ESCXTRA.com are live for the first ACTUAL jury rehearsal of the year, ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, taking place in Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena tomorrow evening!
Due to the decision to make the semi-finals’ voting televote-only for the first time, tonight is the first and only show this year that will be scored by juries, who will contribute 50% of the overall result. That means half of the points for Saturday’s final will be locked in tonight.
From 8pm GMT onwards, we will be updating this page with our first reactions to the Grand Final performances in tomorrow’s running order, along with the flag parade and interval performances.
The running order for tonight is as follows:
- Austria: Teya & Salena – Who The Hell Is Edgar?
- Portugal: Mimicat – Ai Coração
- Switzerland: Remo Forrer – Watergun
- Poland: Blanka – Solo
- Serbia: Luke Black – Samo Mi Se Spava
- France: La Zarra – Évidemment
- Cyprus: Andrew Lambrou – Break A Broken Heart
- Spain: Blanca Paloma – Eaea
- Sweden: Loreen – Tattoo
- Albania: Albina & Familja Kelmendi – Duje
- Italy: Marco Mengoni – Due Vite
- Estonia: Alika – Bridges
- Finland: Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha
- Czechia: Vesna – My Sister’s Crown
- Australia: Voyager – Promise
- Belgium: Gustaph – Because Of You
- Armenia: Brunette – Future Lover
- Moldova: Pasha Parfeni – Soarele şi Luna
- Ukraine: TVORCHI – Heart of Steel
- Norway: Alessandra – Queen of Kings
- Germany: Lord of the Lost – Blood & Glitter
- Lithuania: Monika Linkytė – Stay
- Israel: Noa Kirel – Unicorn
- Slovenia: Joker Out – Carpe Diem
- Croatia: Let 3 – Mama ŠČ!
- United Kingdom: Mae Muller – I Wrote A Song
Refresh the page to see updates on the dress rehearsal below!
20:00 – Opening segment: Kalush Orchestra
The Grand Final will open with a tribute to last year’s winner “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra, featuring an extended version pre-recorded in Kyiv, interspersed with guest slots from Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Joss Stone, among others. There’s also a rap verse from a British rapper, who I am convinced is indeed Bree Runway, but this is currently being debated on my table in the press centre.
Kalush then take to the stage for a reprise of “Stefania” live, where they are joined by dancers and drummers. The staging is very cool, with the band standing on two giant hand-shaped podiums, which feature Ukrainian folk motifs. They then perform a second song, “Changes.”
20:07 – Flag parade time!
The flag parade is very cool, it features a mix of popular hits in the UK, including “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics and “Song 2” by Blur, interspersed with performances from various previous Ukrainian Eurovision representatives, including:
- Go_A performing “Shum” (2021)
- Jamala performing “1944” (2016)
- Tina Karol performing “Show Me Your Love” (2006)
- Verka Serduchka performing “Dancing Lasha tumbai” (2007)
A moment of note is the main refrain of “Song 2” by Blur hitting the moment Israel’s Noa Kirel takes to the stage. Very satisfying.
20:14 – Our hosts
We have our hosts – Alesha Dixon, Julia Salina and Hannah Waddingham – plus Graham Norton, who is joining the lineup for the Grand Final. The hosts are all wearing sparkly outfits in the theme colours – Alesha a blue dress, Julia a bright yellow dress, Hannah and metallic magenta dress and Graham a sparkly black and gold blazer.
The hosts mention the return of Luxembourg for Eurovision 2024 during this segment, which was announced earlier this morning.
20:19 – Song one: Teya & Salena – Who The Hell Is Edgar? (Austria)
A somewhat controversial choice to open, Austria certainly do their job here. The crowd begins clapping and chanting along from the jump. You can tell they’ve become more confident as the week as progressed – they look and feel at their most confident.
Vocally, they give it some extra oomph. The middle section could still do with some additional vocal support, but they find their harmonies in the final third. I don’t think this will score particularly high with juries tonight, but I expect the public to get behind them tomorrow night.
Red staging count: 1
20:23 – Song two: Mimicat – Ai Coração (Portugal)
Up next, we have our second [very] red staging, and second uptempo of the night. I’m starting to see why they opted to keep the tempo high and maintain a party atmosphere. Mimicat’s semi-final performance was her best we’ve seen so far, and she is still riding that momentum tonight.
As usual, she nails the final note (the ‘jury note’, if you will). I am very much hoping for both the public and juries to get behind this enough to break out of the usual outcomes for songs performing in second. It certainly holds its own.
Red staging count: 2 (second in a row)
20:27 – Song three: Remo Forrer – Watergun (Switzerland)
Up next, we have a massive tonal shift into more of a ‘serious’ mood piece from Switzerland. The song wasn’t necessarily on my radar prior to rehearsals, but Sasha Jean-Baptise has staged this to perfection. It was touted by some as ‘jury bait’ from the start, so tonight will be a test of this. If you want to stake some money on an outside bet to win the jury vote, this could be worth looking into.
Red staging count: 3 (third in a row)
20:31 – Song four: Blanka – Solo (Poland)
The “Bejba” in the press centre was deafening. This is the first time Blanka will be unleashed onto the unsuspecting jury members across Europe and beyond, which is immensely exciting. Some may argue that this is not a jury song, but rules were made to be broken, and maybe the jury members will appreciate the camp.
Vocally she sounded very similar to how she has throughout the rehearsals. We love a consistent chanteuse! Unfortunately, the most red the staging goes is orange, which breaks our red streak.
20:34 – Song five: Luke Black – Samo Mi Se Spava (Serbia)
Another song in the ‘hm not sure what juries will make of this’ category, we have “Samo Mi Se Spava.” Historically there is a perception that juries gravitate towards vocal performances, which Luke Black doesn’t really give here.
Based on its poor performance in the audience poll on Monday, it’s fair to say that this is a performance that doesn’t really translate in the arena, but perhaps televoters tomorrow will appreciate its intensity.
Red staging count: 4
20:38 – Song six: La Zarra – Évidemment (France)
Throughout rehearsals, La Zarra has reportedly had issues with her in-ears due to the ‘altitude’ of her staging. To be honest, the start was a bit shaky, but she gets much better by the first chorus. Some of the camera work is still a bit odd, but it isn’t noticeable enough to pull you out of the performance.
I had France pegged as a potential jury winner, based on the song. While I still foresee a strong jury vote, I’m not sure if I just saw a jury winner. What I will say is that she killed the ‘jury note’ at the climax and did it the best that we’ve seen so far. If she can do the same tomorrow night, I think top 10 is still a posibility.
20:45 – Song seven: Andrew Lambrou – Break A Broken Heart (Cyprus)
After a brief recap of the semi-finals, we get Andrew Lambrou. I had this pegged as a shock ‘hit’ with the juries based on how Swedenified “Break A Broken Heart” is and how polished the performance is.
Tonight was not Andrew’s best vocal, and was late and shaky at points. It wasn’t a disaster, but felt like a massive downgrade from his semi-final performance, which was the best we’ve seen.
20:49 – Song eight: Blanca Paloma – Eaea (Spain)
Notably, they had to cut to Alesha in the green room after Blanca’s postcard due to the complexity of the staging set up. Hopefully we won’t see this during tomorrow’s show, especially knowing that Sweden is about to come after.
This was one of the performances to watch tonight due to the expectation of a strong showing with juries, and Blanca delivered once again. Some of the weird camerawork has been fixed, and it felt like a ‘moment’. The press centre erupted in applause during the performance, because it really was very stunning.
Red staging count: 5
20:56 – Song nine: Loreen – Tattoo (Sweden)
Before Sweden we get an actual scheduled break, which features a segment recapping Junior Eurovision 2022. A few years ago, we used to get interviews and performances from reigning Junior Eurovision winners. However, this has now been stripped to a mere video call from Lissandro.
As the current favourite to win, the expectations were VERY high tonight. After nailing the dress rehearsal earlier tonight, this was possibly her weakest run we’ve seen all week. I’m genuinely curious as to whether her in-ear was working, and I won’t be surprised if she had in-ear issues. At this point I am hoping she is backstage speaking to the technicians.
21:00 – Song 10: Albina & Familja Kelmendi – Duje (Albania)
BREAKING: I’ve spotted a hair change for Sidorela for tonight’s show, she appears to have visited the Moroccan Oil pop-up, because she is giving volume tonight.
Vocally, Albina is clearly aware of the assignment, because she was absolutely on point tonight. Even the rest of the Kelmendi family dialled it up for this evening. I’m hoping that the juries will engage with this.
Red staging count: 6
21:05 – Song 11: Marco Mengoni – Due Vite (Italy)
After nailing his rehearsal earlier today, Marco seems to be gaining some momentum. The song has hardly set the fandom alight, perhaps due to ‘Italy fatigue’, but you cannot deny Marco’s performance chops.
Notably, this and Azerbaijan were the only songs where the stage manager asked audience members to hold up their phone torches. Considering TuralTuranX are not present in the final, that gives it some extra visual impact.
He looks and sounds at ease on the stage, and next to Estonia, this wins the ballad-off. He gives it some extra oomph, just for the juries. Just because it’s ‘typical Italy’ does not mean jurors won’t eat it up, especially being one of very few ballads comparative to 2022.
21:09 – Song 12: Alika – Bridges (Estonia)
In one of the most ‘WTF were they thinking’ moments, alongside Blanca Paloma -> Loreen, we have Estonia immediately after Italy. Alika is very slick and polished as a performer, despite being only 20.
I did not have this as a qualifier due to the televote-only system, but she clearly proved me wrong. Considering it’s polish and Alika’s vocal talent, I am expecting this to receive some jury love.
21:15 – Song 13: Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha (Finland)
Closing the first half of the show, we have the odds’ second favourite to win, Käärijä from Finland. After holding back in most of the dress rehearsal, Käärijä has given it a bit more power. His dress rehearsal earlier today was one of his weaker ones, according to those on my table, but this was not an issue for tonight’s jury show.
He looks confident and engaged, and meets all of his cues. Most importantly, he holds back a lot less in the last third of the song. I still suspect he was giving about 80-85% tonight, and will be giving 110% tomorrow night, because he is likely aware that the televote is his path to potential victory.
Red staging count: 6
21:19 – Song 14: Vesna – My Sister’s Crown (Czechia)
One of my favourite stagings this year, I am very glad to see Czechia in the Grand Final. Unfortunately, they’ve landed in possibly the most unfortunate running order positions possible, between two of the loudest songs in the entire lineup.
My concerns are mostly from a televote perspective, but I worry that “My Sister’s Crown” is not quiet or intimate enough to truly contrast with Finland and Australia. Vocally they were harmonising and connecting, which is all they can do. As such a layered and poignant song with a universal message, I would hope the juries will respond to this.
21:24 – Song 15: Voyager – Promise (Australia)
This was one of the major crowd-pleasers at the preview show and semi-final, so I am anticipating this to carry more favour with televoters tomorrow than jurors tonight.
That said, the opening shot of Danny in the car is one of the most impressive staging moments of the entire contests, and jurors should realistically take note of that. However, being a stadium synth rock song, I’m not anticipating a huge jury score.
21:29 – Song 16: Gustaph – Because Of You (Belgium)
Another one of the biggest crowd pleasers from the semi-final, we have style king Gustaph. I would go as far as to call him one of the most consistent performers of the entire year, and he delivered yet another excellent vocal tonight, aside from one note towards the end.
As a professional backing singer, I would hope to see jurors respect how strong a performer Gustaph is. Whether the house genre and queer aesthetic will impact its jury appeal, we will find out tomorrow.
21:35 – Song 17: Brunette – Future Lover (Armenia)
After a short break where Julia and Alesha chat to Graham from his booth, we get Hannah from the greenroom, featuring Mel Thee Giedroyc dressed as one of Cleo’s Slavic Girls in the background.
Based on the massive reaction to Brunette’s staging and Eurovision edit (with the dance break), this is one of the entries with some increasing momentum. Having become the first song to qualify from 2nd in a semi-final with the televote since 2016, this clearly has some impact with viewers.
Visually this is one of the best stagings we have, especially in the camera feed. I’m also proud to announce that they have dialled the smoke down enough so we can actually see the dance break in full.
Based on the impressiveness of the visuals and her crystal clear vocals, I am hoping to see this as a potential jury top ten tomorrow night.
21:41 – Song 18: Pasha Parfeni – Soarele şi Luna (Moldova)
After some respite from red, we get Moldova. Pasha Parfeni is a total professional, but I doubt whether “Soarele şi Luna” will be appealing to jurors. Vocally it’s not a powerhouse performance, and doesn’t offer much capacity to show off.
My big question is the extent to which Moldova can count on a huge support from the televote, as with 2017, 2018 and 2022. As for tonight, it is not on my radar.
Red staging count: 7
21:45 – Song 19: TVORCHI – Heart of Steel (Ukraine)
Here we have one of the other favourites to win. Ukraine are carrying the expectation of getting yet another huge televote, but in the meantime, it’s the juries’ turn.
Vocally Jimoh has been very consistent, but I’m not sure if the mid-tempo nature and ease of the song will give it favour with juries. That said, the staging is one of the most slick and professional in the entire second half, so its chances are not dead by any means.
21:50 – Song 20: Alessandra – Queen of Kings (Norway)
Another one of the favourites, Alessandra has had a bit of a rocky run vocally during the rehearsals. Thankfully, she peaked at the right time and gave her best performance so far during the semi-finals.
Tonight, unfortunately, was not her best. She was pitchy at the start, and she didn’t quite nail the whistle note. Her lower register remains strong and the chorus carried plenty of oomph.
Due to the vocal issues, I’m not expecting this to do particularly well with the juries this evening. However, this is also one of the most-streamed songs of the entire contest, and so she may well collect televotes based on this.
21:55 – Song 21: Lord of the Lost – Blood & Glitter (Germany)
Bringing our red staging count to a whopping 8/21, we now have Germany. As an automatic qualifier, it carries the disadvantage of being less familiar to viewers who tuned into the semi-finals.
Further, it’s not of a genre that juries tend to respect, so it joins the very crowded ‘televote bait’ category. Due to their comparatively large fan base, I might be underestimating this.
Red staging count: 8
21:59 – Song 22: Monika Linkytė – Stay (Lithuania)
From potential ‘televote bait’, we move to potential ‘jury bait’ from Lithuania. One of the stronger vocalists of this year, plus her delightfully intimate staging and late running order, I think this is positioned to surprised.
At this stage, I can see this either getting a huge jury push, or falling completely flat. Currently I’m leaning towards the former.
22:03 – Song 23: Noa Kirel – Unicorn (Israel)
Another heavy hitter, we have Noa Kirel in arguably the best running order she could have hoped for. She stands out completely between Lithuania and Slovenia.
Vocally she continues to sound lower than the vocal in the studio version, but it doesn’t detract from the performance being a mostly visual one. She looks great and delivers the choreography, albeit not as well as she did on Tuesday.
I’m anticipating this to perform better with televoters than with jurors.
22:08 – Song 24: Joker Out – Carpe Diem (Slovenia)
Another burst of energy to keep up the party atmosphere, the boys were on top form this evening. I’m not really sure where the points will come from for this, but I can possibly see it collecting 2s, 3s and 4s during voting.
This performance is all about Bojan and co. connecting with the camera, which they do. My question is whether they can get a clear advantage over the other bands in the running order.
22:13 – Song 25: Let 3 – Mama ŠČ! (Croatia)
It feels redundant blogging about “Mama ŠČ!” during a jury show, knowing full well that all of Let 3’s points will likely come from the televote. I’m not sure if there’s anything in this performance that would appeal to juries tuning into this broadcast.
In this running order, a Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers outcome for Let 3 isn’t out of the question.
22:18 – Song 26: Mae Muller – I Wrote A Song (United Kingdom)
Despite my initial reservations about the running order, it glides by quite nicely. Thankfully, the questionable clustering is only in the first half, and flows nicely from the second half onwards.
Mae’s performance is one of the better ones we’ve seen from her. She looks as if the crowd response has given her a boost. As one of the few acts with live backing vocalists, it is audibly a lot more…full than in rehearsals. At times it feels like the backing vocalist is louder than Mae, which I don’t see landing well with juries.
I enjoy this as a closer, but compared to the more polished performances, I fear for bottom 5 for this.
22:25 – Interval act: Sam Ryder
Our first interval act for the voting is reigning runner-up Sam Ryder, the reason why we are here in the UK and not Spain or Sweden.
It’s very touching and epic, as expected, and features Queen’s Roger Taylor on drums.
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