Day five starts - and the end of this part is, essentially, nigh! Hooray!! Today is the final day of real rehearsals - tomorrow is the dress rehearsal for the semi final and as such it essentially a day off for sleeping!!!

Ramon will sing presently - we'll see how this goes!

Spain

Phil: As I can actually post again from the hall!! Ramon is currently having two sound checks!! It seems that there are some level problems but now he is about to start... Starts.... Oh my god NO, NO, NO!! He is either having very VERY major problems or, as i suspect, he cant actually reach the high notes... He may look good , but on that performance he cant carry a tune in a bucket. This is a major disappointment to all his fans.... If they could be relegated - on THIS performance they deserve to be. The do look good - but vocally he is weak and the choreography is the strongest part. Sorry

Nick: There is a standing joke in press circles that the default review is "He's looking good on stage and in really, really good voice by the sounds of things". Ramon, on the other hand, is looking good on stage and having a Jemini moment. Hurts, oh he hurts, really hurts.

Michelle: Spain isn't just holding something back, it just chose to send us someone who just doesn't know how to sing. Well he didn't manage to hold maintain my interest except for the bit with the drummer. Most disappointing because the backing troupe has more going for it than Ramon does.

Austria

Nick: This is looking set fair to be the biggest tragedy of this or any other Eurovision Song Contest. They have a wonderful song. I have heard it in studio version. It's lovely. I could listen to it all day. It's being raped, pillaged, chewed up and spat out by three people who ought to concede the point, get off the stage and let me, Phil and Roy do it because we'd make a better job of it. Even the edit down to three minutes dead doesn't work at all. It's... oh, buggeration. Tie-Break, I arrest you for crimes against music. You need not sing anything and I'd probably be happier if you didn't.

Phil: Oh my god!! Just when you think that this song could not get any worse - it flaming does!! The lads are still standing in the middle - they have moved the backing singers from the left and to the right and the lads then move to them and move their hands and generally beg to:

a) be replaced
b) ask for the votes of any jury
or
c) just sneak into a corner and cry!!!

Does this convey just how bad this song is??? It is shocking and they can not sing!! it should come last cos RUSLANA is ace!!

Michelle: Tie Break were never going to make me sit up and notice even if they begged and quite honestly, that is what they are trying to do. And it isn't even making me feel sympathetic. It just wants me to shove them off the stage. And how is anyone who is a CASUAL viewer going to want to not use his remote ?

Norway

Phil: He just gets better - he still begs you to vote for him and the backing singers still come down to meet him on stage at the end of the song. As for the song - it IS rather stock Eurovision Ballad stuff - however, its better than that. He can , unlike the previous 2 entrants he can hold a tune. He is still in the camouflage suit and the backers are still in the black. It looks good and that's because it is!! Its strong ( though, not as good as Jonsi apparently) and might do very well - watch this one.

Michelle: Now Knut Anders Sorum can sing. But he doesn't make me want him to take me high at all. He he doesn't make me want him to take me anywhere. least of all in that suit..... and I'm all for recognising the valuable contribution backing singers make - they are probably carrying some of the weaker performers both in the final and semi final but they just don't need to walk up behind Knut at the end.

Nick: Norway came as a blessed relief, really. I like Knut. He doesn't scare me. I have a feeling that even if he got together with Anjeza Shahini, the two of them put together *still* wouldn't scare me. What more can you ask for? He must be one of the best singers in this contest, he really makes you feel that his rehearsal is not for his benefit but for that of the technical crew. Speaking of which, we're way behind schedule. AGAIN. Norway will be straight to the 2005 final without a shadow of a doubt.

France

Phil: They have settled to keep the Globe ( and now on BBC ONE.....) and the stilt walker, but not the straps and have moved the backers to the left podium and Jonaton starts from the centre podium and joins the stilt walker in the centre stage. Once again he is an ikkle boi in a big world but boy can he sing!! He has a cracking song ruined by a rubbish performance..

Michelle: Jonatan looks very small in his white suit. I bet the wardrobe department is spending a fortune on dry cleaning this week. Jonatan really can sing everything except for fudging the final phrase which disappoints me greatly. I'm hoping he'll do a Maarja circa Keelatud Maa and hit the note on the night. The stilt walker is still there,much to my dismay. Although to give her her due she's not fallen over yet. And that's with Jonatan singing to her at one point. Doubt I would keep my balance if he were singing it at me. But then I can't keep my balance on two feet, let alone stilts !

Nick: France will make the final too. But it might only be because they're France. I want to meet that stilt walker with a saw. She's ruining the performance of what is yet another really lovely song, which little Jonathan is making a wonderful job of selling... even with a stilt walker about to fall on him at any minute. Please, please France 3 - débarassez-vous du marcheur damné d'échasse! (compliments of Babelfish language mangling services, so it could mean almost anything!)

Germany

Phil: Franko - who is as Ukrainian as Ruslana - says " This song is a winner" and frankly - he's wrong. He still sits and still just strums his guitar and wails - i can , however, see the attraction to this song - it's simple with a man on guitar singing to camera - but his voice is just all wrong for this song. He kills it in ways that it should not be killed.... It has its attractions - but could bore Europe before they vote for it!!

Nick: Well, what can I say given that I came in halfway through his last run through? He scares me. He scares me more than Anjeza Shahini and Knut Anders Sorum put together. He sits there and shouts at me and explains how he can't wait until tonight baby. *I* can't wait until tonight either, but the reason why I can't wait until tonight is because I'm going to get to see Lena Philipsson rehearse with her legs right up to the end of her legs. Now, she does scare me... mmmm....

Michelle: I don't intend talking about Germany seeing as he is apparently a nice lad. Just a shame Stefan Raab and the German public convinced him he can sing. He can't and that is all you can say for that.

Belgium

Nick: Ooh. Now then. I think it might be the lighting, or the sheer verve and vivacity of the piece, or the fact that I'm in a room full of fanboys, but I think I now get this. Big time. This is three minutes of pure Eurovision heaven and I would urge you not to go and have a shower straight after Ruslana if she's drawn in position 12. Xandee is worth staying in the living room for, and you can't really ask for more than that.

Phil: Xandee has lit her set in Pink which is not good for good pictures but she has a good stage presence which says that she owns the stage and she does - I CAN see this beating Ruslana (Who almost everyone is universally saying will win the contest around here) purely because of :

a) The televoter friendliness of this song - it is the kind of thing that people vote for in a Eurovision
b) The fact that she is among a sea of qualifiers that would, potentially, make her stand out from the rest

Visually she leaps around the stage like the club bunny that this song is aimed at - with her backing dancers gyrating around her ... Overall - it looks very good indeed and she performs it well - her backing singers are on the Large podium at the back and there is a man bashing hell out of bongo's on the right! It is very good and WILL be there in the final shake up.

Michelle: I now understand the point of the semi final system. If this morning's offerings have given you, dear faithful reader, any indication of just how dull the last day and a half has been for me and my colleagues, then you will understand that the semi final really is where the action is. It's almost like almost anybody who had an automatic entry into the final just rolled over and gave up trying to either

A) find a decent selection of songs
B ) Find a decent singer to sing a decent song.

The only truly decent singers and songs come from Belgium, Poland, UK and Turkey. In the final. Now,in the semi, there are loads. I can see two people to the left of me getting jiggy to the Belgian soundcheck......that tells you something!.Of course, Ruslana will wipe the floor with this, but at least it gets people going. Unlike the majority which sends the crowd either out the door or to talk to their neighbour or just to sleep !

She sounds good and gives it some welly and may well be holding some back. She has a good chance but I still think Ruslana will just wipe the floor with her.

Ukraine

Nick: I'm still not exactly fond, I have to say - she has a voice that grates on me, but at least I think it's now doing what it's supposed to. She also has a massively over-the-top stage routine going on with human pyramids and god knows what else, at one point she stands on the back of one of the four topless male dancers, and whilst to my eye it does just all look slightly desperate, I'm not absolutely certain that it doesn't work. You may need to ask someone who's keen on the song for another opinion.

Russia

Michelle: Maybe it's the mood I'm in today but believe me, Russia will not be in the semi final next year. All I could think of during that run through was the Veruca Salt character in the film of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And that is being kind. I just think that someone in the Russian team realised just what a weak singer she is and what a strong song this is and realised that they would have to sell it another way. But to my mind, all the acrobatics just do nothing for it or me. She just looks like a spoiled brat who needs a damn good spanking.

Phil: Now the song itself is really strong - she has a good voice and has the potential to do well - unfortunately the backing singers detract from the main performance. The seem to be doing all sorts of things - half naked today - and proceeding to prance around the stage and she pushes them off in an effort to blatantly not care about their advances. The song now seems too busy in this regard and as such will either score millions or flop. I'm leaning towards an average result.

Iceland

Nick: I have been informed that some people have been getting fed up of the constant Belarus plugging. Well, from at least two of the OnEurope team there will be no more Belarus plugging, but you really should be careful what you wish for. You see, the thing is, Jonsi is going to WIN the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest and we will not be going to Kiev next May because we will be going to Reykjavik. Yesterday he sold me the song. Today he sold me the song, his entire back catalogue and Tower Bridge. He is a bloody good salesman. I have shivers running down my back. I was on the way out of the hall to get some food, and then he did his middle eight and I was frankly rooted to the spot. He is absolutely stunning. The only doubt I have is that there's a slight element of Cliff Richard 1973 running around at times in there, but that doesn't seem to matter. I quite liked it.

Phil: PHWOARR! both for Jonsi and for the song. This boy is " not only fucking built" (c) an eminent member of Swedish Radio - but has a voice to match. The performance is simple and effective - but - and this is the big thing - its not dull... It's very nice and very strong and he hits the high notes and does very well... He is making a sizeable proportion of the crowd think that he could just do very well out of this... Is RUV preparing for this contest already???

Ireland

Nick: Whilst the OnEurope team was arguing with you, our loyal reader and eating cake, we completely forgot to watch Chris Doran rehearse for Ireland. Umm, whoops. However, the thrice grape-vined hearsay is that his performance was completely lacking in any emotion or interest. Umm, whoops.

Michelle: Poland were fab - more gyrating and passion in a format which doesn't leave me feeling depressed.

Poland

Nick: We arrived in time to see Poland's second rehearsal, however. Welcome to the bottom of the scoreboard, please enjoy your stay. It's a total shambles. It is, I fear, a bad song that's unrescuable by throwing the kitchen sink at it, which is basically what they've tired to do. Umm, whoops.

United Kingdom

Phil: Its good... don't get me wrong - it's a strong song, sung by a confident and competent performer stood centre stage, smouldering into the camera but we get the distinct impression that it is STILL missing something. I dont know what it is and that is what is worrying. I think that it doesn't stick out in any way at all from the rest of the competition and people will say "that's nice" but could forget to vote for it. This will still be top 10... but that's at best,

Nick: It's... competent. Everyone seems to be saying that it's competent. It is competent. I have a horrible feeling that I'm damning it with faint praise. It's good, it'll get its share of points, but there's nothing there that stops you in your tracks, shakes you warmly by the neck and says "Vote for me you bastard". It's really going to be down to the strength of the song... and we're still not sure exactly how strong the song actually is.

Michelle: James isn't giving it much welly. Well, not as much as I think he's capable of. But then, dear reader, what would I know ? I'm just a fan who happens to have a personal opinion. Last time I looked, freedom of speech and expression of opinion hadn't been banned. And mine is that James will do what he needs to do, which is restore our credibility in this Contest.

Turkey

Nick: I think Athena have a problem. I think the problem they have is that in the Abdi Ipekci Arena, they're preaching to the converted and it will feel like a standard Athena concert where everyone loves him. If they're not careful, they're going to forget that they're trying to attract the televotes of people in 35 countries who have - with the best will in the world - never heard of them. This could be a tATu... but it could just as easily be a Ruffus or a Kojo. It's also a good thing that it doesn't need a particularly good singer, because on tonight's showing it hasn't got one. Sorry for saying it sounded like a very solid each-way bet last night, because I no longer think it does. It's got a chance if they remember that the Eurovision Song Contest is not an Athena concert.

Michelle: It's hard to resist the infectious home crowd enthusiasm for this.Yes, all home crowds are biased towards their song but this really really deserves it. It sweeps you off your feet, swirls you around, takes you and just does what it says on the box. It takes you up and you stay there happily. It really truly deserves to do really well - no kidding this time. If my feet could keep up with the joy I feel when the opening chords go through me, I'd be dancing along too. It's interesting that you have Norway trying to take you high and this one talking you up. The former just makes youu feel safe while this one does the business.

Phil:  Yes the Turks in the auditorium got all excitable about this one - I am faintly disinterested in this one - its punk and Ska and all those lovely things that Athena are good at - just watered down - however I am very scared that this is going to win or come very close - they are very scary and will frighten the televoters witless and make them vote for this song. Its a grower - in the same way that farmers grow hashish!! you might need some to vote!

Romania

Nick: First time we've seen this one. The stage is very pink. Sanda is also wearing pink. There are hearts all over the set. It's not Karmen Stavec all over again... but then it might be. She really shouts it rather than sings it. Karmen Stavec didn't shout it, so in that sense there might be a difference. It's good but it's not right, and at least two-thirds of the OnEurope team are really just waiting for Lena Philipsson to come on with her legs right up to the end of her legs. I knew I should never have gone to Melodifestival... 🙂

Michelle: Sandra Ladosi is bimboesqe and doesn't really do a lot to give you any hope that she isn't. There is some terrible choreography in the middle but it's probably too late to talk any sense into anyone to change it now.

Sweden

Nick: We at OnEurope have received an e-mail from the Plain English Society in Britain. I quote it here verbatim:

Dear Nick

Thanks for your note (which our office manager passed on to me.)

I have spoken to our editors and proof readers and they all agree that the correct form of the sentence would be:

"Nobody but I could know the way I feel."

When you have a sentence such as this where you can't tell instinctively if it is right, the easiest way to check is to reduce the sentence to its bare bones (which is a subject performing an action - a verb - on or to an object). In this case, the main action of the sentence is the person (the subject) knowing (the verb, or action) the feeling (the object). The rest of the sentence is simply added detail.

So the original version line could be reduced to "Me know the way I feel" - when you do this, it is easier to see that it should be "I" instead of "Me".

Yours
John Lister

Words fail me. It's Lena against the Plain English Society. I vote for Lena, because

1) She's wonderful
2) She has a pair of legs that go right up to the end of her legs
3) She's got a hell of a pair of lungs on her
4) The camera loves her (sometimes)
5) She's far too good to win this contest.

I'd love to hear a bit of Swedish snuck in though. No reason why we couldn't end up with a quick de marker ingenting men ooh ont det gor ont det gor ont.

Michelle: Lena Ph. seems to be in with a better than average chance, sore throat or not. I take back all the things I thought and said about it previously. I wouldn't rule out a Swedish win. Far from it.

Phil: Oh Fuck me it hurts!! Lena is fantastic live and even though she is in various states of death according to Expressen and Aftonbladet but there is no sabateur here this time . she is the best thing SINCE R*****A and sent shivers up the assembled throng ( matron) and sorted out several pairs of straight man's underpants in the process... She did hold back but she is ill.... she'll do well u know!!