This afternoon in the OAKA, the first dress dress rehearsal for the final is about to take place. This will be the first opportunity to see how the final show will look, the opening sequence, the presenters introductions, the breaks and the interval acts…and the songs off course! Will there be any changes from the previous rehearsals, in terms of costumes, and overall look. Will any of last night's qualifiers changed anything? We will find out some of these answers this afternoon.
13:00 CET: The first dress rehearsal is about to start.
Throughout the afternoon, we will be updating you with the progress of this afternoon's rehearsal. The first problem for those in the press centre was that there was no feed received at the start, then eventually a few screens had picture but no sound. From what we couldsee Helena Paparizou from last year opens the show. The two presenters fly onto the stage from the wings. Then followed their introductions to the programme.
13.11 CET Switzerland This had to be watched in silence in the press centre. But ironically just as the souund problems were being sorted out in the press centre, there was a technical fault with the sound in the hall, and the Swiss had to stop mid way through the song. Sakis tried to entertain the audience, while the problems were being sorted out. Unfortunately he referred to the artists as being from Sweden!
13.18 CET Switzerland Restarts their rehearsal. This time without any faults, and looks impressive. The artists wear different styled outfits, with lots of blacks and white amongst them.
13:22 CET Moldova With being draw in the ill fated number two slot, few seem to be giving this song any chances of victory tomorrow night. There is triangular sail centre stage with the word Loca on it. This screen is used for performer Natalia Gordienko to do some quick changes behind, one of the few singers to actually add clothes on during the song. From having a green bikini top and briefs at the start of the song, she gets herself covered up by the end. Arsenium is wearing a black blazer, with white T Shirt. Unusually this song has a fade ending to it.
13:26 CET Israel Eddie Butler starts the song from sitting on top of the white piano. He and his backing singers all give strong vocal performances.This song continues to improve with each performance, and was the first song to receive any sort of reaction in the generally quiet press area. On a small technical note, the steady cam operators were noted to pass in front of the camera. However this is what rehearsals are for to sort out these problems.
13:30 CET Latvia This is the most difficult song to cue in on the night, as there is no instrumental backing, and there seemed to be a few minor sound problems at the start. Vocally the group are impressive, although many seem to dislike the opening part, and like it more once it gets into the main body of the song. The gimmick of the doll is still amusing though, and they even hold a microphone to the doll at the end!
13:34 CET Norway Christine and her backing singers are consistently strong throughout the rehearsals, and the performance is a textbook one. Christine looks serene on stage – faultless.
13:37 CET Spain Las Ketchup's performance is coming across as a bit half-baked, and they do not seem to be putting their all into it yet. They may be saving their best for the live final, but at the moment there seems to be a lack of focus. The dancers hamper this further by taking attention away from the main act, and the effect is a confusing performance.
13:40 CETMalta His vocal lacks power at the moment, although he may be keeping some in reserve for when it counts. On screen, his choice of costume seems to age him – in a brown waistcoat with a yellow rose in his lapel, he looks more like he is dressed for a wedding disco than a Eurovision performance. Otherwise, the routine was performed well and he was popular in the hall.
13:44 CETGermany The lights come up, but Jane is dragging her stool into the correct position, and the backing is stopped. The lights go back down, and the postcard is rerun as Germany's stage is set properly. After an excellent performance, Germany received a really big hand from the hall and a happy Jane replied Danke schön! before exiting.
13:49 CET Denmark Next up came the turn of Sidsel Ben Semmane and her song Twist of Love. She spent most of her performance looking as though she was straining to sing. The vocals were strong and the performance looks good on stage. All in all, this could very well be a contender to watch out for, come Saturday's live Final.
13:53 CET Russia The first Final participant to have qualified from the Semifinal came next. Russia's Dima Bilan took to the stage to sing his song Never Let You Go. The song started with the wrong information on screen with the flag and song information for Greece showing. Dima however, put in yet another vocally strong performance and sounded comfortable. The dancer emerging from the piano had no make up for this rehearsal, but Dima's passion for the performance soon drew your attention back to him.
13:57 CET FYR Macedonia The second Semifinal winner of the night, came in the form of Elena Risteska, and the song Ninanajna. The screen was still presenting the incorrect information for the song being performed. A little more relaxed on stage this time and different outfits. It seemed to be lacking the passion it was performed with at yesterday's Semifinal. But hopefully that will be back by tonight's dress rehearsal.
14:01 CET Romania Milhai Trăistariu and the song Tornero came next to a very warm welcome from the crowd. The stage is set with dry ice and the screen is still showing the incorrect country, with Greece still being displayed on screen. An energetic dance routine and very strong vocals from Milhai in a black suit showed why this is one of the bookmakers' favourites. The song recieved huge applause from the spectators.
14:09 CET Bosnia & Herzegovina Hari Mata Hari once more gives a faultless performance of the song. There are no changes in the presentation at all from last night. This received the biggest applause heard so far in the press centre.
14:13 CET Lithunania Probably the artists who are most surprised to be in the final are LT United. There appeared to be a few minor sound problems at the start, but otherwise it is the same routine as in the semifinal. The song received a mixed reaction of cheers and boos in the hall, possibly taking over the new love it or hate it song from Iceland, following their elimination last night.
14:17 CET United Kingdom Wearing a bright yellow top with grey and black stripes down the sleeves. The presentation of the song is the familiar routine as seen in the national final. When the papers are thrown out the schooldesks, it is the same union jacks that were seen in the previous rehearsals. Although Daz has promised something different for Saturday night. There is no doubt that this is a catchy number and received a very good reaction from the fans in the press centre.
14:20 CET Greece Not surprisingly this received a huge round of applause. It also received a huge amount of dry ice at the start, making it a bit difficult to see Anna Vissi. Good job then, that she has the wind machine to assist her later on. She is the only performer to take the vast stage alone and delivers an assured performance. She is wearing a black and white outfit, that has some Greek traditional appearance to it, with black leggings. Towards the end of the song she is down on her knees on the stage. The home audience loved it and received a huge cheer.
14:24 CET Finland Another song to receive a great reaction. This is the show number of the contest, and the stage continues to be ablaze with the pyroctechnics that were on display last night. Vocally though Lordi seemed to be suffering, perhaps from giving it everything in previous rehearsals. Another song that recived a strong positive reaction in the auditorium.
14:26 CET Ukraine The performance is unchanged from the semifinal, but Tina's long note won great applause from the audience. Tina herself seems as excitable as ever, starting off with a whoop of delight and putting across an energetic vibe throughout.
14:30 CET France Virginie starts the song singing slightly sharp and only gets worse as the song progresses. Before long the vocal is quite out of key, and one particular note earned winces, shaking heads and a collective cry of displeasure from the press hall. On the other hand, the presentation is pleasing, clean and simple, with Virginie and an accompanying cellist alone on stage.
14:34 CET Croatia Severina's vocal is lost as her mic fails for the first three seconds or so. This is quickly rectified and everyone on stage gives a very jolly performance of Moja stikla, with the audience clapping along enthusiastically. Croatia received a big cheer and is a definite hit with the audience.
14:38 CET Ireland Brian Kennedy and the team are in casual clothes today, and give a simple and capable, if somewhat understated performance of Every song is a cry for love. Again, one gets the impression that this will grow in power with each rehearsal.
14:52 CET Sweden Screen still displaying Greece for all semifinal participants. It was evident that in this afternoons rehearsal Carola was not intending to take any chances of damaging her voice and so did not take part in the power notes. The performance was still strong but lacked the spark it had in the semifinal without Carola's vocals. The song recieved a warm reception from the crowd but Carola will want to be back on form this evening.
15:46 CET Turkey Sibel Tuzun took to the stage to sing her semifinal winner Super Star. The stage performance remained the same and was performed very energetically by both Sibel and her dancers. The biggest difference in this rehearsal was the inclusion of both Greek and English lyrics to the song and the change gives the song a new sound. Sibel still sounds strong and this could also be one to watch at Saturday's live final.
15:50 CET Armenia Without your love played out the first rehearsal of the 2006 grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest for newcomers Armenia. No changes had been made to the successful performance of the semifinal, however Armenian performer Andre seemed alot more comfortable on stage and appeared to be really enjoying himself in front of the gathered crowd. The show ends on a bang with a very energetic performance from this debut country.
The guest on stage to start the voting proceedure will be Greek starNana Mouskouri, whom Eurovision son contest fans will know sung for Luxembourg in the 1963 event. Following the recap of the songs, there is a very traditional Greek interval act before we launch into the voting sequence.