#ESC18: Day 5 Rehearsals – #JoinUs from 10:00 GMT/11:00 CET for the #LiveBlog

Pastel De Nata

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, Andrew, James and Bogdan today.

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

Day 5 Rehearsals

Today sees the start of the second rehearsals taking to the stage for their first 20 minute rehearsals. The second half of Semi Final 2 took to the stage yesterday.

10:00-10:20 Azerbaijan

JAMES: Azerbaijan kick us off this morning and they’re giving us quite a show! Drapped in a flowing white gown, Aisel gives a competent vocal performance and the look of the stage with its icebergs/peaks has instant impact. I must say I’m put in mind ever so slightly of “Euphoria” with Aisel’s scampering around the stage being chased by her fabric. It’s Eurovision by numbers, catchy sing-along song (complete with cringey lyrics!), beautiful singer and memorable staging. Is it a winner? Maybe not. But I’m sure it’ll qualify and get points from across the continent.

Bogdan: Aisel is on her iceberg in a white gown. I am not really impressed with the staging. Her vocals are good, I sing along, but I don’t know if I’ll remember it at the end of the day. I still like it thought. It could qualify.

John – Not a bad rehearsal to start the day. I’m actually getting this song now – despite the odd lyric – and she sells it very well. There’s a very slick vibe to the stage show, which will definitely help its chances.

10:25-10:45 Iceland

JAMES: Due to trouble getting to the arena, Ari’s rehearsal is being delayed till later. So we’re off to Albania next!

And now Iceland is back!

Bogdan: Ari begins to sing and the camera focuses only on him as he gives us a Koit Toome look. He has a white and red jacket that I personally dislike. There are some problems with the cameras as one completely blocks him. His vocals are not so bad, but I don’t see this entry as a qualifier.

JAMES: Hmm… Ari’s very sweet and inoffensive ditty suited the smaller Icelandic national final stage, it looks kind of lost in the colossal arena here in Lisbon. The jacket he’s wearing is quite eye catching, but maybe not for the most flattering reasons. There may have been a few missed cues with cameras as he seems to not be connecting with them very often. This is still a work-in-progress for me.

10:50-11:10 Albania

JAMES: Poor Albania have had a bit of a rough time at Eurovision the last few years, not managing to qualify since 2015. I’ve always maintained that selecting their song before everyone else in December doesn’t help, but from the first time I heard Mall, I was convinced they were on to something. Now seeing Eugent on stage, he’s vocally flawless and the simple gig staging let’s the song take centre stage. It’s simple, heart felt and brilliant. I don’t want to jinx it, but welcome back to the final Albania.

Bogdan: I loved this song from the first time I’ve heard it. Eugent is doing it justice. He’s just great and has such a powerful voice. It captivates me and I love it. I hope it qualifies because it’s one of those songs that makes you feel braver. For me, it is a must qualifier.

John – We’re awake now and Eugent has one of the best voices we’ll hear today. It’s was assured and right on key, which is what we’ve come to expect from him. The camera work is all fine and dandy so if there’s any justice, this will be in the final.

11:15-11:35 Belgium

Bogdan: Sennek’s vocals are on point, but the stage looks a little bit too empty and the whole concept seems to be missing that effect that makes you say “that’s the one to beat!” I can’t help myself to think of Alanis Morissette when I hear and see her. I do have to say this is much better than what we saw on the first rehearsal.

JAMES: Sennek gives us a very promising start t her run through, with lots of close-ups of her face that give the performance an intimate and seductive feel. Singing out on a walkway away from the main stage (much like Salvador’s satellite stage in Kyiv) gives the whole show a very different feel from everything else we’ve seen so far today. Vocally, Sennek is a touch shrill this morning, but such things can easily be edited in future run throughs.

John – This is slightly better than the first rehearsal. Sennek still starts the song with just her eyes showing. Then gradually we see more of her. She wanders around the front stage with her hair and dress long. I still think it lacks a bit of impetus.

11:40-12:00 Czech Republic

Richard – It’s visually obvious that Mikalos is still in pain after his injury earlier in week. Mikolas is resting his voice rather than going a full pelt. His movement is clearly restricted too from this week’s events, but you can’t help applaud his willingness to plough on. The stunt has obviously been removed, but it doesn’t make much difference as dry smoke is been used to hide the fact the acrobatics are no longer used.

Bogdan: Mikolas is back! Everybody cheered. We’re happy to see him on the stage again. He started twice, but there are some issues. I just hope he can pull it off. We are all rooting for him. The third time we were able to see a full performance. He should ditch the backpack in my opinion. I appreciate his effort and hope he’ll get better and better.

JAMES: Welcome back Mikolas! The rehearsal hit a couple of snags very early, and was called off several times. Mikolas’ movements are limited and quite stiff, but given the events of the last days that’s completely understandable. There’s a lot going on and the camera jumps from each of the performers quite quickly, giving the show a bit of a disjointed feel. It shows that the last few days haven’t been easy for him, but I really have to applaud Mikolas for coming back to rehearsals when he must still be in a lot of pain.

John – You can tell Mikolas has a few mobility issues, but he’s still managed to put in the performance necessary. He still has a contender on his hands, and even with a pared back dance routine is very effective. The average viewer, of course, won’t have known any different and will still like it. A qualifier – it darn well should be.

13:05-13:25 Lithuania

Bogdan: Ieva makes it all personal. It is gentle, soft and gives you all good emotions that your heart needs to feel. I think Lithuania should qualify with no problem. You want a dark horse? Here is one! Well done!

JAMES: Oh wow… Lithuania’s entry this year has snuck under a lot of people’s radars, but it won’t be hidden for much longer. Ieva delivers a stunning, elegant performance that is going to strike a cord with hearts across Europe. It’s poetic without being schmultzy, and as ghostly memories fade across the stage, I’m left feeling incredibly emotional. Well done Ieva. That was beautiful.

13:30-13:50 Israel

Bogdan: Netta is shifting the mood. I’m curious how the audience will see this, because after such a beautiful performance from Lithuania comes this “crazy” song. Netta’s “luck” is that she performs after an ad break. I’ve enjoyed the song, but I’m not a fan of the performance. It’s not as cohesive as I would have liked…I’m not so sure that this will win. The crowd will dance to this and the camera work will show that a couple of times to Netta’s favour.

JAMES: From the sublime to the down right whacky… Israel have been topping the betting odds since the song was unveiled. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the song a lot, I love the Near Eastern beats and Netta’s energy and fun is off the scale. This is going to lap up televotes regardless and the hall is in for a real treat. It’s just that it feels like a real assault on the senses after restrained and quiet Lithuania. I suspect this isn’t the runaway winner everyone has it pegged as…

13:55-14:15 Belarus

Bogdan: What can I say about Belarus? You want to be remembered on stage? Then why not give a rose to your dancer and then she will shoot you in the hand with it. The rose’ power will spread like a plague. That much that in the end, all Alekseev’s back is covered in roses piercing through his skin. A shocking visual and I’m not sure of what I’m feeling. But I don’t think I want to see that again. It has a powerful message, I’m humming the song… but I don’t think I’ll see roses with the same eyes again.

JAMES: Our colleagues warned us this would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the Eurovision stage before… and they were not wrong! 0___0 Roses aplenty on the stage, being used in ways you’d never expect them to be used… such as a weapon to impale Alekseev’s hand… it’s weirdly haunting and beautiful in some ways, but it’s also bonkers and utterly bizarre too. Kudos to Belarus for finding something completely unique to bring to the stage!!

14:20-14:40 Estonia

Bogdan: The start of the rehearsal was a little bit shaky, but by the end of the performance I was sold. Many might argue that this is not a Eurovision song, but I love it. She looks amazing and I’m enjoying the performance. I would have liked the dress to make even a bigger impact, but I’m not mad about it. This semi is a tough one.

JAMES: Elina’s dress was a big talking point before the contest and it’s easy to see why! The projections are stunning and she has the voice of an angel. It’s dramatic yet classy, though I am mindful that opera is a bit of a risky genre for Eurovision… we all said that Verona was a dead cert to qualify last year… I would like to think Estonia will qualify based on that performance, but I’m thinking it’s too niche to be an outright winner. But brava nonetheless Elina! Bravissima!

14:45-15:05 Bulgaria

Bogdan: Bulgaria’s got this year one of the most haunting songs this year. I love the songs, their voices, but the staging leaves me a little bit underwhelmed. I don’t think the camera angles work: there are moments when we see three angles and moments that look plain. Some singers are failing to connect with the camera as well. There is still time to work on that.

JAMES: Bulgaria are hands down my favourite entry this year. I love its sound, its darkness and its words… but my goodness, I’m so disappointed after seeing that… there are some good elements there. The black outs, the merging of several cameras into a single shot and of course their harmonies are on point. So why does it feel like it’s a jumble of half-realised ideas? Having 5 singers on stage does mean the camera needs to move a lot to get everyone in. But that looked utterly haphazard… come on Bulgaria, you’re going to need to try a lot harder than that!

15:30-15:50 FYR Macedonia

Bogdan: Eye Cue are one of my favourites this year and I really wanted to like their staging but omg please change that horrible outfit – both of them. This is just ridiculous. Please sing in a normal dress! Please! If you want to qualify, please change that dress!

JAMES: Macedonia… oh dear me… it started well with trick camera shots to make it look like she jumps across the stage in a single bound. But that dress… looking like she’s looted Barbara Cartland’s wardrobe, this coat is then whipped off to reveal a similarly dubious costume… vocally, Marija does a solid job and I’m very happy for that. There are a couple of things that require a little more work, which would then make it a solid qualifier.

15:55-16:15 Croatia

John – Franka does the same sort of stuff we saw a few days ago. To be fair, they didn’t need to do much to this. It bounces along nicely. She can carry a tune in a bucket. I still have an issue with the spoken part of the song, but that’s just me. It’s worthy of qualifying for the final, but in one like that where there are few stand-out songs, there’s no telling where it will finish.

Bogdan: Franka is alone on stage, giving us good vocals, connecting with the camera. It was an interesting choice to put the focus only on her, but I guess it worked. I enjoyed that, but I’m not yet sure if it’s a qualifier.

16:20-16:40 Austria

Bogdan: Another of my favourites, Austria is bringing the gospel-soul vibe. I love his vocals, but I didn’t like those triangle cuts and the finish of the performance. The finish “ain’t nobody but you” should be with a close-up: Cezar reaching his hands to the camera/audience – not showing us the stage.

John – This has really grown on me. The staging really sets things off. There’s plenty happening, but it’s not in the least bit distracting. He starts off really high up where the stage has been lifted. However, due to technical issues he switched from a hand-held mike to one attached to his cheek, and then back again. The hand-held seemed to work better. It was good once he got into his stride and there’s lots of movement around the stage. As I say, it’s grown on me mainly due to the optimistic vibe coming across. The gospel-ly sound is unique this year, which will arouse interest in certain quarters. A finalist? Hopefully.

16:45-17:05 Greece

JAMES: A strong ethno-ballad from Greece this year, and the staging is simply but strong. Yianna is dressed in simple white robes, with only a blue hand to add any colour. It may sound dull, but the result is quite special – she lets her voice take centre stage and belts out her song with aplomb. Not sure it’s got enough broad appeal to win, but this should walk into the final no problem and score well.

Bogdan: Yianna is having some voice problems tonight, not hitting all the notes, but still remains a potential contender to qualify. I like the whole energy and vibe of her performance. It is simple but has a good visual impact.

John – Yianna is alone on stage. With a blue hand. It’s very ethereal, what with her in a long flowy white dress and dry ice and the like. The lights are either blue or white too. It could be interpreted as very cold, but it’s meant to be dreamlike. This is typical Hellenic fare and will appeal to some. I’m not suite sure who. The Greek diaspora definitely. But who else might be a big guess.


17:10-17:30 Finland

Bogdan: I love Saara, I like the song, but I don’t like what she’s wearing and what the dancers and backing-vocalists are wearing. I don’t think that in the end the audience will see this song as a positive one with those costumes that remind us of something completely different and dark.

Richard: Finland have tidied up this quite nicely. Saara spins a full 360 on her wheel instead of rotating half way, then going back. Her make up is more striking now and matches the dynamic stage set that has been finished been decorating. Overall, a nicely polished performance now.

JAMES: Saara’s dream has come true at last and she’s on the Eurovision stage! She’s clearly in her element and the show she gives is nothing short of what we’d expect from her. Starting on a futuristic torture wheel, Saara flips upside down before her stern looking backing dancers uncouple her and she strides across the stage like she owns it – and she does! From her time on the X-Factor, we know Saara knows how to put on a show. She exudes confidence and looks like she’s having the time of her life – it’s great to see!

Author: Richard Taylor

Source: Eurovision Ireland

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