LIVEBLOG: First Semi-Final – Dress Rehearsal 1

Eurovision 2023 Live Blog
Eurovision 2023 Live Blog

Mon, May 8th, 2023 at 1:30 PM – 4:15 PM BST

We’re watching the first complete run-through of the first semi-final from the virtual confines of the Digital Press Centre and giving you a flavour of what to expect tomorrow evening.

Running Order
R/OCountryArtistSongLanguage(s)
1NorwayAlessandra"Queen of Kings"English
2MaltaThe Busker"Dance (Our Own Party)"English
3SerbiaLuke Black"Samo mi se spava" (Само ми се спава)Serbian, English
4LatviaSudden Lights"Aijā"English
5PortugalMimicat"Ai coração"Portuguese
6IrelandWild Youth"We Are One"English
7CroatiaLet 3"Mama ŠČ!"Croatian
8SwitzerlandRemo Forrer"Watergun"English
9IsraelNoa Kirel"Unicorn"English
10MoldovaPasha Parfeni"Soarele și luna"Romanian
11SwedenLoreen"Tattoo"English
12AzerbaijanTuralTuranX"Tell Me More"English
13Czech RepublicVesna"My Sister's Crown"English, Ukrainian, Czech, Bulgarian
14NetherlandsMia Nicolai and Dion Cooper"Burning Daylight"English
15FinlandKäärijä"Cha Cha Cha"Finnish
May 8, 2023 13:30
ENDED
Latest update 11 months ago
17:04
Afterthoughts

The songs are pretty much all staged brilliantly and the production team deserve every award going.

The hosts came over as massively under-rehearsed, compared with recent years and lack chemistry. 

The BBC is still torn over Eurovision. There's a growing acceptance that it's changed and broadcasters need to change. It has gained credibility. Then there's someone who thinks recalling low points - Dustin the Turkey - is totes hilair.

I feel sure this will come together thanks to the Eurovision team, but get the impression someone has needed to fight all the way to stop this being a very different show.

Mo Fanning
16:27
AWKS

Before the 10th and final act to qualify, they show a split screen thing with the remaining 6 artists

Mo Fanning
16:24
And n case you wondered ...

That rumour about the contestants being made to stand on stage and take their elimination shame in front of the cameras is in fact a thing.

Mo Fanning
15:59
The Big Three

I haven't written any pre-blog for the Big Three this afternoon, so I'll have to do this off the cuff. La Zarra has clearly set herself the target of being more French than Barbara Pravi, and has wildly overshot to the point where she's now more French than General de Gaulle eating an Eiffel Tower shaped croissant while habiting en La Rochelle avec sa tante et buvant un orangina. It's very French.

I don't know if Lord of the Lost aren't in full make-up, but I'm just not getting much energy bursting out of the screen at me. Something's really, really missing here and I do hope it's just a rehearsal thing. It doesn't need to be really right until Friday, but I'm disappointed.

We're tucked away in a darkened room here, but I'm hearing that the weather outside is torrential - it's as wet as a bank holiday Monday in Liverpool. I suppose it would be.

My tablemates tell me that Italy is gorgeous and melodic and classy and I'm sure it is. I don't get it. No qualms about the delivery and it's a nice composition, but I'm just not grabbed. Mind you, I was a Brividi-sceptic last year too and Rapsodia never moved me, so it's probably just a general blind spot on my part. What I will say is that for a fairly minimal staging, what staging there was still distracted me. That's my lot for this afternoon!

Nick Deller
15:58
Thanks for joining us

Apologies if you had technical issues earlier on, we're up and running now, and Mr Phil will be along at 8pm UK time to talk you through the whole thing again - but with far more skill than me.

Mo Fanning
15:56
ITALY

Quite a bit of sweeping up was needed after the German show as the stage was readied for Marco, who met with cheers when he turned up in a silver vest.

Picked out centre stage while silhouetted trampolinists performed acrobatics behind him projected onto screens. It veers between effective and distracting. There are, however, an appropriate number of rear-view shots of Marco.

He certainly gave it some welly.

Mo Fanning
15:48
GERMANY

A fair bit of afternoon faffing ahead of Lords of the Lost taking their turn on stage today, with talk of 'last-minute changes to pryos', which meant new instruction to the band to ensure they didn't catch fire.

A dark stage with a red stripe down the middle for the show's focus, and there's a lot of flame-throwing. The overall impression was that this was thoroughly professional.

Mo Fanning
15:39
LA FRANCE

Time for some auto-qualifiers

We got a look at La Zarra really giving it loads on her HUGE pillar up in the loft, performing her heart out, and ending with a pyro curtain. This is one that can look at bit empty in wide shots, but if angled right, it's a wow moment.

Mo Fanning
15:23
TONIGHT ....

Where is Mr Phil, I hear you ask. Well he's getting himself ready for the show tonight and we'll be LIVE BLOGGING again, so hope to see you then ...

Mo Fanning
15:22
RTVE offering short snippets of the performances

If you fancy a quick spoiler, nip over to TWITTER:

https://twitter.com/eurovision_tve/status/1655567615006236675

Mo Fanning
15:12
Actually...

I completely overlooked Czechia and Israel, and although I'm lukewarm on both and momentarily forgot they existed, they're probably your fourth and fifth placers.

Nick Deller
15:03
Farewell for this afternoon

With the songs over, it's going to be lots of filling-in and rehearsal nonsense that we can't really do justice to - and that hopefully won't happen on the night. Suffice to say the hosts are looking very under-rehearsed at this stage, but it is their first full run-through. Let's see how it goes in the next two tries.

Sound-wise the online media centre was AWFUL so I couldn't really say who sang well and who struggled. The staging all looked great, but things came across as much darker this year - but given the songs veer towards gloomy, that's only to be expected.

Nothing happened today to upset the betting.

Mo Fanning
15:02
Final reckoning

Sweden and Finland are obviously the two to beat, though we already knew that. Norway's likely to qualify third, we're then into "What mood is Europe in?" after that, but I like Serbia and Moldova's chances to be the next two. At the other end of the table, I have more concerns than ever about Ireland based on what I saw this afternoon. Stick around though as we should be seeing three finalists a little bit later on.

Nick Deller
15:00
Start voting

The three presenters are back with the usual filler chat and we get the reminder video.

Mostly predictable extracts. Serbia struggling the most because it's such a weird song and deciding to use a bit where Luke laughs manically. That should finish it. Talking of odd picks: Israel also decides on the dance break.

Then fun facts that I won't bother boring you with - let's leave it to Alesha.

Mo Fanning
14:58
Finland

Now, I need to time travel here, because we’ve been living with this song for four months and Europe is about to discover it. When “No Business” was unveiled as the first song in UMK, I knew Finland were doing well this year. When this was unveiled, I thought crikey. When the live performance did justice to the music video, I thought double crikey. It’s obviously qualifying and probably winning the semifinal, and then I’ll recalibrate. It might overtake Sweden in the odds following the semi. Tread carefully with that one!

It's translated well to the stage here. Most of the elements have travelled from UMK, but the stage turning to sunshine and rainbows for the last 30 seconds really helps with the general feeling of being absolutely sozzled that they're looking for.

Nick Deller
14:54
Finland

The most likely winner if I'm being honest - and BOY do I detest this song with most every fibre in my body. BUT even despite that I can appreciate how 'made for TV' the performance is.

Yesterday I was made to attend a birthday party for a four-year-old boy and they had a bouncy castle (rich friends). This song would have gone down a storm with the kids bouncing around until they threw up cake.

For me, it's still a terrible song, a calculated staging that plays up to everything that I used to hate about the televoting-only era.

I fail to see how this can lose.

Mo Fanning
14:50
NETHERLANDS, THE

Last time I attended one of these things, it was Trijntje Oosterhuis trying to instigate the rush to normality, and it didn’t really work out for her. History might be repeating on that one – Burning Daylight is a good song, but it’s not the easy sell that things like Arcade or De Diepte have been. What else are people who like this sort of thing going to vote for on Tuesday – but they might forget it ever existed.

I said earlier that ChatGPT might have written Tattoo, and I think ChatGPT's been busy because I reckon it's written this one as well. It's staged really nicely, but I look for the heart and I can't see it.

Nick Deller
14:50
Netherlands

What a difference a key change makes. I'd written this off a while back, but work was done in the last couple of weeks to make this sound a million times better.

The camerawork is intimate (very much in the Common Linnets way). Their performance is suitably intense and avoids the Eurovision cliche of having two people yelling a song in each other's faces.

The ending when it comes is a total pace change and might just about edge this into the Saturday show after all.

Someone deserves a huge pat on the back for polishing a turd.

Mo Fanning
14:46
Czechia

I’m not certain what’s going on with this song. I’ve listened to it many many times now, and every time I come out of it scratching my head and trying to fathom out what I just listened to. I think it’s the song that Ralph Siegel would write if he thought there was some money to be made from supporting a generic neighbouring country. An enthusiastic shambles. Should be ok.

You're going to slate me for this, but that's Children Kinder Enfants for the 2020s. Look, I don't care, I LIKED Children Kinder Enfants.

Nick Deller
14:46
CZECHIA

This still feels like a song that people are sleeping on. It was loved back in the days of the national selections, then went quiet.

It looks great on stage, all in pink and very choreographed, with great use of lighting and LED screens and great camera shots. The ending is incredibly well done, as everything is bathed in pink, and the stage gets used better.

Again, I will cross my fingers that the mix is better tomorrow night, as it exposed their voices badly today. VERY warm reception in hall.

Mo Fanning
14:43
Azerbaijan

“Try to write something that sounds British” “OK. What year is it in Britain?” “1962, I think”. Oh, I don’t care, I enjoyed 1962. Anything at all as long as it’s good, and the lads seem ready to do what they do. Most of my bookies of choice make this the rank outsider to qualify, and I think I’m going to oppose most of my bookies of choice in a specific and limited way. 

They've put the Black Mamba and Fyr og Flamme in a blender for the visuals, and it's nicely enough presented. It can qualify. I mean, ten of them have to.

Nick Deller
14:42
AZERBAIJAN

I can't help but wonder if these twins have ever eaten a full meal. They're so thin.

There's a good use of screen effects with black and white retro stripes as they do the talkie bit at the start.

They seem to have settled on the split screen as being their thing throughout. A few sweeping long shots as they stand together on a heart.

Now, keep in mind the sound mix on line is awful, but they didn't sound fabulous live. The song also didn't sound anything like as mellow and chilled on stage as it does in the studio.

Still, nice to see home-grown talent.

Mo Fanning
14:39
Sweden

So much to say and much of it will keep until the final preview. I think this is the Swedish entry that ChatGPT would create if it could just stop saying that everything you ever ask it would be an ecumenical matter. To me though, the song is a variation on Tusse’s Voices (which wasn’t totally original when it was that), the act is just Loreen being Loreen and, oh, it’s probably enough. It’s definitely enough in this bit.

I dunno. It's what it is. I had forgotten what a good voice Loreen has though when she's going for it.

Nick Deller
14:37
SWEDEN

The postcard Anti-Circe island in Ukraine, St Catherine's Island in Tenby and then Loreen at home on Enholmen Island. She's crouched on the beach with burning torches looking very mystic.

Despite the scaled-down prop, this starts out very much like in the Melodifestivalen finals on screen. The poor sound mix puts her front and centre and actually shows off what a voice Loreen has!

After the music break, she's still on the podium, but the LED screens kick in and the smoke fills the stage. Have to say the ending felt abrupt.

Still very much in the running!

Mo Fanning
14:31
BREAK

Julia and Hannah introduce some highlights from the Turquoise Carpet - the final cut is ready yet so we just got a 'VT TO COME' screen for a few minutes. It was still better than the Israeli entry.

Mo Fanning
14:30
Moldova

Hey, Moldova’s gonna Moldova and Pasha’s gonna Pasha. They know what they like, and for the most part Europe often seems to like it too. We’re not awash with folkloric joy this year and I appreciate that somebody’s remembered to bring some.

It's attractively staged, I feel like we've been here before but I can't precisely pinpoint when. That's certainly a qualifier, and might do a bit of business on Saturday in amongst the lower points.

Nick Deller
14:30
Moldova

This is exactly what the average punter expects to encounter at Eurovision. Something vaguely ethnic with strange hair and flowing robes. It's everything I hate in one three-minute package.

It's around about here where I've started to question all those people who told me the first semi-final is a 'bloodbath' as everything is so good.

Mo Fanning
14:27
Israel

Money can't buy you everything - and BOY, some dollars have been dashed on the table for this one. It's very professionally staged at the start, with Suri's cast-off staging.

This is undoubtedly sailing through, and it's good to see Israel back doing what they do best - a song that doesn't even try for subtlety. It's every Eurovision bell and whistle served up almost in alphabetical order.

My biggest problem is the song is such an absolute mess. 

There's a cringe-worthy 'Europe, do you wanna see me dance' bit right before a dance break that ushers in what sounds like yet another song.

The sum of its parts is awful, but you'll see it again on Saturday.

Mo Fanning
14:27
Israel

“Shit. The dance section. It was supposed to be a showcase for Noa as a multitalented performer and we’ve forgotten to put anything in it she can dance to. Quick, fetch the box of dance and some gaffer tape”. Was this how it went in songwriting camp? Quite possibly, the whole thing reeks of too many ideas and not enough song. I imagine Noa is going to squeeze everything she can out of it, but it’s everything everywhere all at once and that never wins anything.

I'm unsurprised by pretty much everything I just saw. She's a talent, and she's bought some IKEA shelves to put her talent on, and they really don't fit together properly. Again, she deserved a song with more heart in it.

Nick Deller
14:22
Switzerland

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Remo doesn’t want to be a soldier soldier, and I guess he has a head start in fulfilling that ambition simply by being Swiss. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s nowhere near the winning standard that Switzerland were starting to give us with Luca and Gjon. He’s brought a recorder to a tuba fight here.

Last time I was here, here was Vienna. And that's rattled a thought from my head - this is N'Oubliez Pas, but without the interesting bits. A shame for a singer to be so much better than the song.

Nick Deller
14:21
Swizerland

Remo still looks VERY young and the staging is terribly ploddy - so in that respect, it matches the song. For my eyes, there are three too many ideas thrown at the staging. It's trying for innovative but looks far too old-school for my liking.

Mo Fanning
14:18
Croatia

Gay Stalins making tractor allusions while waiting to reveal their atom bomb prop like Insaniz Biz (look it up) is not the normal fare from the Eurovision Capital of Bland. Yet somehow, under all the showbiz chaos and uncontroversial controversy… there’s still a subtle vein of blandness running through it? It’s a televoting only semifinal so it’s obviously heading for the final, in which it stands every chance of coming last with the juries and not doing much more on the phone lines.

It's I mean you know. Underpants. I thought it would tank in the final, but with Finland mopping up the bonkers vote I'm not sure that it won't tank sooner.

Nick Deller
14:18
Croatia

All in a line with lots of use of the LED screens to have people dancing in formation. Then overhead shots as the stage floods with light. With the appalling online media centre sound, this is a total mess for me, but I bet it works on screen and secures their place in the Saturday show.

They bring missiles on stage and strip to their underwear for the last part of the song with LED screens still working hard.

In-hall reception was on the lukewarm side - even with such a small audience - compared to other songs though.

Mo Fanning
14:15
Ireland

Scone-based emergency at home meant I missed it, so enjoy Nick's summary and this pic

Mo Fanning
14:14
Ireland

The (ancestral) home of Eurovision is within the range of an enthusiastic blog-heckle from where I sit write now, so clearly there’s going to be support in the arena for Wild Youth. It’s a simple song of taking the knocks and getting back up and bringing your individualism to the crowd – I can certainly imagine U2 in their ebb years deciding to save it for their next album and then forgetting to include it. Never give up, Ireland.

No. No no no no. It's one of the songs we didn't hear from Father Ted. It's like they've leaned into it but just no. There's a lot to put right here and not much time to do it.

Nick Deller
14:09
Portugal

Always back the saudade, and if there isn’t a saudade back the coração. This is yet another facet of the highly confident Portugal we’ve seen ever since Salvador Sobral, but it feels like it might be a misstep for once. Certainly plenty of entertainment and it fishes its own pond; avoiding the bottom five in this bit is certainly achievable, but if it does it might take a dive later in the week.

It's a challenge to be more Spanish than Spain this year. All the props have gone from FdC, and the hint of flamenco has become a very strong flavour. It's better than I thought it was going to be.

Nick Deller
14:09
Portugal

This is a song that grows on stage. Coming after the break, it has an extra impact but remains very much a cabaret number for me. Mimicat looks fabulous in red with her dancers on an otherwise quite dark stage.

The camera work is great with some long shots, overheads and then as she moves to the satellite stage, she's beautifully lit. She knows how to use the camera.

I still can't see it making the final cut, but it's not the total loser I first thought.

Mo Fanning
14:05
RAP

There were a few issues with in-ear microphones for Alesha, resolved when we got to hear her doing a full rap from the Green Room, then cutting to Hannah who plugged the Eurovision app. Judging by the names taped to the stand-in actor, this will be with Cheryl Baker.

Mo Fanning
14:05
Ah, rehearsals

Alesha needs several attempts to catch her cue to get her Eurovision rap started, and my initial reaction is it's absolutely terrible, I LOVE it, it MUST stay!

Nick Deller
14:00
BREAK

Alesha talking about merch (again) and the Rest of the World vote. You'll not find a friendlier city than Liverpool. Mock interviews with The Busker and Alessandra.

Mo Fanning
13:59
Latvia

A few weeks ago, I instructed Mr Phil to listen to JUST the first five seconds and the last five seconds of Aija. Try it yourself. It’s virtually impossible to guess the musical journey that gets you from A to B. It’s a ride! Having said that, this is a tough old semifinal to get out of, especially without the benefit of the jury love it would certainly get in the final if it can squeak through.

That's been an interesting three minutes at the table - we've been talking about it more than really listening to it, but it's getting some thumbs up where people weren't expecting to give it a thumbs up. 

Nick Deller
13:59
Latvia

Those Latvian lads strip off and swim in icy cold seas for their postcard.

This is much better on stage than in their dreadful video. It's very much based around a dark stage with floor lighting and overlaid pyro-style sparks.

Things get brighter to the end, but it's nothing too grabbing, and sort of ends a run of three quite damp squibs for me.

Mo Fanning
13:55
Serbia

Honestly, everything I said about Serbia last year, just re-read it. In the event that I didn’t say anything about Serbia last year – such an interesting composition, and such a novel, artistic concept. Song and staging alike give something for both Mr Olafsson at home and those pesky juries (not present today) to get their teeth into. If it fights through into a second half draw in the final, it could be an easy top 10.

Nothing very surprising compared with the national final - I love it. Will Europe?

Nick Deller
13:54
Serbia

Luke Black is dressed for fencing (the fight thing not the panel-based activity). We move from museums in Lviv to London to Belgrade in the postcard.

This remains much the performance we saw at the national final and the pictures you've seen and clips released haven't really hidden much. It's busy and arty. I just don't see it connecting with viewers.

I do so hope the sound mix we're getting through the online centre is deliberately awful so we can't really comment on vocal performances just staging.

Mo Fanning
13:50
Malta

Postcard is very bus-focussed. We also get to see the acts backstage for a second or two before their postcard runs. For The Busker we get a Lviv bus, London bus and Maltese Camper Van. 

There was a quick bit of Alesha flogging Eurovision merch, but think that was to fill for tech set up.

The group use their cut-outs of previous contestants, we see a fair bit of Destiny before they move to a bench. Then take the brightly-coloured stage for some epic sax styleee dancing. Then we're into a car. ACT 3 involves a silver sweater and a much brighter stage.

It's all jump-cut with on-screen graphics and looks WAY too busy for me. 

Mo Fanning
13:50
Malta

Contesting on a sunny island in the Med has a certain appeal today, it’s been absolutely tipping down in the North West and the team might well feel wetter in their sweaters. I arrived thinking that it’s all a bit silly and I can see why it’s been treated to the draw of doom, though the three act structure is quite imaginative and Eurovision often has room for someone on stage entertainingly blowing something. 

Really the Maltasong performance has translated onto the bigger stage pretty well, though with a possible F-bomb sneaked in there somewhere? This WOULD be an asset to the Saturday night show, so who knows?

Nick Deller
13:46
Our hosts for the night and Norway

Graham Norton looks like he's keeping his powder dry for Saturday, so it's just the three ladies tonight. 

Postcards look lovely as we move into Norway, back on its MGP trajectory, where it was also picked to open the first semifinal. Such an obvious choice to start the week here, with the UK still in coronation mode. I’ve been mildly annoyed in the lead-up to the contest that such a strong entry has a bit of a wet fish of a final five seconds, though there’s still no question that it’s one of the best things in it. Not a lot of visual effects except in the middle section, but it's a really strong opener.

Nick Deller
13:46
Norway

Plenty of camera contact and a very dark blue staging with lightsabres at first with a band of fire across the stage for that big note. 

Mo Fanning
13:43
Welcome the hosts

Julia, Alesha and Hannah are on stage - and I should perhaps note the sound is fairly dodgy through the online media centre. A quick mention for Julia who opened the show with her song and who looks to be leading most of the presenting duties at this point. C'est Hannah who gets to parle en francais. And c'est Hannah qui est un peu plus grande que les autres.

And so without any more dicking about NORWAY

The postcard moves from Liverpool to the Deichman Library in Oslo, onto a scooter and off we go ...

Mo Fanning
13:38
Liverpool welcomes Eurovision

We open with a nice little trail of ordinary Liverpool (and indeed Everton) welcoming Eurovision and welcoming Ukraine. It's Eurovision 2023, and you're welcome to it.

An opening routine unites a Liverpool boy and a Ukrainian girl to a stripped back arrangement of Together In Electric Dreams, and it's a nice start. Instantly, right from the outset, this arena in Liverpool is Ukraine for the week. A definite statement of intent.

Nick Deller
13:36
Kids kids kids

Kid from before doing some mirror thing to a John Lewis Christmas Ad version of 'Together in Electric Dreams' before the grown-ups get to take over.

Mo Fanning
13:34
Opening

There's some flashback of Ukraine winning and Mr Norton announcing Liverpool as host, then a little kid going door to door telling everyone and anyone about the big event coming to his hometown. Even a little clip of the late Paul O'Grady and Brookside Close. Ukrainian flags and bunting a-plenty as the city gets dressed for Eurovision 2023.

Mo Fanning
13:31
It's time ...

Any minute now, we'll be starting ...

Mo Fanning
13:16
While we're waiting

Some team members are being escorted through to watch from the arena. I'm going to the family show tomorrow afternoon, so I'll wait for that to be my first experience in the hall.

First impressions of the venue and the organisation are very positive - as always there's a lot of walking involved to get to where you want to be, but the staff and the security have all proved to be really friendly and helpful so far. Arrived at the arena at about noon, had picked up my badge and was sat at a desk half an hour later. After the Athens Incident I can't argue with that!

It's my first ever visit to Liverpool, surprisingly for a Brit, and so far I'm definitely feeling the welcome that it's famous for. Having said that, I AM thinking that perhaps I won't film the screens.

Nick Deller
13:07
The arena formerly known as ...

BBC branding rules apply - other banking services are available.

Mo Fanning
12:46
It's me!

Hello! Just when you thought I'd got too old for all these shenanigans (a ship which actually sailed about 15 years ago), here I am again. I'm going to be watching the first semifinal runthrough on the big screen in the press centre from 13:30 local time and seeing if there's literally anything to tell you that you don't already know, along with the usual fuddled insights, preconceptions and poor-quality Dad jokes. Excitingly, my laptop met the concourse at Manchester Oxford Road at fairly high velocity this morning, so absolutely anything could happen here.

Nick Deller

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3art
3art
11 months ago

thank you for the live blog!

Maclaren
Maclaren
11 months ago

Thank you, Nick. I love Serbia too. People either hate or love it, but I’m personally evangelical about it. It joys my heart to see something that different. Will people connect? I think a younger gen, those playing Fortnite and you name it, will do and hopefully will vote.

Maclaren
Maclaren
11 months ago

Thanks for the comments – they were delightfully hilarious and enjoyable. Can we get Nick more often, please? Mo, too, but he was moody today. I’ve got my ticket for the semi 1 live show, and your review is such a great teaser of what to come.