Zala and Gasper impressed almost everybody in their first rehearsal so the expectations are high. Zala had some problems with her earpiece, sounded a bit weak and looked distracted. Maybe somebody went last night to an Independence Day party and partied too hard...
Slovenia has one of the most unique and enchanting songs this year. Zala and Gašper are on the stage by themselves. They are wearing white outfits, much like they had in the national final. The atmosphere is intimate and spacey video art works very well with the mellow melody and dreamy singing and production. Video art is also featured on the floor. Nothing much going on stage, it's a very minimal stage performance, as it should be. Vocals are on point, and I was thinking for a second I was listening to the studio version. Would love to see them in the final.
So here we are after all of last night's drama - the dress rehearsal for Saturday's Grand Final (and of course, tonight's all-important Jury Final).
Intro and reprise
Ana Moura kicks off the show, treating us to some Fado. Salvador Sobral won't be performing his segment today we've been informed, as we are running a little late. Mariza then takes up the Fado reins, with drums and drummers-a-plenty surrounding her.
The flag parade of the 26 finalists is next, with the flag-bearers walking the outer perimeter of the circular stage before the acts move to the Green Room.
Filomena Cautela, Sílvia Alberto, Daniela Ruah and Catarina Furtado then introduce themselves and as standard, briefly explain the voting and display the running order with the graphics for those watching at home.
Postcard: Melovin takes a cliff-walk before horse riding.
Performance: Melovin kicks us off lying in his coffin before being released from it as part of the staging spectacular that we so often see from Ukraine. He's in good voice and it makes for an excellent opener while his coffin burns as he sits at the piano. Should be a top 10 finisher.
Postcard: It's a romantic country walk ending with a meal boiled underground in a hot spring for the Spanish duo.
Performance: The staging is classic and Alfred and Amaia are in fine voice. Although it's unlikely to trouble the top 10 on the night, it sounds great in the hall.
Postcard: Lea visits the very windswept and grey Azores. Just as well her pink hair was there to brighten up the weather.
Performance: Very much more of the same fantastic vocals and perfectly executed choreography (including THAT "malfunction" break) that saw her make the final last night against the odds and many of the press predictions. The cult of Hvala, ne! is now a Eurovision phenomenon regardless of Lea's overall placing on Saturday night.
Postcard: Ieva takes an antique car out on a quick spin down a country road.
Performance: Ieva's delicate vocals shine in the darkness and her husband can give her her first on-stage embrace as a finalist. Outside shot at top 10 possibly but it's likely that its high placing on the betting market is due to a slight skewing from Tuesday's semi-final's voting demographic.
Postcard: Cesar takes a mountain bike ride through small country villages, ending at a viewing point.
Performance: Cesar seems a lot more relaxed now (as is so often the case with many a qualifier). The pressure gone he gives his best vocal performance to date. Austria is unlikely to trouble the top half too much, but solid it is.
Postcard: A country walk for Elina before a sheer-cliff face rock climb.
Performance: Impeccably delivered and with a mesmerising light show within the dress. Should sit mid-point in the first half of the table come 11pm on Saturday night.
Postcard: Mr Fairytale is given a spraypaint task.
Performance: As professional as slick as we've come to expect from Alexander Rybak, the song without any sort of notable lyric (ironically) and its on-screen graphics, sits early on in the running order but is still likely to put him on the cusp of the top 5 - despite the betting market effectively deserting it as a serious contender overnight.
Postcard: The girls put a hard day's graft in with the Portuguese Navy.
Performance: Claudia is strong vocally and brings the song to life a lot more than we've seen in previous rehearsals. It may pick up a few thanks-for-having-us votes but something around a 20th-place finish would be my prediction for this one. However, the girls have done the home nation proud.
Now there's a short break before we see songs nine to sixteen performed.
No time to keep thinking of what happened yesterday as the first dress rehearsal for tomorrow's semi-final is already in full swing! Later on we will fill you in on what happens on the postcards as well..
This is becoming a solid favourite for the win, the performance is slick and it's a cheerful opener. But the question remains how much juries will take this song seriously. Alexander seemed to be saving his voice.
Vocally this is very strong again, but the performance is too theatrical, too kitsch for this song. I will not be surprised if this will be the end of Romania's perfect streak.
Good performance in this rehearsal, it keeps getting better and better. After Romania I think this has a chance.
04 San Marino
The robots and Jessika and Jenifer as well are back! Size doesn't matter was one of the messages on the cards held by the robot. It may distract from the sometimes weak vocals at the end.
Another good and solid performance from Rasmussen, really not much to say about this, it looks and sounds very well, no issues at all here.
The vocal arrangements in the chorus seems to have been altered a bit, it sounds a lot more shouty now especially during the long notes. Really hard to predict what will happen here.
Time for a little break now in the greenroom, with a little game with Alexander Rybak among other things..
Not sounding that great today in the hall, could be that they are saving themselves for tonight. It's still a fun performance though.
08 The Netherlands
Putting Waylon's stage together apparently takes a bit more than the time of the postcards, as just after the postcard we got switched to one of the hosts in the audience for a very awkward conversation that went completely wrong. Let's say "It's just a rehearsal" as San Marino reminded us a few days ago.
Now, to the actual performance. Vocally it sounds really good and it is not completely my genre but I feel we're back to real music after a few weaker songs. There are far less shots of the crumping dance right now, so it looks better. I think there's still a chance for the Netherlands.
Back to the greenroom again! That's how they fill three extra minutes it seems being this the semi with one song less.
Very strong vocal performance from Jessica. It's one of the few straightforward pop songs and still think this could really have an instant appeal. I do think however that the shots during the bridge where Jessica is dancing are not that great.
There seemed to be some issues with the sound at the beginning as it started a bit weak. Iriao soon got back on full strength though. With a few of the ethnical entries out from the first semi-final gone it could really stand out in the final if it qualifies, which I hope, as the last part was absolutely beautiful.
Vocally not the best performance. The many pyro fountains and the catchy song might distract from it.
Lots of flames at the beginning of this performance, very strange, likely to be a technical mistake. There seems to have been done a lot of work on the lighting of this song as there are now many laser effects. The light show could get the audience to go for this more than we expect now.
After these 6 songs it's time for another break in the greenroom.
Those were three very intense minutes - very energetic performance as always and it does stand out.
Still a very theatrical performance as well even though Laura seems to have toned the hair swinging down a bit and that's only for the better. In the bridge she struggles vocally.
15 Sweden.. or maybe not as we switch to the greenroom and then go to:
Remarkable first run for Lea Sirk who seems to have been cut off music in the bridge but then as if nothing happened she continues. However later runs reveal it's been set up to be like this as it happens again. At the semi-final it will look as a surprise of course. Douwe Bob's idea from 2016 is getting another go this year.
In the second part of the song Lea and her team move to the front catwalk. Otherwise the rehearsal is very similar to the performance in the national final. As always Lea nails it vocally and as promised we get the last lines in Portuguese - 'hvala nao nao'.
So, to the second last rehearsal of the day and it's Lea Sirk of Slovenia. She has performed superbly along the promo tour circuit and the same applies for the first rehearsal. The choreography is even slicker than it was at EMA and Lea and her dancers make the most of the stage. A short, unexpected pause went down a storm in the Press Centre. Vocally, Lea is again flawless and if this comes across well on the night it could be good news for Slovenia. Top marks for the first outing on the Eurovision stage.