Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eurovision: UK helps France while Russia struggles in practice shows.

We are now going through that interesting stage of the run-up to the competition when acts start appearing at various shows across Europe and have to perform live. Some are clearly seeing the benefit of this and putting in some impressive, solid performances while others are displaying nerves, poor arrangements or just the simple fact that they may be OK in a recording studio with plenty of time to fix mistakes or add some depth but live? Forget it.

Russia's Yulya made a big mistake with a terrible performance recently and she has not recovered since. It was probably more the fault of the backing singers than it was her and I suppose there is always a chance that she'll be all right on the night but there is even a query as to whether Russia will even qualify this year. If they were in Group 1 then I would say they definitely would not have done, without some background work to persuade the people counting the votes. As it is, they're in the very poor Group 2 and could actually get through still, despite odds of around 400-1 at the time of writing.

Spain's romantic couple haven't been able to reproduce the love, or the notes, quite as well either and their chances seem to have been slipping away although not so badly and there have been signs that they may, after all, be getting their act together again so I am not writing them off. They'll participate anyway as one of the Big Five but I don't see them winning.

Finland's Saara Aalto is doing well in the live gigs. She is a brilliant singer that I remember only too well from the X Factor not that long ago where she finished a good second here in the UK. The bookies have her only just scraping around the Top 10, though, maybe only just making the Top 15. I have a feeling she may surprise us and do better but the song still isn't good enough to win in my view.

Israel's dreadful woman and the song Toy do continue to get the crowds' support wherever she goes and, despite some dodgy singing, I expect her to do well in the public votes which, as we have seen, can make a huge difference. Expect Israel not to be first after the jury votes but to close in and even overtake some of the Top 5 with the second count.

Bulgaria were not impressive in the early days but now are putting on a good show and making more sense of the song too. They're proving popular at the gigs and are making a real effort to get as wide a circulation as they can. After coming second last year, they can see that the No. 1 place is there for the taking. They are now second in the bookies' odds across the board, having overtaken all three of the only other serious contenders at this time, Australia, Czech Republic and Estonia.

Estonia, we're told, are lacking a few grand to pay for the dress they want the opera girl to wear. You know, surely someone can cough up the necessary or just put her on in a simple dress and let her remarkable talent and a great song do the rest. She could still win, in my view, with the sort of stunning performance she can produce. Unfortunately, she has not been obvious at recent shows and that is something she needs to put right. Some familiarity with the song makes a big difference to that public vote, even if it doesn't with the juries.

I do like the effort Australia's Jessica Mauboy is putting in and she bounces on to the stage with enthusiasm and bags of confidence. Provided that she doesn't let that boil over into over-singing, she really should keep that level of popularity and turn it to her advantage. The song starts poorly, low in her register but once we've got past that then she is quite enthralling and the song is very smart for this competition. She is still my own choice to win, being one of the few we would regard as memorable in years to come. These shows are doing her a lot of good and helping her to hold on to her deserved Top 5 predicted finish.

The Czech Republic are likely to do well this year too with their Lie To Me entry which I am convinced steals the sax bits from Moldova's success last year. The performer is a totally natural guy and you just get the feeling he'll put on a good show whatever happens around him.

I mentioned some time ago that the UK entry, SuRie, was clearly the crowd's favourite on her own selection night and I reckon that remarkable affection she engenders in a live show was responsible for her national vote win too. It certainly wasn't the best song or the best performance. She is not predicted to do at all well. Indeed, as things stand, she wouldn't qualify if UK had to go through the Semi Finals like most entries do. She will be there, however, and she is also working hard at the intervening shows across Europe. The most recent, this weekend, saw her stand in for Emilie of the Madame & Monsieur pairing for France. Overnight she learnt the song and put on a really good performance which very much impressed the 3500-strong audience. Not only was she singing another county's entry really well but some parts were in French and after that she did her own song too. There can be no doubt that she is accomplished and a confident performer. I'd love to see her do well and it would be great if her efforts could be remembered and gain her a few extra votes from the juries. I really can't see the song doing well and I fear she'll be on the right hand side of the board when the voting's done but maybe near the top with a little help from our friends.

You'll get 500-1 on the UK winning but unless SuRie stands in for a few more live on the night I can't see that happening.

My own predictions remain pretty much as they were:

Australia or Greece to win, with Estonia still with an outside chance

Israel, Czech republic and Belgrade battling for a place in the Top 5.

Watch out for Moldova and Lithuania, if they get through.



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