Well, yesterday’s first semifinal shook things up, didn’t it? Three tiny things that seem to have had a major impact last night on everyone’s view of what might happen Saturday in the Finals. One, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani had a long clip from his upcoming final performance shown during the voting interval and he suddenly didn’t seem like a runaway winner anymore. The song seems a bit slight and superficial, and his performance a bit tossed off and casual.
Second, after a week when nobody saw Portugal’s Salvador Sobral rehears due to his ongoing health issues, finally he took to the stage last night and blew everyone else out of the water. Sure he’s quirky and weird, but endearing, mesmerising and fully committed to his performance. I’ve heard from friends in Europe who say that they usually hate Eurovision but were completely caught up in the three minutes that Sobral took the stage. Portugal’s chance to win this took a HUGE step forward yesterday.
Third, the running order draw for the finals is taking shape with the qualifying entries drawing lots for the first or second half of the show. Sweden, Greece and Belgium are to be in the coveted second half of the running order. Heavyweight contenders Italy, Portugal and Armenia are all crowded into the first half. This shakes up expectations a bit.
Now let’s talk about Belgium. “City Lights” is undoubtedly a potential worldwide hit and a very current and well-crafted downbeat pop song. But Blanche is definitely a carcrash when it comes to performing before an audience. Her unsteady vocals and deer-in-the-headlights onstage demeanor had most of us thinking she didn’t qualify into the top ten. But in their usual reality show trickery, the producers had her announced tenth, knowing the surprise and shock in the arena and home viewing audience when her entry was called out over such more impressive entries as Finland, Georgia and Iceland, even Slovenia. Here is a bit of her wobbly rehearsal performance (youtube is blocking US viewers from seeing Eurovision 2017 broadcast show streams and clips due to LOGO’s ownership of rights for the US).
Today, Belgium and “City Lights” are the top charting ESC song on Itunes in most countries, with Portugal second. Maybe viewers like the song so much they will overlook a bad performance Saturday? I suspect that juries will fear rewarding a lackluster and inept stage performer and mark down her scores at the Friday Jury Final as a pre-emptive strike against her potentially winning.