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LIVE: Eurovision 2023: Semi-Final One first dress rehearsal

We'll be reacting to the first dress rehearsal of semi-final one of Eurovision 2023!

ESCXTRA.com are live for day one of dress rehearsals ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, taking place in Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena this week!

Today, the 2023 press centre opened its doors for the very first time, and accredited members of the media will see a full run-through of semi-final one from start to finish.

From 13:00 GMT onwards, we will be updating this page with our first reactions to the FULL performances of the following entries:

  1. Norway: Alessandra – Queen of Kings
  2. Malta: The Busker – Dance (Our Own Party)
  3. Serbia: Luke Black – Samo mi se spava
  4. Latvia: Sudden Lights – Aijā
  5. Portugal: Mimicat – Ai Coração
  6. Ireland: Wild Youth – We Are One
  7. Croatia: Let3 – Mama ŠČ!
  8. Switzerland: Remo Forrer – Watergun
  9. Israel: Noa Kirel – Unicorn
  10. Moldova: Pasha Parfeni – Soarele și Luna
  11. Sweden: Loreen – Tattoo
  12. Azerbaijan: TuralTuranX – Tell Me More
  13. Czechia: Vesna – My Sister’s Crown
  14. Netherlands: Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper – Burning Daylight
  15. Finland: Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha

In addition, the following automatic qualifiers will be rehearsing due to these being the countries voting in this semi-final:

  • France: La Zarra – “Évidemment”
  • Germany: Lord of the Lost – “Blood & Glitter”
  • Italy: Marco Mengoni – “Due vite”

Refresh the page to see updates on the dress rehearsal below! (All times are in GMT, not CET)

13:20 – We are LIVE!

Lisa and Costa are currently in the press centre with our eyes glued to the screens, waiting for the dress rehearsal to start. Over the past couple of hours, we have been treated to some sneak peaks at the graphics, clip packages and even Albania’s postcard.

If you want to see more about the press centre, check out our TikTok here.

13:30 – The show begins

As expected, the semi-final will open with a touching opening segment featuring clips of last year’s contest and an adorable short film showcasing the journey of Eurovision coming to the host city – Liverpool.

The whole thing is very ‘BBC’ (affectionate).

13:35 – From screen to stage

After the very sweet opening segment, the same actors take to the stage for a short dance performances, before we get a performance of Julia Sanina’s opening with The Hardkiss.

This is looking like an epic start to the show.

13:38 – THE HOSTS!!!

Straight after the opening, we are introduced to hosts Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina (featuring a voiceover from Mel C from The Spice Girls(?)).

I’m already loving this lineup already – they are bright, energetic and have great chemistry.

13:41 – Song 1: Alessandra – Queen of Kings (Norway)

Alessandra’s postcard takes us to the Deichman Library in Oslo, where she rides an e-scooter (with a helmet, thankfully).

She opens with purple flood lights – very dark and dramatic. There’s great use of wind to blow her cape (which later comes off) before the dancers emerge for the first chorus.

The choreography is very similar to the Melodi Grand Prix performance – slick and dynamic. Like at MGP, the light sticks come out during the second chorus.

We then see the preview clip section – the bridge where the LED floor goes from blue to orange, before Alessandra walks to the satellite stage for the final chorus.

Overall, it’s a great opener, and I’m expecting show-ready Alessandra + a full audience to give it the boost it needs.

13:46 – Song 2: The Busker – Dance (Our Own Party) (Malta)

The Busker’s postcard features buses from London, Kyiv and Malta. Due to the amount of props, it took them some time before the performance started, which we’ll keep an eye on for later.

The performance itself is looking very nice indeed – full of colour and joy. They move between several scenes – a party ‘set’, a car and then finish off facing away from the audience with the floor bursting with colour.

Honestly, I think they’ve done everything they could to reach for qualification

13:51 – Song 3: Luke Black – Samo mi se spava (Serbia)

Luke Black is a MASSIVE tonal shift from The Busker. He starts off by lying in a GIANT pod/shell, which requires three steps to access.

The LED is of a matrix-style dystopian flower. There is some very nice choreography after the first chorus, but the first half otherwise feels a bit static.

Once the last minute kicks off and Luke starts pulling out the pipes from the dancer’s backs, the floor floods to red and the performance gets much more dynamic.

Overall, this is very nicely done – but I would have liked a few less panning around shots and some tighter camera angles.

13:55 – Song 4: Sudden Lights – Aijā (Latvia)

Sudden Lights’ postcard features them taking a VERY unappealing dip in the sea. At least they have a nice little campfire moment afterwards.

The performance has some lovely amber hues – very reminiscent of Baltic Amber. The main staging concept is, indeed, lights. The M&S Bank Arena swells with oscillating lights from both their prop lights and the lights coating the stage.

The camerawork is also very nice, especially during the last thirty seconds when Andrejs switches to Latvian, and the shots fade in and out to each band member as amber light saturates the screen. I got chills.

13:59 – Break segment

Seemingly, we will be getting a break between Latvia and Portugal in the actual semi-final. Alesha will add lead a segment with some fans in the green room. There, Alesha does a fun little rap about Alesha coming to the UK – Mis-Teeq fans will be eating!*

*if they can get the sound right and Alesha will be able to hear the beat, that is. It took about 4 attempts, but that’s what rehearsals are here for, folks!

Afterwards, it appears that Hannah will be leading a short gag with Cheryl Baker from Bucks Fizz, who won Eurovision for the UK back in 1981 with “Making Your Mind Up”.

14:04 – Song 5: Mimicat – Ai Coração (Portugal)

For Mimicat’s postcards, we’re off on a shopping spree! It’s a great lead in to one of my favourite stylings of the entire contest – Mimicat’s red feature dress.

To be honest, I was initially quite worried about this one based on the images and clios, but seeing it properly in motion, I like it a lot more. The choreography is very slick, and the camerawork frames the performance well.

My only remaining concern is that the LEDs are under-utilised, so during the wide shots the stage looks quite bare when Mimicat and her dancers aren’t filling the frames.

Mimicat and her dancers then finish the performance on the satellite stage, which is appearing to be a theme across this semi.

14:10 – Song 6: Wild Youth – We Are Young (Ireland)

The theme of Wild Youth’s postcard is ‘hills’, essentially. Very appropriate.

The start of this performance is somewhat unexpected based on their rehearsal clips – in additional to the gold of their outfits, we see blue and pink dots on the LED floor.

The performance doesn’t really get going until the second chorus, which is where the stage explodes in gold pyro, which sadly disappears before the end of the song.

14:14 – Song 7: Let 3 Mama ŠČ! (Croatia)

Let 3’s postcard takes us to the beautiful Port of Rijeka, and is every bit and goofy as our favourite Croatian gender-bending uncles will have you expect.

The LEDs budget was through the roof this year, clearly, because there is a LOT to see. This is wild, even if you’re used to their Dora performance.

14:18 – Song 8: Remo Forrer Watergun (Switzerland)

Remo’s postcard features some watersports (longboarding maybe?).

The staging is classic Sacha Jean-Baptiste group – dramatic, compelling, detailed and thoughtful. They’ve considered every possibility that the stage had to offer – even creating a smoke rising effect from the lighting structure and small flair-like pyros that burst, essentially turning the stage into a battlefield. The choreography is also very slick.

I can see this doing VERY well with jurors indeed.

14:22 – Song 9: Noa Kirel Unicorn (Israel)

I had very high expectations, which were partially met. The start is great and the ending is GREAT. For me, there is very little happening in the middle from a cinematic perspective – the stage lights are up, the back wall has lights instead of any graphics, and you can see marks on the floor because the don’t have any graphics there either.

The start sees Noa in a light up box, which creates a cool immersive effect. It’s also worth saying that Noa sounds excellent, especially considering she doesn’t have live backing vocalists. She gives the song extra texture with the live vocal compared to the studio version.

As I said earlier, this is all about the last minute, once the solo dance break happens, the stage lights dim and red LEDs take over the floor. Then when the dancers join there is a massive, explosive finish, before an actual explosion of pyro to close.

I’m expecting to the audience to help make the middle section feel a bit less empty.

14:26 – Song 10: Pasha Parfeni – Soarele și Luna (Moldova)

There is very little to add if you have already seen the rehearsal images and the clip on the official YouTube channel. The stage is dark with red, blue and gold lighting. It is also flooded with smoke, which adds to the mystique.

Pasha also makes use of the satellite stage, before being joined by his dancers before the climax of the song.

14:30 – Break

We’re expecting the VT to be featuring Timur, but it hasn’t been filmed yet.

14:33 – Song 11: Loreen – Tattoo (Sweden)

Here we have one of the big favourites, so expect takes from members of the press to be extra critical. I will try my best to be fair and objective.

Those who are used to the Melodifestivalen staging will absolutely struggle to adjust to this, because the box is very distracting; you can see the black poles holding the upper section up in pretty much every frame, as is the…um…frame of the box.

The good news? That will be irrelevant to 90% of viewers and probably jurors too. They’ve seemingly added more smoke to the performance since the initial rehearsals, and the latter section of the performance looks very good on camera indeed.

This is absolutely still a contender, even if the prop takes a while to set up…meaning we’re likely to get a break either side.

14:38 – Song 12: TuralTuranX – Tell Me More (Azerbaijan)

From one box to another, Tural and Turan perform their entire performance on a [broken] heart-shaped box. The intro begins with the boys featured in a black and white ‘strips’, before we get a series of wideshots throughout the performance.

This is probably the most striped back staging we’ve ever seen from Azerbaijan – there is barely smoke, no pyro or crazy effects. It’s very charming indeed.

14:42 – Song 13: Vesna – My Sister’s Crown (Czechia)

This is EXCELLENT. The colours are very minimal – pale pink and white, but the stage never feels empty. All six members are dressed in matching pale pink overalls with long braided hair, which becomes part of the staging at several points.

The LEDs are used to imitate graph paper, with LEDs occasionally featuring hands reaching and banging on the screens. During the rap break, the colours switch to black and we get some very impactful choreography.

During the second chorus, the band members march in a line to the satellite stage, before forming a circle for the bridge (think Tulia from Eurovision 2019). Then, the bridge is sang with a light swirling around them, before the colours cut from black to bright pink before the climax.

This is one of the most interesting and impactful stagings of the year by far, and is better than I could have imagined. My one wish would be for there to be an 8-person limit on stage so we could get the harmonies to sound more full.

14:46 – Song 14: Mia & Dion – Burning Daylight (Netherlands)

There are no real surprises to be seen if you’ve seen their rehearsal images and clips – it’s a very simple performance. The stage floor is covered in smoke, and Mia and Dion spend the entire performance on a rotating podium.

The LED features a beautiful, almost iridescent flashing light, which adds to the whimsical nature of the song. As expected, the version performed is the new version as seen last month on Dutch television, which I think works well.

I’m still very 50/50 on its changes, but it could be quite a lovely moment once the audience is there.

14:51 – Song 15: Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha (Finland)

I will say that Finland has the best postcard so far, by far. Käärijä’s section is filmed at the SkyWheel in Helsinki, but one of the pods is transformed into a sauna, where he brandishes a rubber duck, before waving goodbye from a roof garden hot tub.

The performance is exactly what it needs to be, the LEDs behind him are a giant shadow mimicking his movements, but with a nightmarish snake tongue. As we saw in the rehearsal clip last week, the dancers emerge after Käärijä scales the giant box prop and lets the side open up.

The middle section features the same choreography from UMK, human centipede included, on the satellite stage and then the final section goes back to the main stage as the LEDs explode with rainbow colours, concluding with fireworks bursting from each side of the giant box.

Vocally, Käärijä was definitely holding back, but I am expecting him to give at least 90% at tonight’s evening preview show.

15:00 – Voting begins

After the recap, we’re due to get a clip package featuring a selection of past Eurovision performances, but we don’t know which ones yet.

Then, we get our first interval performance, which is a beautiful cover of Ordinary World by Duran Duran by Alyosha and Rebecca Ferguson. It was absolutely beautiful, and closes with an amazing shot of the Ukrainian flag shining out of Alyosha’s chest.

In a tonal shift, we then get Rita Ora’s medley, which features a balladified version of her hit singles “Anywhere” and “I Will Never You Down”, before a live premiere of her new single “Praise You” – it’s all giving X Factor guest performance, in the best way.

Then, we get yet another clip package of past Eurovision performances, this time specific to Ukraine’s history at the contest compared to the UK’s, which is commentated by Graham Norton.

15:15 – Voting closes

Once voting closes, we get a segment with Alesha and Hannah interviewing Dustin The Turkey (!), before a segment where previous hosts Filomena Cautela (2018) and Måns Zelmerlöw (2015) playing a game of ‘Q or NQ’ with some previous entries, which is a great idea for a game.

After that, we’re due to get green room interviews with Noa Kirel, Käärijä and The Busker, where they show us how to do their dance moves.

15:35 – Automatic qualifier 1: La Zarra – Évidemment (France)

Before the fake results, we’re getting to see dress rehearsals of the three automatic qualifiers who will be voting in this semi-final, starting with France.

The camerawork is pretty much immaculate here – the perfect balance of wide shots to capture the details of the staging and the various ‘moments’ throughout the performance and tight shots of La Zarra’s face.

The performance is giving everything a Francophile watching the Grand Final will want – it is VERY French but in a way that doesn’t feel tacky. Even the giant disco stick she’s mounted on doesn’t feel overblown.

The real ‘wow’ moment comes when a pyro curtain cascades from the ceiling as the colours of the French flag shine behind her silhouette – very epic indeed.

15:45 – Automatic qualifier 2: Lord of The Lost – Blood & Glitter (Germany)

Our second ‘bonus’ performance comes from Germany, who are also voting in this semi-final.

The hilarity of this ‘dress rehearsal’ performance is that Lord of The Lost were absolutely not in their stage outfits, which kinda pulled us out of it.

The staging concept is fairly simple; the members of the band are standing on a giant triangle-shaped scaffolding, with Chris Harms standing in the middle, with a red LED filling the middle of the stage.

What is most notable about this performance is the generous use of fire, which is shooting up for pretty much the whole performance, along with a generous dollop of smoke.

15:55 – Automatic qualifier 3: Marco Mengoni – “Due vite” (Italy)

Our third and final bonus performance, we now have Italy’s Marco Mengoni doing his dress rehearsal. The colours of the staging are almost entirely black and white. Marco performs entirely on the satellite stage, with a black and white moon on the LED behind him. In front of the screen is a podium which will feature two dancers, whose silhouettes feature very discreetly during the performance.

Fans of Marco’s Sanremo performance will be pleased with this, it’s very tasteful and refined, and Marco’s vocals are immaculate as usual.

16:15 – Results reveal

As we feared, there is indeed a new format for revealing the results. Surprisingly, rather than stand-ins, all 15 of the actual artists actually rehearsed the reveal sequence. All acts stand on the stage across three levels of the steps.

Hannah and Alesha will then reveal the first five qualifiers in no particular order. After each announcement, the cameras cut to each artist and then their delegations in the green room.

The first five FAKE qualifiers are:

  • Sweden
  • Moldova
  • Switzerland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Norway

After the first five are announced, the qualifiers head backstage to be interviewed by Alesha to get their first reactions.

After that, we cut straight back to the remaining 10 acts, before the final five qualifiers are announced. Be warmed, there will be plenty of the shots of the acts looking nervous. Because it was only a rehearsal, they were having fun and being goofy. Before the tenth and final qualifier is announced, we see a shot of the six remaining acts side by side on screen in a grid.

The next five FAKE qualifiers were:

  • Finland
  • Latvia
  • Israel
  • Serbia
  • The Netherlands

They are then interviewed by Alesha before the final recap and conclusion of the show.

That’s all from us for now! We will be back with a live blog for semi-final two’s dress rehearsal on Wednesday at 13:00 GMT.

Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter@escxtra on Instagram@escxtra on TikTok and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite Eurovision acts, as well as YouTube to see interviews from the Eurovision Song Contest 2023!

Costa Christou

Ever since I saw Helena Paparizou's triumph at Eurovision in 2005 (at the tender age of 6), I have been crazy about Eurovision. From the regional native language bops and shrieky female-led balladry to the sophisticated avant garde pop songs and chart-friendly EDM, I love everything about this cultural phenomenon. I'm currently working as a Delivery Manager in a software development team.

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