The first rehearsals begin for the big five and the home nation Israel

Finally, we get to the last six nations who automatically qualify for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. The first of these to rehearse is Israel, where this year’s contest is being held in the city of Tel Aviv.

Will any of these countries produce the winner of this year’s contest.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – Home

Kobi is all dressed in black for this gentle anthemic song, where the biggest question is who is going to replace the five Kobi’s that do the backing vocals on the video. The answer comes with three male and two female singers. There is a new instrumental backing and the vocals at the beginning of the sing have gone.

The choir stand behind Kobi adding an elegant touch to the stage. There are no fancy lights or tricks except a showing of the video on the background wall. And this is a wall of sound, perfect singing and has to have a chance of giving Israel, their second successive win in a row.

Kobi does have a rather unusual bow tie on, but ignoring that, we also find the backing singers in black. At the end of the song Kobi walks to the satellite stage and is welcomed in the background with a golden shower. Pure and utter class.

France: Bilal – Roi

It has been such a long time since this song was chosen that it seems to have dropped to the forgotten pile. However tonight Bilal has put himself right back in to the ratings. Wearing the longest blonde hair, and a cropped white track suit, the theme of the staging is intolerance and differences, and boy does Bilal bring the message home with extreme power.

Lots of inspirational words are displayed on the screen and Bilal is joined by an obviously way over weight woman, like two Netta’s and immediately you feel bad for even thinking that thought. The lady does a ballet dance as good as any slim diva, and aroused a lot of press centre applause. The prejudice against a second lady is a little unclear, as to whether she is an immigrant or deaf. Whatever you read into the performance Bilal has in three minutes made you think about all your prejudices. This makes a huge impact on stage.

A second showing makes it more clear that the second lady is deaf and knows how to dance.

Spain: Miki – La Venda

The biggest party anthem in this year’s contest is a colourful spectacular with Miki in black, being the only one not in a colour of the rainbow. A six box structure is on the stage, each one representing one of the artists rooms. Miki is on the middle top one, with two dancers and a ladder to descend. He does, to join three more singer/dancers on the lower level. There are shades of Malta’s staging to it.

A plastic robot helps out too with the shenanigans. Miki makes the rookie mistake of having a shout out to the audience, forgetting this is a contest and not  a concert.

In the boxes are a lampshade, couch and other household furniture. As Miki sings, coloured fireworks explode on the wall behind him leaving a mass of colour. There is so much partying going on here, the six boxes start rocking. Miki runs all over the stage in a frantic manner as you would expect. Surely this is opening the final if it draws the first half. Miki was out of breath ,as were we all, by the end of it.

Italy: Mahmood – Soldi

It hurts to be alive when you lose your pride is the message tonight for Mahmood. He isn’t singing his best tonight as he has been ill so it’s hard to judge. If this was the first time seen it did not come over quite as good as France on the first rehearsal. There is a slight small musical introduction before the song begins.

Mahmood has felt the need to have three male dancers behind him, which isn’t really necessary though they don’t harm the performance. Money can’t buy you love said The Beatles and all these years later Mahmood agrees. Everyone in the press room clapped at the right moment which would indicate this will happen in the arena on final night.

A little bit underwhelming first time round but is sure to improve.

United Kingdom: Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us

This starts very grey with a lot of smoke on the screen and hard to tell if this is in black and white or too much smoke. Michael is all in black. Of course he can sing and still insists in just going one step beyond what is necessary. The song remains very dark until towards the end when a volcanic explosion of reds and purples burst on the back screen.

The backing choir comes in at the end all in white, kind of like Pastora Soler did way back in 2012 for a tenth place.  Yellow beams shine down from the sky behind each backing singer. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the song or performance but it still feels as if it’s missing something. It’s not going to be a U.K win this year. Bless!

Germany: S!sters – Sister

The final act to rehearse are the two non sisterly ladies from Germany. They start the song as far apart as the stage allows and gently sing the song while seated. The second verse sees then take a long walk down the edge of the stage until they finally meet. One sister looked like she might fall from the stage.

All the German colours of red, yellow and black are used in the simple staging. At the instrumental break the camera hovers over the audience, only to return back to the ladies, with a video wall of sisters behind them. The word Sorry is displayed – make of that what you will. A nice gentle grower of a song, this is another that will unfortunately not bother the score board this year, Very sweet though without being sickly.

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