Albania

#ESC2018: Live Blog of the Jury Final from 20.00 BST/21.00 CET #AllAboard

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After what can only be described as a shock-fest given to us from the semi-finals,  I am here with coverage of the first Dress Rehearsal for the Grand Final.

You can follow the LIVE BLOG HERE – as always just refresh the page from 13:00 GMT/14:00 CET for all the updates throughout the afternoon.

Refresh from 20.00 BST/21:00 CET

And we’ve started. More views of Lisbon, sunny weather, tiles, people dancing, and faces of your average Portuguese.
Moving to the arena, fado is the theme and Ana Moura sings, accompanied by one of those guitar-like instruments that were used by Nevada in ‘Nesta barco a vela’ in 1987.
Next is more fado from Mariza, who is one of the queens of the genre in these parts.
This is followed by two Portuguese gentlemen at a mixing deck whilst the flags of the 26 participating nations are brought in. By sailors. #AllAboard. The acts come in with them. This takes a while.
We meet our four hosts in variations of black and silver tonight. They tell us that the whole world is watching. Except viewers of Mango TV I presume.
01. Ukraine
Last song last night, first song tonight. At least we get the piano out of the way. No, I jest. This is a fun opener from our young vampire. He comes across OK on screen and manages to discard the long black coat without a hitch. He needs to because of those flames which get very close. A performance like this is just what the contest needs to open things. And prepare us for the lunacy to come.
02. Spain
There are cheers as Alfred & Amaia start. And lots of mobile phone lights in the audience. As we know , songs on second rarely do well, so this might be a little joke by RTP to put Spain there. Amaia’s voice is OK, unlike Alfred’s which doesn’t seem to match him. There’s a lot of saccharin about this. They won’t win, but they won’t finish last either.
03. Slovenia
I’m still baffled as to how this qualified. Lea seems to be enjoying herself more now. The song bounces along nicely until she has the same technical hitch as the semi-final. She’s very unfortunate for that to happen twice. I’m sorry, but I still switch off once that happens.
04. Lithuania
Big contrast time now. There are more lights from mobile phones in the crowd. And Ieva is sat, alone, on the stage, singing and looking very demure and yet confident. There’s a hint of the voice of Dolores O’Riordan in her. It’s a transfixing performance and I get my first goosebumps of the night. The finishing touch is her seeing her husband on stage.
05. Austria
Cesár owns the stage. Well, at least the raised part of it where he starts the song. Something’s happening here, as we can hear the crowd clapping along. It’s a very very solid performance, even though it might need more than just him on stage. But that aside, I can’t find anything wrong with that.
06. Estonia
Elina is immaculately turned out again and is smiling more. I only got it on Tuesday when I saw it live in the arena. Before that, I thought it was a genre than polarise opinion. On balance, it’s a nice song. It’s a well-sung song. But it’s that polarisation I can’t get beyond, and in that I can’t see it winning. Even with the very effective lighting effects.
07. Norway
We all know about Mr Rybak. He won the thing once. He ain’t winning again. I’ll explain why. His song has a good hook. There are imaginative uses of graphic overlay. But he looks a little insincere. He looks overconfident. It’s a two-minute song that’s been stretched to fill three minutes. It will do well, but with three other Nordic countries in this final, the vote will get split amongst them all.
08. Portugal
RTP don’t want to win again. That sounds harsh, but TV companies rarely do. So they’ve sent a pretty little song sung with much emotion by Cláudia in her pink hair. She means well, but even though it’s pretty, and gets a big cheer when Isaura does her little duetty bit, it’s a little dull. However, the press centre loves it.
Ad break time, so we cut to the Green Room. Chats with Slovenia, Estonia and a plug for the CD and DVD.
09. United Kingdom
SuRie is getting early cheers and clapping. And singing the words. I’ve not heard that in a long time. Anna Vissi in Athens perhaps. Her song is pleasant enough and the vocal is fine and dandy. And you can tell she’s gaining in confidence as the song progresses. This is OK, although we’ve said that before…
10. Serbia
I was a tad surprised when this qualified, but I understand they are big stars in Balkan Europe. Balkanika give a very earnest performance with the usual close harmonies, determined walking about and heavy emphasis on stringed instruments. It’s an OK song but I fear might get lost tomorrow night. The press centre gives it moderate applause.
11. Germany
Michael has a very dark staging with just him. Until the first chorus anyway, when the LED screen behind him starts to kick in, by showing some of the song lyric. He’s dressed in black too. His song bounces along nicely. There might be issues with the psychedelic nature of the backdrop. He gets a lot of clapping from the press centre.
12. Albania
Another non-English song (big tick from me). Eugent starts swathed in blue light with his band in the shadows. The first chorus starts, and he does the clapping. And then things really kick off. The lighting goes red, his voice gets going and hits all of those notes with a lot of power. Momentary goosebumps when he does. Nothing wrong with this at all and he is a fine fine singer with a sing that suits him. Excellent.
13. France
I can hear the crowd clapping as Émilie starts singing. That’s a good sign. I can see this doing well as it’s very well-staged and the band look the part in their black outfits and red shoes. The move to the front stage in front of the Golden Circle is very effective too, as it pictures Madame Monsieur in a sea of hands. All good stuff.
14. Czech Republic
From lots of hands to a stage show to remember. And that rucksack. It focuses more on the camera angles and shots of the dancers. Mikolas has choreographed this to within an inch of its life.  And despite his issues some days ago, he’s managing most of the moves. But not all of them. Maybe not a winner, but it’s entertaining.
15. Denmark
Rasmussen and his chums have this down to a tee. They get a lot of applause after the first verse. It might be a take on Game of Thrones, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad song and performance. Quite the opposite. Its slick and just a little bit moody. But in a friendly Dane way. And the wind-blown snow is the finishing touch. One of the best songs tonight.
16. Australia
I’m trying to warm to this song. I’ll admit that it’s a good pop song and would have been better opening or closing the show. But it needs more people on stage. Jessica hits more of the notes tonight and is enjoying herself more. The crowd in the arena seem to be getting into it. There was, however, one note. One big note towards the end that didn’t go quite as well as it should.
Ad break time again. Whilst some broadcasters get words from their sponsors, we go to the Green Room and speak to the Serbs and Austrians. There’s also a passing reference to Lys Assia, who died in March.
17. Finland
Saara’s act starts with her on a wheel and her back to the audience. Once the song gets into its groove, she sings it very well, apart from the odd note here and there. It’s an out and out stage show with lots of busy stuff and disturbingly dressed dancers. Nice show, but some notes evaded her.
18. Bulgaria
Dark and moody, and lots of clapping from the crowd. This staging is built around lots of split screen type camera angles. They make this a very dark song – with back-staging to match. There were one or two off notes amongst the five singers although the general vibe of the song might make up for it. There’s modest applause in the press centre.
19. Moldova
Fun and more fun. And stolen glances, And general farce. It has to be Moldova and stage show to remember. Who cares about the song. The set up is genius with the multiple doors and multiple openings within the doors. It does what it does and will pick up the novelty vote unlike anything else.
We get a brief chat to the crowd – possibly whilst the stage is being set up for the next song…
20. Sweden
I like this as a radio song. It’ll be great as a summer hit all over Europe. And the staging with the horizontal lighting is very effective. Benjamin is a half-decent singer and it takes guts to be on stage alone like he is. However, there are better songs tonight. But it’s Sweden. I’m conflicted. He’ll do well, but with a likely split Nordic vote, it won’t win.
21. Hungary
I’m awake now. Lead singer Bence looks angry, and means business tonight. He and the band own the stage and use it to its fullest. The flames really set it off and I’m glad I’m not in the Golden Circle for this. The middle eight comes along and I get goosebumps again. Between them, I don’t think the band quite hits every note. But who cares, they can get away with it with a song like this.
22. Israel
Chicken noises and pink kimono? It must be Netta dressed to go to the shops. I’ll say now it’s not really my cup of tea. However, the steadicam work is very good. The whole show is polished and Netta is a trouper who knows how to work the crowd. This will be a big hit with televoters tomorrow night. And perhaps the juries too. The smoke bubbles are worth points alone.
23. The Netherlands
I like this as a song. Yes, it’s clearly country in genre, but there are elements that will appeal to all. Except the possible casual racism that has been a cause for debate all week. A decent song, with a questionable show.
24. Ireland
Can Ryan do it? I love the staging, with the mobile phone lights in the crowd, and the cheers when the dancers join him on stage. Vocally it’s spot on and he engages with the camera just enough. And the snow works, getting more cheers from the crowd. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. I’m smiling.
25. Cyprus
Eleni is with us now, and smoulders as she walks in the stage. The dance routine is without question the slickest thing you’ll see tonight. The vocals are good, there’s a good reaction both within the arena and the press centre. I can see why this could win tonorrow night. Televoter bait definitely. Jury vote possible.
26. Italy
Last but not least is our male duo. With their multi-lingual translations appearing on screen. I think the song is an odd choice to be on last, and the lyrics seem a little distracting. They harmonise together nicely, and have those voices you associate with a cigarette habit. It’s OK but for the reasons I’ve already mentioned I can’t see this doing much.
This time tomorrow night (about 22.09/23.09), the voting will start. We get a brief reprise of each of the 26 songs.
Interval act time now, and first on are Branko & Sara Tavares. You might remember Sara as the Portuguese entrant in 1994. She also tried in the Festival da Canção this year.
Another reprise…
Our next item is a history item. Life was very different before 1974. Portugal tells us that they tried to get through it via Eurovision. We see Suzy. We hear Salvador.
After more chat, we see Salvador! He performs a new song in Portuguese and then gives us ‘Amar pelos dois’. It brings the house down.
One of our hostesses talks to the audience. One chap is Russian but lives in the US. For now anyway.
A further reprise of the 26 songs…
The voting closes, and we speak to the Green Room. Tomorrow night it’ll be the acts. Tonight it’s just workers and volunteers.
They’re running through some dummy voting, which of course will be completely different tomorrow. I’m signing off now as there’s nothing more to describe. Tune into the show tomorrow and enjoy it. We’ll hopefully be tweeting from the arena.
Good night!
Author: John Stanton
Source: Eurovision Ireland
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