Even though the press claim that you lose track of time in Baku I also have the same problem to report. Despite being here in Dublin rehearsals have started to morph into one long day. However today we have a lot of excitement to look forward to as the big 5 and Azerbaijan take to the stage for first rehearsals. Anyway how are things shaping up?
Slovenia - This rehearsal seems to have gone well, those who have been listening to the ESCInsight podcast this morning may have heard parts of it in the background. All in all Slovenia should be very pleased with this. However the high number of balkans in this semi-final will be a serious problem.
Croatia - This does not seem to be working perfectly on stage. Somethings are going wrong and now we have two Balkan ballads together. This looks like a non-qualifier unless Nina can bring it all together.
Sweden - Sweden appear to have had a great run through. While some might claim that this is looking messy on stage the performance is broadly the same as the one that won Melodifestivalen and that was fairly amazing.
Georgia - Anri is a good performer and had a really good first rehearsal. Today he seems to have really come across well and looks like a possible qualifier, after being previously written off. Typical Georgia.
Turkey - Turkey did a full dress rehearsal today and it appeared to be really, really strong, which has changed many peoples attitudes to the song. It all has come together really well. So we should be happy with that. BUT I don't think that the song is that great.
Then there was lunch and then started the Big 5 and Azerbaijan rehearsals.
Germany - Rehearsal Video
Despite having a fairly poor song this year Germany has really come up in terms of the staging and performance of this entry. Having come through Unser Star Fur Baku Roman certainly appears to be a competent performer on stage. Vocally this was impressive and the band style performance looks good and makes up for Roman's fairly static performance - but then again could you really start dancing during a song called "Standing Still"? While the performance is good, if it was surrounded by ballads it could struggle.
France - Rehearsal Video
Auggun took to the stage with five dancers who are used a lot throughout the performance. The performance is done with a wind machine and when you combine this with the dancing it all looks a bit weird. Vocally this was not good given that this shouldn't be a problem for an experienced artist. All in all it looks a bit messy on stage. The backdrop is strange and might be to fast moving to look well on the cameras. We shall see what they change tomorrow but I suspect that not much will change. A disappointing rehearsal but there is still a lot of scope to change this.
Italy - Rehearsal Video
I would say that based on what I am reading on the blogs Italy is definitely the favourite of the press over in Baku. Personally I think it is one of the best out there but I see it as a third to fifth place song rather than a winner. Vocally this is excellent, as rehearsals go this was probably one of the best that we have seen however I do think that backdrop is poor and jars badly with the song. I would be aiming for a more Lena-esque performance if I was producing this song. I also think that there is an argument for this song if you compare it to Lena in 2010. However Lena was a more charismatic singer and for this to do well it needs to have charisma thrown in and I'm just not getting this at the moment. But it still is the second most likely song to win. I'll give it that.
Azerbaijan - Rehearsal Video
After watching Italy this pales in comparison. Azerbaijan have done an awful lot right here. The performance is simple and straight forward. The guy in the background is a bit creepy. Overall though this is fairly bland song. However it is Azerbaijan and they are the host country so this will not do to badly. The bridge sounds dire though. This is solid, a safe bet and should give Azerbaijan a reasonable placing.
Spain - Rehearsal Video
Pastora Soler had a great first rehearsal. However it is not personal enough and it needs to make a much great attempt to connect with the cameras. Vocally though this is jaw droppingly good. I think that the overall performance is great but it reminds me of Niamh Kavanagh's in 2010.
UK - Rehearsal Video
The highly anticipated performance by Engelbert Humperdinck, finally took place today. The rumours about the Strictly Come Dancers in the background were correct. The backdrop was an interesting choice and might be just a little moody for the opener to the competition. Engelbert though is giving a really great performance. Although there is a problem with the last notes it is looking well overall and I think that the UK should be able to just about beat last years result.