8 May 2018
The biggest impression of the first official show of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2018 was the generally unimpressive feel of the stage itself. Without giant LED screens of recent years, the visual activity they provided had to be provided by the acts themselves, and few managed to succeed, at least from the vantage point sitting in the arena itself. On TV, it might be a bit better. Same with the stage design and the vertical bars at the back. It’s all a bit odd, that’s all. It might all work out by the end.
Sadly the arena was quite sparse in crowds, so that didn’t help the ambiance either. Compared to the last two contests, Kyiv was similar to Lisbon for the jury final and had much better crowds at the final rehearsal show, called the family show, on the afternoon of the actual broadcast semi final. Stockholm was the reverse, with good jury show crowds and poor family show crowds. Let’s hope Lisbon is more Kyiv than Stockholm as the family show would be a really poor atmosphere.
The simpler songs did well, with Lithuania and Estonia providing the only goosebumps on the night. Ireland was the biggest surprise of the night – being a song I never liked much to now a certain finalist. Greece was good too. Of the energetic songs, Czechia, Israel, Finland and Switzerland did best. Of the 3 grand finalists that performed, Spain was another goosebumps moment, while Portugal was good too. Again, both are simpler songs and closed the stage down well with subtle lighting.
United Kingdom was the other grand finalist, and they were ok. Azerbaijan kicked off the show and they were as accomplished as you expect, and Aisel dazzling in her outfit. A bit of a mega babe. Albania had super vocals; unfortunately the song doesn’t quite cut it. Belarus didn’t bring the light suit from the national final, and the alternative routine was decent enough. Bulgaria wasn’t as good as expected, while Croatia, Austria and Armenia were all serviceable. Cyprus finished with a bang, much to the delight of the crowd, and have jumped in the odds to be near or equal favourite with Israel. I’d ignore this as punters are looking for value now, and with Cyprus performing last and inspiring confidence of making the ground final (to me it’s still problematic), and with few uptempo songs this year, and with SF2 still to be seen, the betting plunge is more about strategy.
More like WTF Macedonia as it was a complete mess. It started with a dreadful outfit, and ended with an even worse one! Then the presentation itself, it was a trainwreck. A sad demise for such a great song! Iceland brought a similarly poor outfit to sink any hopes for this old fashioned song, while Belgium was the final disappointment. Another shocking outfit, and then just bizarre movement around the stage. Vocals were great, and the song is good, so hoping it’s enough for a grand final spot. Belgium seemed to epitomise the difficulty of adding activity that the big LED screens used to provide, believing walking about might help. It actually worked really well for Switzerland because Corinne manage to capture the audience with her soaring vocals and a thumping song. For something like A Matter Of Time, it needed something more simpler, and evocative.
Feelings from this jury show is Israel and Ireland are certain qualifiers, while you can write off WTF Macedonia and Iceland. In this ridiculously hot semi final, any of the remaining 15 have the credentials to qualify. For the sake of the exercise, I’ll add Azerbaijan, Czechia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Cyprus as seven more, with Greece, Finland and Belgium fighting for the last spot. From a personal perspective, Estonia and Switzerland are my non-negotiables. If Spain can’t get a good result this year, they never will. Portugal might be around 15th at the end, with UK a bit lower.