Keith Mills rolling blog of semi one press rehearsal.

The press rehearsal for the first semi starts with some pretty generic imagery tied into this year's logo. Then last year's winner reprises the winning song. I thought I was the only person who didn't like this acts but talking to people in Vienna, you really understand that very few have anything nice to say.

We then go to the green room as the acts take to the stage. Halfway through the country parade we lose sound in the press centre. The stage looks terrific in shades of orange.

Then the three female presenters take to the stage. I suspect that they're not wearing their stage costumes today. Obvious staging problems for the presenters so they stop the show but soon we start again. Then the voting is explained and you cannot vote more than 20 times for any country. There's a nice sprinkling of French in the intro as well before we go to Moldova's postcard, which features a tractor race!

I'll be giving each country's chance of qualifying based on the bookies odds and press centre vote. I'll call my ten qualifiers at the end.

MOLDOVA.
Scaffolding, gyrating policemen & women and the androgynous Eduard make for an interesting stage show, but there is some very messy camerawork going on here. Still far from a complete package.
Bookies: 32%, Press Centre : 50%.

ARMENIA
Elaborate costumes and a lovely purple backdrop with a tree being blown in the wind and all six singers are in good voice. There's a lovely overhead shot. However I still think this song is very weak. However with so much of the former Soviet Union and the diaspora in France, Belgium & Netherlands votong in this semi I cannot see it fail.
Bookies: 72%, Press Centre : 59%.

BELGIUM
Loic in a long dark jacket while his backing vocalists and the background are in write. It’s very monochrome, very staccato, very modern, very jarring. But is it very Eurovision? I’m really not sure.
Bookies: 70%, Press Centre : 80%.

NETHERLANDS
Dear God what is this woman wearing. It seems like she fell through a parachute to come on stage and the ridiculous black lace mask at the start doesn’t add anything. This song and the staging make it feels like a very long and monotonous three minutes. Really poor effort all round.
Bookies: 32%, Press Centre : 62%.

FINLAND
This one just passes by without making any impression which is hard to believe, given the nature of the act and type of song. It's so short and the staging is all wrong, being far too brightly lit. They are not getting the same attention as last year's "cause" act, so unlikely to win, In fact they may not even qualify.

Bookies: 59%, Press Centre : 43%.
There’s a very awkward and tedious break to the Green Room and a shout out to Australia before the next song.

GREECE
Stunning staging in blue and white backdrop with a terrific silver dress and my goodness this is a huge improvement on the national final. I thought Greece might miss out this year, but not after seeing her nail the performance.
Bookies: 75%, Press Centre : 73%.

ESTONIA
Stig is off key (too low) for the first verse and he looks as uncomfortable as he sounds Elina is much better and carries the song. I’m not sure if the diagonal camera shot works, but there’s still enough goodwill coming from the song to quality, but not launch a serious challenge next Saturday methinks.
Bookies: 87%, Press Centre : 88%.

MACEDONIA
Daniel in a beige trench coat with what looks like three lost members of the Four Tops shuffling menacingly in the background. They have added an awkward R’n’B under-beat to the song and actually taken away any soul it had. Worst transformation from national final to Eurovision that I’ve seen this year. Such a shame as he’s a great singer and the original arrangement was much better.
Bookies: 53%, Press Centre : 41%.

SERBIA
Bojana managed to get caught up in a king-size duvet cover while making the bed. She sounds fine, but there’s pointless flag waving and dancing but this is absolutely atrocious in every possible way. An embarrassment from a country that gave us “Molitva” and “Lane Moje”.
Bookies: 39%, Press Centre : 69%.

HUNGARY
The unfortunately named Boggie is in a loved russet full length dress and there’s a projection of a globe on stage and it’s actually very simple and effective. It comes to live in a green pastoral scene at the end and it really is a terrific considering that I really don’t rate the song at all. Really benefitting from coming after Macedonia and Serbia.
Bookies: 51%, Press Centre : 46%.

BELARUS
Red edges with white ticker-tape effects with Uzari in a dark suit and Maimuna in a stylist white dress. It’s a rather plan staging depending on the violinist for visuals. It’s well performed but I’m not sure that there’s enough to make people vote for it.
Bookies: 61%, Press Centre : 50%.

RUSSIA
Oh wow, but this stands out a mile in this semi, Polina looking and sounding great. It still isn’t the staging that I would have chosen but it works and I cannot see another winner in this semi.
Bookies: 90%, Press Centre : 87%.

There’s then another Green Room break with Estonia and Serbia

DENMARK
Is exactly as it was in the Danish selection, fun summer pop, instant, cheery and with the crowd in the hall to sing and clap along, I think this could do better than a lot of people thing. Very nice fit between Russia & Albania.
Bookies: 51%, Press Centre : 59%.

ALBANIA
A very breathy performance by Elhaida and that black glitter cape is just silly. This looks and sounds very awkward. From this draw and with so much dead wood in the semi, Albania should be sailing into the final, but suddenly I’m not so sure.
Bookies: 71%, Press Centre : 56%.

ROMANIA
Thankfully all the group are now in dark clothes and the staging has improved. The suitcases are not highlighted on stage. There’s shades of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” in the melody and with this simple presentation, it’s another guaranteed finalist.
Bookies: 77%, Press Centre : 67%.

GEORGIA
Nina is a rather unfetching black outfit but that’s only the beginning of the issues with this appalling performance. Vocally it’s dreadfully shaky and it looks and sounds like this is the first ever time it’s been performed. However with this starting position and so many ex-Soviet countries in this semi, it qualify, most undeservedly.
Bookies: 80%, Press Centre : 71%.

As we reprise, I’m left with he thought that it would be a lot better if only nine countries qualified from this weak semi and it would also reduce the overly long final.