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Hello and welcome to the press centre for the first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest!
The show begins at 15:00 CET, also join the chat for our Live-Chat, where we can comment directly from the press centre.

18:08 We’re LIVE in the arena waiting for the rehearsal to begin, but it hasn’t started yet. We’ll keep you posted on when the fun begins!

18:16 And the feed screen has been switched on, we can see the Green Room and stage, all bathed in red. Nothing has begun yet, patience is a virtue here in Azerbaijan, I guess!

18:22 And it begins! We didn’t really see the opening credits, we saw a logo and some shots of Azerbaijan! But the three presenters are on stage, speaking English, Azerbaijani and French! They got the captions the wrong way round! Ell and Leyla told us the year they were born but Nagiz wouldn’t tell us! The Big 5 plus Azerbaijan got a quick intro saying they were already qualified for the final.

18:25 The presenters are quite funny actually, they seem to really work well together on stage and they have good chemistry! We’re now shon the postcard for the first song…which apparently is Albania, and not Montenegro. But then Rambo Amadeus comes on stage!

18:28 MONTENEGRO: Rambo Amadeus starts on stage in a sort of monk’s costume, and they have a massive cardboard donkey and some massive red banners. Rambo looks a little bit unkempt and it seems like his microphone isn’t working properly as you can barely hear him. To be honest, that’s probably a good thing. One of the dancers then gets wrapped in one of the red banners and the song ends. Thankfully. I don’t think this has a cat’s chance in hell of qualifying.

18:31 ICELAND: Greta and Jonsi are up next. There’s definitely something up with the sound as Jonsi was fiddling with his ear piece, and the sound is really low here in the Press Centre. It looks really good on stage with a mountain backdrop and it sounds fantastic. The key change brings a change in backdrop to a vibrant red and it is really effective. I think this will definitely get people’s attention after the mess of Montenegro before them. They have a good shot at qualifying, I think.

18:36 GREECE: Eleftheria get’s here turn on stage, she looks beautiful and the dancers are really good. Her voice is a tad weak though, and she probably could have done with a few more backing singers to boost the vocals. It’s all Kalomira all over again. This is Greece though so surely it will qualify? Mind you we all thought that about Turkey last year and look what happened there. Still needs some work I think…

18:39 LATVIA: Anmary is on stage in a blue dress that make her hips look a little big. The backing dancers seem to be just meandering aroiund the stage and the choreography is rather cheesy. Anmary is in fine voice especially towards the latter part of the song and even gives us a few “Hey!” shouts to get the crowd going. We definitley think that Anmary is in on the joke as she smiles and winks at the camera, and it comes across well on screen. It’s a bit of a fan favourite here and we have our fingers crossed for her, but will the rest of Europe get the joke?

18:44 ALBANIA: Blue definitely seems to be the colour at this Eurovision as Rona is next on the stage in an interesting dress with a massive black collar, and her hair is snaked around her neck. It’s all rather dramatic as Rona stands alone on that stage looking as if her heart is breaking, even close to tears at some points. She manages to hit all the notes though but this is the kind of song which you’ll either love or hate so it’s a difficult one to predict.

18:48 Now we have a short break between the songs and Nigur comes on stage to show us the voting numbers and mentioning that Albania sadly didn’t qualify for the final last year – maybe that’s a hint to vote for them this year? She mentiones the Welcoming Party the other evening and there is a short pause, presumably a VT of the party will be entered here. We then get a shot of Mandinga waving to the camera before making their way to the stage.

18:51 ROMANIA: The song starts with the stage in white with pictures of drums on the backdrop. It looks reallty effective. Elena is in a very short red dress which keeps blowing up revealing her corset and the rest of the band dance around her in a circle. The whole performance is nothing short of fun, and it’s a massive contrast to the drama from Albania before. This is sure to get loads of televotes from around Europe, but will the juries feel the same? Still, it looks like a qualifier to us from here.

18:54 SWITZERLAND: The lovely boys from Sinplus are up next and are dressed in black tops with leather trousers. The stage changes colour from red to green to yellow. They are really confident performers on stage and the performance is similar to what we’ve seen before. The female guitartst also gets a lot of close up shots too. All in all, a solid performance from the boys and they will be pleased with that.

18:59 BELGIUM: The stage starts in complete darkness for Belgium, before lighting up Iris as the song starts. She is wearing a white dress that maes her look really young, but maybe that’s what they are going for. She looks really pretty and innocent and her voice is great, and the song builds nicely towards the end as the stage comes alive, and on the final note, the spotlight turns off and Iris disappears into darkness again. I think this could be the surprise of the semi and make the final!

19:03 FINLAND: Pernilla is still wearing a green dress with a massive trail that clashes quite a bit with her vibrant hair colour. The staging for this is really simple as she just stands there and sings the song, with great vocals. It’s a lovely sweet song but it feels a little bit flat after Belgium and I think that Iris wins the battle of the ballads here. Sadly, I think Pernilla probably won’t qualify.

19:06 ISRAEL: Izabo have massive images of clocks bouncing up and down on the screens. The staging for this is a little bit crazy, Shiri, the female member of the band is the funniest one on stage, giving a thumbs up tp the camera! The vocals sound a little shrill to us though and the ending of the song could have been better. Not sure that this is accessible enough to enough people to qualify though.

19:10 SAN MARINO: Well if you thought Israel was crazy…this is something else entirely. With this kind of song though it’s the only way you could stage the song. There’s a guitarist, cheerleader, doctor and airline pilot dancing behind her, and it’s the same guys from her video. It all just looks completely off the scale of anything we’ve ever seen before, I don’t know what else to say. Her vocals were good though…

19:14 CYPRUS: Ivi is standing on a book which seems to be made of tables. Just as the song started, Eleftheria from Greece came into the Press Centre to watch Ivi’s performance. The choreography is pretty good, but the outfits onf the backing singers are awful. The dance break is really effective. Ivi’s vocals aren’t as great as they have been in the last though,but she gets better towards the end. I still think the whole performance is strong enough to qualify, and Ivi gets one of the loudest applauses of the day as the song ends!

19:18 DENMARK: Soluna is wearing the same outfit from the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. They’ve brought in a chair that the backing singer sits on and they are all really going for it apart from the cello player that looks as if he really does not want to be there. Shame as this spoils the performance a little. Soluna is strong, and takes off her hat at the end. I’d say this is a definite top 5 in the semi, and is assured of a place in the final.

19:22 RUSSIA: This starts off with the Grannies putting something in the oven and them all sitting around the stove. The oven then gets rotated behind them as they move to the front of the stage. There’s lots of colourful flashing lights and the Grannies look like they’re having fun on stage. There’s a random microphone stand on stage that I”m not sure is meant to be there. They then take the stuff out of the oven and the song ends with a close up of the oldest granny! The song is a load of shit, but the performance alone will get them tons of votes, and they’ll be in the final for sure!

19:26 We now have a quick break where Leyla walks around the Green Room and does a quick interview with San Marino, with staff pretending to be the delegation. She goes to introduce Ralph Siegel, but it then cuts straight to the postcard of Hungary!

19:28 HUNGARY: This is sounding a lot beter than previous rehearsals now. The lighting for this is amazing, with loads of colourful neon lights. Csaba Walkó’s outfit is rather dodgy though, all sparkly and glittery, but I guess it sort of works with the electroness of the song. There’s some great camera angles here and the whole thing comes across as really professional. Not sure it stands out enough though to qualify.

19:32 AUSTRIA: The girls are cavorting around on poles and it just looks cheap and nasty to me. I know the song is called Woki Mit Deim Popo but they’ve taken this too far. The glow-in-the-dark bit doesn’t work nearly as good as it did in the National Final. The vocals were fine but it just looks like a complete and utter mess and I think a lot of people will be turned off by the perfomance. It’s now become a total non-qualifier in my book.

19:35 MOLDOVA: The lovely Pasha is next – did you know the Moldovan delegation are staying at the same hotel as us? We’ve got some rather interesting dresses from the backing dancers and singers, and their choreography is really chaotic bit it kinda adds to the fun. There’s a great bit at the end where they all dance down to the catwalk where the song ends. Pasha sounded great too, and looks like a qualifier to me.

19:39 IRELAND: Now it’s the final song! Jedward are on the stage in HORRENDOUS silver and gold outfits, they’ve ditched their trademark hairstyle for a flat style with a fringe, which doesn’t look greay either. The water feature looks a bit cheap too. Their vocals are really poor too, and they’re basically carried the whole length of the song by the backing vocalists. They finish the song inside the waterful getting drenched. I think this is even WORSE than Valentina. They’re in real danger now.

19:43 All the songs have been performed! All three hosts come back on stage and annouce the rules for voting, telling us that you cannot vote for your own country as per usual, but also telling us that you cannot vote more than 20 times! I think that might be new? Now we have a reprise of all the songs in the semi…

19:54 After a quick chat with Leyla in the Green Room, where she promotes the DVD and CD, we have a long VT of Baku, before coming back to another reprise of the songs. We’re trying to predict our ten qualifiers, but it’s proving really difficult. What a tough semi! I think we’ll have to get back to you tomorrow after we’ve slept on it!

20:04 The interval act is some traditional Azeri drumming and dancing that looks really good on stage. It sort of looks like an Azeri Riverdance! It goes on for rather a long time though, how long does it take to count the votes?

20:09 And we’re back! We now get clips of the 6 finalists, shame we didn’t get the naked men in the French one! The Spanish fans go crazy for Pastora as usual!

20:12 After a short pause, Jon Ola Sand is introduced and the 10 qualifiers are announced. We get wide shots of the arena and the green room. Leyla introduces the finalists via virtual envelopes on the screen that look similar to last year’s. The fake finalists are: Iceland, Ireland, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Cyprus, Hungary, Greece amd Austria. Then Nargiz and Ell come onto stage with an actual envelope to announce the last qualifier – they’re really dragging out the tension! Latvia get the lucky last qualifying spot! It looks like the qualifying entries walk along the catwalk to the stage when they are announced as qualifiers! That should be fun and different!

20:19 And that’s a wrap, the first dress rehearsal is over! Hope you enjoyed the blog, I’ll be back to do the same on Wednesday for the second semi-final. Before that, I’ll be posting my semi-final prediction for semi one tomorrow! Stay tuned!

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