The third and final dress rehearsal for the semifinal has begun in Athen's OAKA. It represents the final opportunity for not only the participating artists, but also the presenters, technical and production crew to perfect the show ready for its live broadcast tonight.
After the opening sequence, Sakis and Maria (now in a flowing white dress) appear to deliver a much slicker introduction to the show. They have a better flow now, and the card fumbling and giggles of earlier rehearsals are gone.
Armenia to Andorra
Armenia, Bulgaria and Slovenia started off the songs with strong performances, especially by Anzej. Then came Jenny, and the question on everyone's lips: what will she be wearing this time? The dress does seem to have changed again – this time it is a longer, silky black dress with the now familiar lace throw. It is a much more flattering outfit, and hopefully the Andorran delegation will stick with it this time. Her performance was good and all the girlslook comfortable on stage, backing singers still in lacy white underwear.
Once again, the false ending for Belarus seems to have tricked the audience, who start to applaud before the final ahhhhhh! by Polina and the crew. Despite that, they turn in a rockin' performance.
Luiz still comes across as a shy guy on stage, but is vocally sound. The backing boys actually managed to move in time with each other on this occasion!
And then to Belgium: Kate has nailed it. Looking and sounding much more comfortable on stage today, it is becoming a real contender again, and earned the biggest cheer so far.
Brian Kennedy gives a professional performance as ever, and ends on a high note to warm applause. Following Belgium, it seems to calm down the pace, which could work in a positive or negative way for either country – we will find out exactly how tonight.
Sakis and Maria (now in her golden evening gown) return to the stage for the break. Again, confidence in their performance has been restored, and they give little cause for worry at this stage.
Cyprus and Monaco
Annet seems to be holding some of her voice in reserve for tonight, giving a modest performance compared to last night. Still, it came across more strongly than the following country Monaco, which today seemed to have taken a step backwards – with flat vocals almost throughout, Séverine seems back to square one and really needs to pull off something special to avoid embarrassment this evening.
Although turning in a solid performance, the stage still seems over-busy with colour and costume for Poland. This time Michael ended with a big wide grin at the camera rather than a kiss for Anna.
Russia, Turkey and Ukraine
Luck has it that three of the strongest performances come together, and Dima, Sibel and Tina do not disappoint the audience. The cheer for Turkey was again one of the biggest, and the audience have also warmed to Tina's post-song tambourine bashing. There is some debate as to whether three strong entries will share votes in some way, but as for performance, none of the three acts has to worry.
Lordi has become something of a legend in Athens, and the huge positive reaction in the hall reflects that. The audience is totally behind the monster rockers, and the crowd atmosphere undoubtedly powers the song along. It seems to be one of the few certainties for the final amongst most observers.
Netherlands, Lithuania and Portugal
All this, along with the ad break straight after it, spells trouble for the Netherlands, which simply fails to generate the same kind of crowd response. The girls are now giving faultless performances, but need something extra to make the entry stand out. The situation is compounded by the fact that Lithuania follows, and – love it or hate it – it certainly sticks out a mile. Unlike Portugal, which again gets lost amongst much more dynamic entries.Nonetheless, neither Treble nor Nonstop have any great performance issues, and give a good show.
Sweden and Estonia
What follows is another set of extremely strong performances, particularly from what have become known as the 'two Swedish songs'! Carola is as polished as ever and it looks likethere is nothing to improve in the stage presentation. However, the audience in the hall still seem split on the merits of the song, and support for Estonia is strong in comparison. Whether or not this reflects opinions of the viewers at home remains to be seen. Sandra gave an honest, clean performance, using her trademark white smile to great effect to the camera.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Hari Mata Hari is another certainty with most betting punters, after a note-perfect performance. With the late draw, this is looking more and more like the Lane moje of 2006.
Silvia's barbie-girl style stage act is ready for Europe, and Iceland's entry looks well-rehearsed and fun. With each rehearsal her whoops and squeals of delight become ever whackier, but the effect is comic rather than annoying. This time, however, the boos from the audience were even stronger, suggesting that TV viewers can expect them tonight too! Silvia Night fans in the audience made sure that there were at least as many cheers as heckles.
In quite a major departure from the first two dress rehearsals, Sakis sings another song straight after the performances finish, before Maria joins him again on stage to introduce the interval act.
And with that, the rehearsals are over for this year's semifinalists. Next stop: the live show!