#ESC18: Day 1 Rehearsals – #JoinUs from 10:00 GMT/11:00 CET for the #LiveBlog


Just when you’d thought you’d had your fix of Live Blogs from us this year during the National Final season, we are back for daily Live Blogs from Lisbon – home of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

You can follow the LIVE BLOG HERE – as always just refresh the page from 10:00 GMT/11:00 CET for all the updates throughout the day. Honest opinions about how the rehearsals are going will be delivered to you by John, Richard and Andrew today.

The videos you will see on this blog are the official ones taken from

Day 1 Rehearsals

Today sees the first half of Semi Final 1 taking to the stage for their first 30 minute rehearsals. The second half of Semi Final 1 take to the stage tomorrow.

10:00 – 10:30/11:00 – 11:30: Azerbaijan

John – We’ve eventually got settled and Aisel is on. She’s in white and there are what look like mini icebergs on stage. And we all know what icebergs can do. We see more of the second run-through. Aisel starts alone and runs up and down the iceberg-cum-pyramid structures, For the second verse and beyond she has four male dancers with her. Presumably there’s a sixth person off stage providing backing vocals. It’s OK as an opener.

Richard – Everything is white as day when it come’s to Aisel’s performance of “X My Heart”. LED lined Icebergs come to mind with the gigantic props sitting on the stage. Not a bad start to proceedings, but also not something that will grab the attention of many either. Four male backing dancers eventually join Aisel on stage as they all mount the Icebergs.

10:40 – 11:10/11:40 – 12:10: Iceland

John – Ari’s performance is the same as you saw in Söngvakeppni. But he’s in a red polo neck and white suit, which has red lines all over it. A tad retro perhaps. He’s flanked by five backing singers – it’s good to see backing singers on stage – but they’re in shadow. Dry ice completes the setting. I’m still not sure – his vocals stand up well but it’s going to get lost amongst the rest of the semi-final.

Richard – Söngvakeppni has been brought to Lisbon without changes. The five backing singers join him on stage, but come more to the forefront during the latter half of the song – a’la Norway 2010. Ari does look terrified to begin with, but hopefully his nerves will come before he is confronted by the audience next week. Like John said, Ari is in a very retro suit and that retro patterned design can be seen on a couple of the backing dancers too. Again, not a stand out entry and I do feel for Iceland considering their qualification record in recent years.

11:20 – 11:50/12:20 – 12:50: Albania

Richard – So we have some applause from the Press Centre for the first time this morning. Eugent is joined on stage by a drummer, an electric guitarist and four backing singers. The backing singers are in sparkly outfits. Eugent himself is in a black leather suit and white stud-buttoned shirt. Vocally amazing mostly throughout with the odd note going awol. This in my opinion should’ve started the semi final.

John – We have our first instrument on stage. A refreshingly big drum kit that appears t be hovering. And two guitarists. Eugent seems very assured and has gone for a smart leather jacket over a white shirt. The stage seems to suit this rocky number, and he’s hit all the notes. I like it and really want it to qualify.

12:00 – 12:30/13:00 – 13:30: Belgium

Richard – For the first time we see a singer performing on the catwalk, rather than the main stage. It will look better when there is audience both in front and behind. It all feels a bit cold at the moment – but in a James Bond sort of way. She wear’s a black number, which could be seen as a Barbara Sex contender, if this was the final outfit. Disappointed, but I know improvements can and will be made.

John – I don’t know what to make of this. We first just see Sennek’s eyes for a considerable time before the light illuminates all of her. She’s alone and the camera angles are kept very close. Sennek looks very pale, almost in a slightly unhealthy way so could do with a bit of ‘styling och consulting’. She didn’t quite hit all the notes either. She has a few days to get this right but it strikes me as very underwhelming at the moment.

13:40 – 14:10/14:40 – 15:10: Czech Republic

John – We got a few bars in to Mikolas’s first run-through and he stopped. Apparently the stage is moving and “it’s dangerous”. We eventually got going and whilst the press centre went deathly quiet for this highly-tipped song, it possibly, just possibly, didn’t live up to expectations. I thought the camera work was a little messy, flitting between Mik and his two dancers at odd times. To be fair, some of the moves are very well put together. He does a lot of stuff with his backpack too. The whole thing is very high-risk. It could go perfectly and mop up loads of votes. Or it could crash and burn. There’s no middle ground.

Richard – I’m underwhelmed by the whole performance once a full rehearsal was achieved. For me, the risk of rap is currently taking over Mikolas’ performance as we all know rap does so well at this Contest. Performance wise, we get a show – something the audience both in the arena and at home will be looking forward to. Like John says, it is high risk, but I don’t want to predict anything until after his second set of rehearsals later on this week.

14:20 – 14:50/15:20 – 15:50: Lithuania

Richard – Ieva has just made the Press Room go all warm and fuzzy inside. Ieva spends the majority of time sat elegantly, showing emotion on the stage floor, while various CGI graphics are brought in and out of people from different generations. These CGI graphics need to fade in and out with a bit more fluidity. Ieva ends this rehearsal by meeting her husband on the bridge, to the left of the main stage – greeting him and holding hands. Knocks the socks off Iceland, but may affect Ireland’s chances too.

John – Ieva cuts a very demure figure alone on stage. Alone for a large part of the song. She doesn’t need anyone else on stage with her, and it draws you in. Black & white images are superimposed onto the stage at various points including, when she’s stood up, an elderly couple looking twice Ieva’s height. Towards the end of the song she ventures to a bridge on our left of the stage, only to meet her husband Marius (we think). It’s very very sweet and could do something.

A COMMERCIAL BREAK will take place after Lithuania and before Israel.

15:00 – 15:30/16:00 – 16:30: Israel

John – Gold and more gold lighting. And those lucky waving Chinese cats that you see at any Takeaway worth its MSG. When Netta starts, she’s stood behind some sort of mixing deck with big buttons on it, in order to recreate the voice-looping. There are three dancers cavorting around dressed in black in purple, as is Netta – apart from the cavorting. I always said I wanted to see it on stage before I judged the song, and now I have I don’t think it’ll be the runaway winner the fans think. Or, indeed, a winner. She’s on after the ad break which can make or break songs. And there are certain prejudices that this song will demonstrate amongst voters.

Richard – Pussy Galore is all I can say to start with and that is NOT suppose to be an innuendo neither. If you like three backing dancers and a singer larking around the stage like chickens – then this is the one for you! This is a Fan Community favourite, but this won’t necessarily translate with the juries and televotes. There maybe some prejudice towards this entry – however I don’t want to go down that route within this blog. Netta is in a kimono/corset splashed in reds, pinks, blacks and whites. The backing dancers are in body suits with blacks, pinks and whites. The final run through Netta has today was given some added smoke bursts to add a bit more madness to proceedings.

16:00 – 16:30/17:00 – 17:30: Belarus

John – Where do we start? Is it the presenting of a rose to the camera? Is it the dancer shooting Alekseev with the rose by way of an archery bow? Is it the platform that raises our Alekseev. Or is it the view of his back at the end of the song? Any one of these things would look silly. But all taken together is just downright surreal. Everyone was laughing when the aforementioned things happened, and weren’t necessarily laughing with the song. Who knows how it will do, but it might well rain on Israel’s parade.

Richard – It’s only Day 1 and we can’t take much more to be honest. Alekseev, a backing dancer (a whirling dervish at that) and a red rose having some sort of love story on stage.  It’s really hard not to see pass a lot of silliness here – but let’s see again later in the week. And the end? Well that freak a few or more viewers out. Netta needs to improve or watch out if I’m going to be frank with you.

16:40 – 17:10/17:40 – 18:10: Estonia

Richard – After finding the £65,000 required for the dress, we can safely say Elina has taken the East Laul performance, boxed it up and has unpacked it on the stage here in Lisbon. Compared to other things we’ve seen today, Estonia should have faith in qualification to the final.

John – The tagging is very simple, and mirrors what you will have seen in Eesti Laul last month. The patterns that form on Elina’s dress may differ slightly, but the effect is the same. She hits every note and was perhaps holding back a little. Never a bad thing for the first lots of rehearsals. Compared to some of the madness we’ve seen today, this is positively sane and a probable qualifier.

17:20 – 17:50/18:20 – 18:50: Bulgaria

Richard – Well, that has been interesting. We know Equinox for their wonderful vocal range after their first live performance at the London Eurovision Party, but for some reason the overall feel didn’t quite work – but it is only a rehearsal after all. As the song slows down towards the end, the whole performance sort of fizzles out. As a group, there was a wide range of facial expressions and emotions.

John – Finally we get the ensemble piece that is Equinox. They have a very good set of voices between them, and it’s interesting to see this live for the first time. The setting is kept simple, with a platform that they all walk around and occupy during the song. They’re dressed in basic black, although Zhana has her white hair to contrast. Is it a winner? It’s maybe too subtle in delivery, and perhaps just fizzles out a little towards the end. Is it a qualifier? I think so.

Author: Richard Taylor

Source: Eurovision Ireland

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