Two-Horse Race?

May 7, 2019 by

Two-Horse Race?

Tuesday has long been marked in the diary as a red-letter day. It brings with it the first sightings of The Netherlands, Russia, Malta and Azerbaijan – all of which offer potential to shake things up at the head of the market. But unlike most momentous days, it starts with a whimper:


“I have a dream. A dream as beautiful as it is extreme,” starts a prone Roko, acutely aware of his song’s limitations. He is shorn of his wings for the first minute and there are some nice overhead shots. Unfortunately, it all becomes very earnest, very quickly and even the return of his wings halfway through fails to help him soar. Like him, the market remains on the floor.


Malta is interesting. Michela’s staging is cool. She starts by looking absent-mindedly out of her window, before we are invited into her kaleidoscopic imagination. This is visually arresting, and the song feels fresh following Croatia. There are vocal issues, which are disguised by clever backstage assistance, but this is going in the right direction. Malta drifts after a shaky first rehearsal but quickly bounces back, nibbled at 24 on the Outright and rapidly trading odds-on for the Top 10.


Understated from Lithuania, who despite a ‘friendly’ semi-final are pretty loveless across all the markets. This is nicely sung by a twinkly-eyed Jurijus, but this is a background radio track and the chatter in the press room is about what’s next than what is currently on stage.


Russia is available to back at 5.1 moments before nine different Sergeys takes to the stage. The price is backed in quickly, matched at 4.3, but quickly heads back, available at 6.8 at time of writing. This is surprisingly underplayed by Russia. Fokas employs his old standards, projections, mirrors and, of-course boxes, but forgets any emotional connection. This song needed more.


When the most exciting moment is an Albanian eagle swooping from the depths of Jonida’s gown, we know we have reached a new staging low. Everything about this is 90s, so instead of an elegant Balkan ballad, we get Kat Slater (UK soap opera Eastenders actress for those who need to check the reference), complete with tattoos, trout pout and wet-look, slicked back hair.


After lunch comes Norway and rather than the fan-anticipated Frozen meets The Lion King, we get an empty stage, three disparate performers and little to no interplay. This was never going to be the jury choice, but the move to give this a sheen of quality seems misplaced. The market agrees and Keiino’s price drifts across all markets.


Duncan is sat alone at a piano on a very lonely stage. As a concept, the piano is a nice visual trigger, reinforcing the artistry and distinguishing him from the pack. As ever, he is vocally sound but there is work needed on camera angles and connection. The market has long been convinced by ‘Arcade’ and, despite a half-point drift, there is nothing in this to change that point of view.

North Macedonia

Tamara is another with great vocal chops and for a change, Macedonia doesn’t waste its opportunity. While there are elements that feel redundant, such as Sergey’s abandoned hall of mirrors, this is a good platform to get the country back to the Grand Final.


In the end, it’s not until the final performance of the day that the market finally goes haywire with Chingiz, who is backed into 14s on the Outright. This is a decent, contemporary song matched with a visually-striking show, complete with robotic arms, beating hearts and an outer-body, beam-me-up effect. It looks good but rather than the complete package, it feels confused, with little narrative or connection to the song.


  1. Hey Matt. Another nice review of the rehearsals today.

    I have to work, even during these frantic Eurovision rehearsal days. But tonight I found time to write my outsider-perspective impression about Duncan’s first rehearsal as well.

    Am I optimistic for a win? I think I am fairly realistic. I don’t expect a win, and I mirrored that feeling most of the time on here. Anyway, curious what you think of it :-):

  2. Matt

    Thanks for the kind comments Gert. I think your review is very fair, and I hope my review captured my general positivity to the staging? I think the concept is exactly right and was happy to see Duncan sat at the piano.

    I mentioned camera angles and once these are tightened up, I think Neth has the platform to attack the win. The first long camera sweep to Duncan is clearly the biggest issue as we don’t see Duncan until long after he starts singing. This needs looking at. The mood needs to be set earlier and we also need to connect with Duncan much quicker. There are also some lovely crowd shots, which have the potential to look beautiful on the night.

    Did you get any other feedback on the delegation’s intentions to progressing the staging?

    • Well, from what I heard is the actual opening will be sung by Duncan anyway (the high falcetto echo’s). So I think in the end it could give a rather nice atmospheric opening if you start with this long camera sweep towards Duncan.

      But overall there will be some real tightening in camera angles. Pannecoucke was mostly annoyed about the interaction between longshots and close-ups. The latter should indeed be longer and they are going to work on that from what I’ve heard. Also for Duncan the first rehearsal was very much about being overpowered by the arena, and he actually lost some concentration a bit I guess.

      There’s also talks that the piano will actually be replaced with a large classical black piano, and that camera shots will be adapted to that a bit (Erik Bolks, OGAE Netherlands, who is actually in close contact with Ilse de Lange). However, that piano thing is really not so much of an issue to me.

      Anyway, let’s see Matt :-). Greetings also to Rob.

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