May 16th, 2009

It's D-Day

And finally after 84 individual rehearsals, 6 dress rehearsals, 3 press rehearsals and 2 live semi-finals; we finally get to the main event. Exactly two weeks ago I was arriving in Heathrow on my way to Moscow and as I sit in my hotel room on the 21st floor of the Cosmos Hotel, looking out over the city, which is submerged in grey clouds, it feels like an eternity ago. 

With the show not starting until 11pm tonight, it means I have the day to myself. I will pop into the arena to check if there is any last minute gossip, before handing the blog over to Andrew, who will be watching this afternoon’s third and final rehearsal of tonight’s show. I will also be talking about my “Eurovision affliction” Newstalk just after 10am Irish time. 

Then I have to meet some friends, do the obligatory souvenir shopping and meet up with the gang for the pre-contest meal. I hope to be able to do a scene set from inside the arena, an hour before the show begins. Once again I’ll be in the front row. I’m still trying to acquire a Portuguese flag, to cheer on my favourite country tonight. If anyone is reading this and can help, my pigeonhole number is 606. 

While I will be cheering most loudly for Portugal, and Irishman Ronan Keating’s song, which is representing Denmark, I still see the contest as a one horse race. Norway’s Alexander Rybak and “Fairytale” is and always has been the complete package to win Eurovision in the 21st century. It looks great on screen, it’s catchy and it’s memorable, a great pop song and perfect for Eurovision. Of course the hardcore Eurovision fans that have been familiar with the song and its performance since January have become a little jaded, but most of those voting tonight will be seeing it for the first or second time and with a draw late in the running order, it’s hard to see another winner. 

If there is to be a challenge I think it could come from Greece or Bosnia. The Greek performance is very strong on screen, but with the impact of the huge Greek diaspora being reduced with the return of juries, I think Sakis Rouvas may have to settle for second place. The Bosnia entry is very strong and will attract a huge amount of Balkan votes (especially with Serbia being eliminated in the semi) and will do well with juries, and should not be ruled out. 

As always, there’s nonsense about certain countries trying to “buy” the contest. Last year it was Russia, this year it’s the U.K. For me, once Russia chose Dima Bilan with a reasonably strong song in 2008, they were the winners and had no need to buy anything. This year the U.K. has been accused of trying to buy the contest with the involvement of multi-millionaire Andrew Lloyd-Webber and certainly with the biggest promotional tour of the year and a very well placed trick of giving away the U.K. entry with the latest edition of OK magazine in Russia and its neighbours, it’s clear that a huge amount of money has been spent. Having Webber featured prominently during the performance in an attempt to influence jurors may however backfire as it only serves as a reminder of how poor the song is compared with others in his portfolio. 

I have to say I have enjoyed the Moscow experience hugely, the city is enormous, but with the Metro being free to accredited people, it is reasonably easy to get around, despite the fact that all the signs are in acrylic Cyrillic. The streets are generally litter free and are washed every night. The people may not be the friendliest in the world and have a habit of staring (especially if you are wearing your accreditation) which some people find a little unnerving, customer service is a little lacking and there is an attitude to smoking that is of the last century, but otherwise it has been most enjoyable. 

It is quite clear that with an unprecedented budget of 30 million Euros, Russia is intent on showing itself off tonight, however I think they have made a few fundamental errors. The very impressive Russian flavoured interval acts were used in the semi-finals, but tonight’s show, which will have a much bigger audience has little or nothing that tells you about the country that is staging the event. The Cirque du Soleil introduction and intervals are wonderful, but they could come from anywhere. Thankfully tonight’s presenters are far stronger than the duo from the semi-final, although the director’s obsession with showing off the stage from the back of the arena, rather than focussing on what is happening on that stage, is a tad irritating. 

When I get home and get a chance to gage to local reaction, I will put a longer blog together on all things Irish. I admit to being very disappointed with Thursday night’s result, but I always knew that the mix of countries in our semi and the position in the running order would make it a struggle to qualify. I know that there have been several calls for us to withdraw from the contest completely and while I would be very upset if we chose to follow Italy and Luxembourg into the Eurovision history books, I do think that a year or two out from the contest might be a good idea. I can think of far better ways for RTÉ to spend the licence fees than competing in an event where we neither have the will nor the ability to win.

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3rd Dress reahearsal for the Final - Rolling Blog

Hi there once again for the 3rd and last Dress rehearsal of the Final.
I took a half day out of the Eurovision bubble so many thanks again to Peter
and Keith for covering things. I am back refreshed and ready to run the rule over
the last rehearsals of each country in the final.

This will be a rolling blog so keep refreshing.

I will add in pictures of the big 4 plus Russia only as we have
already added plenty of all the qualifiers.

And so the show begins. A large Russian doll on the stage. It comes to life and we
have Le Cirque du Soliel doing lots on stage and off.
Now Dima Bilan flys through the air in a coat and hat carrying suitcase.
Onto conveyor belt he undresses to white. Fab dance number version of I Believe.
He then resorts to original version after flying along with an angel onto the stage.
Great opener.

Now we have the hosts Alsou and Ivan onto the stage who explain the voting
and the show commences.

Lithuania is up first tonight. Very dark blue setting , Sasha Son sits at the piano
with a hat on. Lovely vocals of a very nice opening number. My worry is the number
of slow songs at the beginning could lose this in the minds of voters.
I predict finishing 16-22nd. Good audience reaction.

Isreal on now and Noa and Mira both dressed in black in another very dark blue setting.
Vocals are much much better today, really strong and great clear harmonies.
Another really pleasant song but a disasterious draw position.
I predict 18- 22nd. Good reaction too.

Patricia Kaas now for France dark blue dress and very dark set.
Audience went wild as soon as she finished the first line.
Great movement on the camera angle, truly wonderful vocal and very
polished proffessional performance, goosebumps and tingling down the neck time
and that isnt the vodka. This just went huge in the hall and the press centre.
I predict 8-13th.

Malena next for Sweden another dark blue set with some green which changes
to all white at times. Dodgy early vocals which improve in quality quickly.
Her low notes are improving and high notes are great now.
Same dance routine we have all seen. Some good close up camera work.
Great reaction in the hall I predict 14-20th.

Croatia on now drop the tempo with a powerful Balkan ballad with yet another
dark blue setting, he is in black she is in white. Good vocals in fact a very polished
performance too, this will pick up plenty Blakan votes and a few eleswhere so I am
predicting 15-20th.

Portugal on and at last we have a very welcome very colourful set. Good starting
reaction when this came on. Nice pleasant feel to this song, very easy on the ear
builds nicely and great sweet vocals. You cannot help but smile at this one.
Such a huge breathe of fresh air to the show. I am predicting 7-14th.
Reaction in the hall , great.

Iceland and Yohanna up next. This is a typical Eurovision style ballad lovely
girl singing in English with a lovely build to the song. Very blue/white setting.
Yohanna wears lighter blue and her vocals are faultless.  I absolutely adore
this song and have gotten to know many of the Icelandic delegation in the hotel.
But i am not biased toward it as it merits a high place. I predict 5-10th.
Huge reaction in the hall.

Greece and Sakis is on now and this is a great uptempo song. Fantastic but
not  too over elaborate choreography. Really adds to the overall feel of the song.
His vocals are very decent he is dressed all white and great use of the light box/prop
in all sorts of different ways. This is a serious contender . I can see this at 1-5th.
great reaction.

The Armenian song is on now, very dark blue set and all performers in eastern dark blue
costumes. Vocals are good and the camera work is good.  This will farm up lots of
votes from the east. I cannot see it win now but I can see possibly 4-9th.
Reaction in the hall was immense.

Now we have Anastasia for the home country Russia. This song has really grown on
me since my arrival in Moscow(brainwashing?) and i love the staging of it.
She is all white and her face is behind her on the screen singing in time to the song
and her face grows older as it progresses till she is a mama and crying,
Vocals are a bit shouty schreechy at times but ver dramatic. Went huger than huge
in the hall(no surprise). Predict 10-16th.

Azerbaijan is up next and this is very bouncy and memorable , very fiery setting.
Her vocals are perfect and his vocals are less so(in fact I think the male backing
is covering his back). But overall its very very catchy and easy on the eye.
I can see it do very well. Predict 2nd -7th.

Now we have Bistra Voda from Regina singing for Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Very red setting for this great Balkan ballad. Very dramatic posing and great
vocals. I can see this doing really well with the Balkan voters and many others
too as I can see this as something Juries will go for as well as public.
I predict 1-6th. Wonderful reaction.

We hit the first break where we see lots of Russians singing on the street from
taxi drivers to soldiers.

Next we have Moldova a very gypsy wedding song, great dancing and vocals this
is a very pleasant happy song. Such in Romanian this will get 12 from them.
I think it will finish 8-15th. Good reaction from the hall.

Chiara up next for Malta and another ballad with yet another dark blue setting
(what is it about blue and slow this year?) Chiara was a bit off vocally yesterday
but this is more like the Chiara we know. Wonderful vocal but i dont think the
song itself is strong enough. I can see it finish 9-18th

Now we have the Urban Symphony from Estonia, very dramatic and atmospheric
number is enhanced by the deep blue backdrop and the superb vocals.
Great string sections to the song. I can see this do surprisingly well.
Predicting 7th - 14th , Fantastic reaction hall and press centre.

Now we are onto a whole string of uptempo numbers before the UK come on.
Denmark on next with the Ronan Keating penned song sung by Brinck.
This is more midtempo but is very Danish sounding which often works well in
Eurovision. Great vocal and decent camera angles. I dont see it as a winner
mind so if we end in Copenhagen next year somebody please pinch me.
I can see it finish 12-18th

Next up is the controvesial Germany(tits in or out?). A great song that has grown
on me , Oscar still wear silver tight trousers. The vocals are not as good as I have
heard from him this week. Ok so Diat comes on and rips open Oscars shirt, nice
torso, She ends up on the lips sofa and the tits stay inside. EBU rule 257 applies.
Good reaction. Predict 19-25th

Turkey and Hadise is on next. Still great dancing and looks good on the screen.
But her vocals are more than a bit offkey at times. She comes across as uncomfortable.
I think this is losing ground now on the favourites. Predict 7-12th.

Albania is so good, its simply brilliant. Fantastic setting, wonderfully powerful vocals,
no props just fancy dancing and costumes. Great dance beat with an eastern flair.
This could seriously win you know. I can see this giving Albania their best ever result.
Predict 1-6th. Reaction from the hall is immense.

Alexander Rybak from Norway now. We have seen it all before it ticks every single box
known to Eurovision winners. His vocals are spot on today. Backing dancers are good
and female tra la la singers are fab. This is so close to winning I can smell it.
Predict it will finish 1-3rd it went bigger than huge and immense in the hall and the press

Ok so we hit the next break which is even better for Norway and not so good for Ukraine.

Svetlana on from the Ukraine with car crash/kitchen sink/ lets throw everything at it
performance . It loud dramatic intense and crazy. Vocals are good and fit the feel of
the song. Dancers are really good. But i still feel this is too much and could detract
from the actual song and put off some viewers. She just missed a flip with her dancers.
There is so much in this anything could go wrong tonight. Predict 4-10th

Elana up next for Romania. I am still amazed this got through. Vocals are next to weak
and off at times. The balkan girl dancers are barely doing a good job. The camera angles
do this song little favours. I cannot see this get anywhere tonight. Predict 20-25th.

Now its the UK. Good start in close up to Jade she walks down the steps between her violinists.
ALW isnt at the piano today. Jades vocals are not the best i have heard but she is
hitting the top notes perfectly and holding them. Overall a good rehearsal but hope she is holding
some for tonight . Great reaction in hall and press centre. Predict 3-7th

Waldo's people on now for Finland. A woeful poor first vocal from one of the girls.
It does get a bit better though. A great dance track in the clubs this could be a big hit in
Europe , but vocally live its a bit suspect at times. Visually on camera it looks really superb
so its chances depend on whether people will vote for what they see or hear.
Predict 17-23rd

Soraya for Spain is our last song of the contest, a perfect position in the draw.
However I dont like the starting intro to the song but it does get better.
Not happy with the dancers but camera work is ok. Soraya has improved her vocal
100% since yesterday. But for a song in its last position in the draw its doing itself
little or no favours. Last part vocally was dodgy. Predict 19-24th

So that it  folks no more rehearsals now just the real thing tonight throughout Europe
and beyond. Next time we see this Keith, Peter and I will be in the arena at or near the front.
But most of you may well be watching it live on TV so enjoy the show and have a great
party if you are having one.

So to wrap up her is my prediction for the places overall

Top 25



Bosnia & Herzegovina



United Kingdom




















Best laid plans

Red Square has been closed off and there are barriers everywhere around the city centre which slightly upset my sighseeing and shopping plans, so I came back to the Arena to watcvh the final rehearsal. Based on what I saw today here's my prediction for tonight. Patricia Kaas was just amazing today, but I think Norway still has it.

1.       Norway

2.       France

3.       Greece

4.       Bosnia-Herzegovina

5.       Albania

6.       Azerbaijan

7.       Iceland

8.       Turkey

9.       Portugal

10.   Armenia

11.   Ukraine

12.   Denmark

13.   Russia

14.   Moldova

15.   Estonia

16.   United Kingdom

17.   Lithuania

18.   Croatia

19.   Malta

20.   Sweden

21.   Israel

22.   Spain

23.   Finland

24.   Romania

25.   Germany

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Countdown to the final

I'm now in the press centre, just under 2 hours to the final.  Personally, I think its qute an open contest and Norway is definitely not the only possible winner.

The front runners for me are , in no particular order, Iceland, Norway, Greece, Ukraine, Armenia, France, UK, Azerbaijan.

The unknown factor is the effect, if any, that the 50/50 voting will have on the actual results and their predictability.

My favourite songs in the final are France and Albania, bit I personally think Azerbaijan will win. ( so thats probably the kiss of death to them! lol)

The important think is that everyone enjoys the show no matter where they are watching it.  Hopefully we will have a close result as that would really add to the excitement.

I'll be back after the event with my reactions :)


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2 Hours before showtime and wrapping things up in the Press Centre

First off apoligies about omitting 3 countries in my final top 25 in my last rolling blog.
This was an error and have now corrected it.
I am now back in the press centre with 2 hours to go till show time. Things are building
up nicely outside the arena and the press centre is packed hardly any free pc's.
Amazingly the metro in was surprisingly quiet. Have just had a nice chinese meal at
the hotel before coming here.

To recap my top 10 prediction is
1. Norway
3.Bosnia &Herzegovina
6. UK
8. Armenia
10. Portugal

and my predicted bottom 3 is


I have money riding on UK, Ukraine, Bosnia & H, Armenia and Azerbaijan all each way(top 3 or 4)
and my biggest payout would be Armenia, Ukraine , UK and Azerbaijan in that order.
I also have small amounts on Spain or Germany finishing last.

So at this stage I will thank everyone for reading the blog and watching the youtube videos.
Also to thank everyone and anyone for their comments whether critical or in praise.
We love your comments and feed off them and always try our best to find out info if asked.
Finally lets not forget that Peter, Keith and I are remarkably different individuals and anything
we write here is purely a personal opinion or a particular taste.
Hope you all enjoyed the coverage its been very tiring but great fun as usual and i wouldnt miss
it for the world. I hope to grab a PC in the work area after the show but i expect it to be more than
packed so will have to see.

Hope everyone all over Europe and beyond enjoy the show tonight, its a cracker and I am sure you will.
If your having a party at home have a fab time and lets hope the best song wins.

Andrew xx
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Counting down...

Like Andrew and Peter, I've made it to the Press Working Area, which is totally mobbed. Exactly two weeks ago I was in here for the first time and there wasn't a soul here! It's really odd waiting for a Eurovision show that doesn't start until 11pm and it will be even stranger heading off to an after-show party at 2.30.

I'm still pinning my hopes and money on Norway. I have a few each way back up bets on Armenia, Bosnia, Albania and (as a consolation if it does well, although I hate it) Ukraine.

Some early indicators of the impact of juries will come with the first votes (from Spain). If Romania or Ukraine get the 12, there's little jury impact if they are not in the Top 3, wer're in for a very interesting noight. If France or Portugal get the 12 it's game on!!!
Here are the voting numbers for Ireland with a none too subtle suggestion as to how I'd like people to vote. Remember Denmark's song is co-written by Irishman Ronan Keating and Portugal have been entering for almost 50 year's with so much as a Top 5 result and their song and singer this year are totally charming. 





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Bosnia & Herzegovina

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United Kingdom

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Thanks for all your posts and comments over the past two weeks.
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