff at Eurovision.

The same ten jounalists (reprobates) gathered in the City Café for the second “Napkin of Death” this evening. The same format as before, each person puts the name of the ten countries that they predict to qualify on a napkin and throw in one Manat. The person with the most correct predictions wins.  

Tonight’s results;

10 predictions (on everyone’s list)
Serbia
Slovenia
Sweden
Turkey
Ukraine

9 predictions
Estonia (I was the only exception)

7 predictions
Netherlands

6 predictions
Georgia
Norway

5 predictions
Malta

______________________________________________ 

4 predictions
Lithuania
Macedonia

3 predictions
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Croatia

2 predictions
Belarus

1 prediction
Portugal (I’m on my own on this one)

0 predictions
Bulgaria
Slovakia

I’m going into the Arena tonight and coming out to blog and tweet the draw live.


Semi Final 2 predictions from Andrew
pic1
akoe07
Well after getting 10 out of 10 right in Semi 1 you will all be waiting with baited breath
to stake all your money on my 10 for tonight.
We met up at City Cafe for another napkin of death and there are 10 manats to the winner.
I found it a lot more difficult to call mine this time round and agree with Keith that I think
the standard of performances overall is poorer that Semi 1 hence the difficulty in calling
my last 2. I had to find 2 countries from at least 5 or 6.
My 8 certainties were
Serbia
Ukraine
Slovenia
Sweden
Turkey
All of these had 100% votes in the Napkin of Death.
Then I have 
Estonia
Norway
Netherlands

Then I had to choose 2 more from Belarus, Portugal,Bosnia,Lithuania,Macedonia and Georgia.
After lots of deliberation I have gone for
Bosnia
because the Balkan votes will help it and its performed well.
And finally
Georgia
even though its mad as a box of frogs and is way OTT performance wise
Anri does sing it well and it will pick up just enough Eastern votes to get through.

So will I get all 10 right? Hardly anyone put Bosnia in so if they come out I will be hopeful.
Nobody has ever managed 20/20 in this since we introcuded the 2 Semi format.

I had a night off last night from the Arena and went out with some of the lads
for a bit of partying and one of them suggested the vodka shots at 1 manat were
a bargain, they sure were, but god my head hurt this morning after getting home at 6am.
I was not the only one judging by a few others at dinner tonight.

I will go to  winners press conference after the show to get some pics and to gauge the
feel of the reactions. Enjoy the show folks and may the best songs win.

The semi two conundrum - Keith's predictions
Keith SP
akoe07

Having watched the Press Rehearsal in the Press Area and the Jury Final in the Arena, there are two things that I really notice; how poor this semi-final is in comparison to the Tuesday’s first semi and the noticeable difference in audio between the Press Area and the Arena.

While the first semi had three of the worst entries of the year (Montenegro, Finland and San Marino) a case could be made for any of the others qualifying. In the second semi, at least four songs that wouldn’t have made it on Tuesday, are going to qualify.

I’m going to use my normal formula to make my final prediction, but this is a very open semi, so I have much less confidence in my list, than I had in the Tuesday list. Also with five former members of the Soviet Union and 5 former Yugoslav republics, politics and voting trend play a bigger part in compiling the list.

Step One; identify the certain qualifiers. In this semi, that’s a short list;

SERBIA is there on merit but also because neighbours and diaspora compensate for a ballad opening the show.

TURKEY has a great stage show (although a lot of it was lost in dry ice last night) and a huge diaspora vote in places like France, Germany and Netherlands, to compensate for a poor song.

UKAINE is not coming across well on camera but the song and the performer are strong and it has neighbours.

SWEDEN is getting better with every rehearsal and fans who seem besotted with this run of the mill 1990s dance track play a much bigger part in semi voting.

Step Two; eliminate the no hopers and that’s an even shorter list.

Bulgaria has killed the appeal of their dance song by not having choreography and no amount of pyros (added at the last minutes) can save a dull stage show, especially coming after Ukraine.

Slovakia has no supportive neighbours and the camerawork and performance are under-par, killing the chances of what was always a niche interest song.

So four in and six places from twelve, so the rest are basically 50/50. This is where it is essential to look at who’s voting and to remember that U.K., Germany and France all have a say in this semi.

Let’s start with former Yugoslavia; Serbia is in and at least two more from Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia should make it. SLOVENIA has the least support and inexperienced singer in Eva Boto (above) but a great performance, so I’m calling this as a qualifier. BOSNIA has a lesser-known singer but a lovely ballad, a great draw and a generous diaspora, so that too is in. I’ll hold the other two for a while.

Now move to the ex-USSR, Ukraine is in, so at least two more from Belarus, Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania should make. I’m going to reverse my earlier decision and say LITHUANIA will make it. It has a good draw, a fantastic singer in Donny Montell (above) and a good stage show. Belarus goes out as it's too early and not memorable or instant enough. The other two stay on hold.

Finally, it’s “old Europe” the countries that were in the contest back in the 1970s. Sweden is in and I’ll add their neighbours NORWAY. The song is different from anything else, the routine is slick and while it sounds awful in the arena, it’s not as bad in the Press Area, and that’s the feed that people will here. I’ll eliminate Netherlands at this point, as it has a poor draw, a silly stage performance and little in the way of neighbourly support. Malta and Portugal, stay on hold.

I now have eight finalists and it’s two from Macedonia, Malta, Portugal, Croatia, Georgia and Estonia. This is the really tough part. I’m going to eliminate Croatia and Estonia as neither are really coming across well on camera. The songs are ok, but there are better things for the juries to vote for and not being in English will limit their televote appeal. I could put the remaining four in a hat and draw and two out. I am now going to eliminate Malta. The draw is bad, it has no neighbours and while the rest of the show is fine, I think the backing singer is killing it.

So two from Georgia, Portual and Macedonia and I’m now going to say “yes” to MACEDONIA. An awful draw aside, this has everything going for it. My concern is that it may not be instant enough, but Kaliopi is a fantastic performer and I expect her to clean up in the Balkans.

Portugal vs Georgia for the last place and here I’m going to letm y heart rule my head. Filipa Sousa (above) has been fantastic on every rehearsal. The song is instantly appealing and the backdrop is great. Yes, it’s old fashioned and the draw isn’t great, but if Eurovision is still a song contest, then it should be Portugal over Georgia, despite Anri’s fantastic voice and stage show.

So to re-cap in order of certainty;

Serbia

Turkey

Ukraine

Sweden

Slovenia

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Lithuania

Norway

Macedonia

Portugal

I’m on ticket distribution duty today but I’ll do a scene set for tonight’s live show before I go into the Arena.

Just back from the Arena
Keith SP
akoe07
And I'm more confused than ever. I'm going to take a little time to pick 10.

In the meantime, the photos I took are on the Photostream. http://www.flickr.com/photos/allkindsofeverything/

Rolling Blog for Semi Final 2 - Jury Final
Elaine
akoe07
Ooh I have the sole responsibility of blogging tonight's Jury Final rehearsal. I supoose I had better have a wee practice and see if i know how to do a rolling blog - here we go

Well that is roll number 1 done - has it been successful?

Ooh think I have the hang of it - Keith will be pleased - hopefully I will be up to the task whilst Keith is in the arena, hopefully getting some good pics

Ok we are about to begin (I hope) Keith is now in the arena and Andrew is having the night off - sit abck and enjoy the ride

A good start, on time and everything. Lovely pictures and scenes of Baku by night as Te Deum plays, then a swift introduction by the hosts.

Serbia - Zeljko in black suit and white shirt, soft dark lighting with yellow soft spots for mood bursting into red as the song begins to lift - vocals superb as always - sure finalist for me.

Macedonia - Kaliopi is all in black and a striking figure under the spot light, stage then bursts into blue and the band come into focus as the rock element kicks in. I think I have heard her sing it better - she does not sound as powerful as she has in the past but still a great performance. Gives Macedonia a chance for the final..


The Netherlands - Joan in bright blue dress and headress - I love this look. The flame buckets are lit and it gives the performance a kinda campfire feel to it. Joan appears to be struggling a little vocally. I have heard it better. Joan works the camera well and is enjoying herself. The band joining her on the stage gives a friendly feel to the end of the song. Still a qualifier for me.

Malta - Kurt in black suit with white t-shirt. Still one of the best backdrops with crowd scene. There was a very long distant camera shot that did not look good. Backing singer solo was not good. Great dance routine when all dancers do the feet in unison. Have heard that song a lot better - definitely a borderline qualifier now.

Belarus - much better than this afternoons rehearsal. Looks great with the metallic rough and rugged suits. A great looking boy band here with a rock/pop edge. Dmitry's vocals were better. He hits his camera shots well with eyes to die for. Greatly improved performance and better than Malta i feel

Portugal - Filipa is in floor length split to the thigh silver dress. Lisbon city scape in the background with pink and red mood lighting. 5 backing singers in black ad depth to this beautiful vocal. This is the first time i have really "felt" this song. She has chosen a good night to give her best performance - will it be memorable enough? I am not sure. Beautiful though.

Ukraine - This uptempo dance number is a great contrast to Portugal before it. The dancing jelly babies on the screens behind Gaitana look really good. Her dress looks like it is made up from all the bills i shredded in my front room before leaving for Baku but she really is a stunning lady. Backing dancers are dancing with instruments but she is still sounding a bit shouty. Hit the long high note well though. Flashmob scene on back screen is really effective. Should qualify without too much trouble

Bulgaria - Sofi is in thigh high boots and a white short dress with gold belt. Her hair is scraped right abck giving a really strange look to her face. There are fireworks and pyros going off but no amount of effects will make up for the lack of dancers on the stage for this modern dance track. My mum moves more on the dancefloor than she does. Cannot see this qualifying.

Slovenia - Eva in a white floral dress and lead backing singer in a hooded white full length number. Dark blue lighting as this song builds up to the chorus - you can not get away from the Molitva comparison but I think it is a better song. It has a haunting quality to the backing vocals and a strength and determination in Eva's vocal performance. There are elements of Portugal 2009 in the performance with the strong choral backing girls all in white. Powerful and moving. This deserves to be in the final.

Croatia - Nina is in a black dress. All the way through this I am expecting there to be a dress change or gimmick but nothing comes of it. Do not really understand what the white sheet routine is all about. I think it is greatly overshadowed by Slovenia. Could struggle to qualify although her vocal is great.

Sweden - Dramatic performance of the night has to go to Loreen. It is difficult to take your eyes off the screen as so much is going on. It certainly is wild interprative dance but I find it facinating. The snow scene looks great and the slow mo shot at the end is stunning. Good vocal performance - cannot see this not qualifying.

Georgia - Anri inred monks outfit at beginning of song hitting some amazing operatic notes. Completely OTT and I don't mean as in Lepland from Estonia but facinatingly OTT. 4 girls in skimpy black outfits and Anri struts around the stage banging drums and a girl with flame red long hair shakes her booty - would not be out of place in a brothel but utterly fabulous. No one flounces wuite like Anri and he heads over to the piano. You will definitely love or hate this. If there was not already enough thrown at it there are some pyros at the end. I love it - many will hate

Turkey - great stage performance. Very clever using the caped backing dancers to form the ship mentioned in the lyrics of the song. Much more ethnic song from Turkey than we have had for a few years and good vocals. Thsi should be a certain qualifier.

Estonia - white t-shit and waistcoat for Ott gives a very casual look to this song. I think a suit would have been more appropriate but he gives a stunning vocal. His long note is still different to how it was this afternoon. No idea what he will do with it in the final now. Must admit some of his changes almost do change the origional tune from what it was but still can not deny how well this is sung and it brings goosebumps out in many. Far too many long loud notes in this for me now. Still a qualifier I think but I am quite disappointed in this now as it was stunning in it's origional simpler form.

Slovakia - wild shaggy hair on Max Jason Mai. Gives this performance 100% energy but the vocal is really off key tonight. It certainly stands out as the only song of it's type in the competition but don't see there being enough of a market out there for this to qualify and cant see juries voting for it. Really painful vocals at times. This is performance over tuning and quality but a good rock performance. Helping keep me awake more than the coffee at present.

Norway - Tooji and co are all in dark colours with red and yellow lighting and back drop. The vocal still sounds quite hollow on this. Almost feels like there is someone missing in the backing vocals. Dance routine is tight and looks good on screen. I think Tooji's vocal is off tonight. Under par performance in my opinion - not a sure qualifier for me although I know most will disagree with me.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - this Balkan ballad is a great contrast to Norway who precede it. They have sorted the piano lid error from this afternoon's rehearsal as it had been left up this afternoon and hid half of her face. It is now down and the camera shots look great. Great performance which I cannot fault - just don't know if it packs the same punch as Slovenia and Serbia in the ballad stakes

and finally Lithuania - Donny Montell is still in his pimped up blindfold at the beginning of the song. He sings this part well and the camera focusses right in on his face during this segment. Then the disco kicks in and the blindfold is ripped off and a quick cartwheel starts the club scene on the backdrop. This is equal to MAlta in the effective backdrop stakes. It probably could do with a few more dancers at this point rathen than just the dancing figures in the backgroud but a good performance nonetheless. It's 18th place in the draw may be enough to see it over the line.

I think after tonight's jury performances my top 10 will remain the same as my earlier predictions. Norway andMalta did not do enough for me to persuade me that I should drop other songs from my own top 10. Macedonia is the one song that is sitting in 11th and I would give it a place if i could see where I could remove another song from my list but just too difficult.
Am I allowed a top11 please?

So it's  Serbia, The Netherlands, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovenia, Sweden, Georgia, Turkey, Estonia and Lithuania for me

Macedonia and Portugal are the 2 on the cusp for me - Norway and Malta need much better performances tomorrow night to be in the mix in my opinion.


Wow that is a relief - hope i just about managed to keep up with the action for you all. Now hoping for a little action of my own at the Euroclub later - a little "cultural exchange" as we like to call it in the press centre ;-)

EBU Press Conference / Azerbaijani Pilaf Ceremony
Keith SP
akoe07
Next year's Eurovision Song Contest is 14/16/18 of May.

Last night had the biggest arena audience for a live semi-final.

The idea that each country will have an open selection and that no country will do a totally internal selection is under serious consideration.

Complaints that people in the Arena couldn't see the screens, so more screens are being added.

Apparently the public and juries agreed an 8 of the 10 qualifiers last night and one jury favourite and one public favourite filling the remaining two places. 

A few scattered questions on Human Rights, but really nothing of any significance.



While we wait for the Semi Two jury final, there has been an Azerbaijani Pilau Ceremony, a very elaborate way of feeding the Press Area with a lovely lamb and rice dish complete with apricots.

Here's the latest Press Area vote. As a matter of interest, the poll, the poll in the first semi got 9 out of 10 correct, with Switzerland being in and Hungary outside the Top 10.






A joint UK/Ireland meeting and my thoughts on the dress rehearsal by Andrew.
pic1
akoe07
Another late night at Euroclub meant another short sleep, so am a little bit tired today.
I got up and went for lunch with Keith before heading over to the Hilton for a 
press conference for Englebert meets Jeward. A small gathering of international
as well as UK/Irish press were present. The interaction between them was fun and casual
and I managed to get a few photos which are on the Photostream.

Went into the arena with Elaine to watch the 1st dress rehearsal of Semi Final 2.
There were quite a lot of technical problems during the run through with timing and cameras.
Also a major malfuntion of props at Bosnia, camera angles of Maya  on close up had her
face cut in half by the raised piano lid. 

Rather than go over each performance individually I will only mention my highlights
and lowlights.The best performances were from Serbia,Macedonia,Portugal,Slovenia
and Lithuania. Netherlands, Malta, Ukraine, Sweden, Turkey and Estonia were adequate.
Bulgaria was awful, Georgia was a mess but proably could qualify, Slovakia was just a noise.
Belarus, Croatia, Norway and Bosnia were all rather underwhelming.
Overall I always considered this the stronger Semi Final but now think not.
Tuesdays show was great but I was a bit underwhelmed with this one, possibly a 
combination of tiredness and the technical issues.

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