It’s been a long, dramatic road, but the Eurovision 2015 finally kicked off today, with rehearsals for the first eight artists in the first Semi Final. Naturally I was in the press centre following proceedings, so here’s my entirely subjective take on the winners and losers of the day…

WINNER | Greece: Maria Elena Kyriakou – One Last Breath

Maria Elena Kyriakou - One Last Breath | Eurovision 2015 Greece

The Greek song was one of my least favourite entries in the build-up, and I’m still not overly enthusiastic about this by-the-numbers Euroballad, but the staging today was absolutely beautiful, and she sounded fantastic. It was a simple, dignified, professional translation of the song and the clear standout of today’s rehearsals. Sailing into the finals.

LOSER | Netherlands: Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk Along

Trijntje Oosterhuis - Walk Along | Eurovision 2015 Netherlands

There were audible gasps throughout the press centre when Trijntje and her backing vocalists were unveiled today – and they weren’t of joy. The unspeakably hideous costumes – from Trijntje’s front-slashed, horribly fitted dress to the “YES/NO” burlap sack one of the backing singers was inexplicably lumbered with – and bizarre Dr Who opening credits style lighting turns the warmest and most inviting song in this semi final into a cold, stilted and uncomfortable mess. Trijntje’s vocals were predictably impressive, but she looked horribly out of her element here. The Netherlands may have just cost themselves a finals slot.

WINNER | Armenia: Genealogy – Don’t Deny

Genealogy - Face The Shadow | Eurovision 2015 Armenia

A clunky, awkward song performed by six singers who’d never actually been in the same room together until very recently – I had every reason to expect this to be the train wreck of the season. Strangely enough though, it came together. The singers are all consummate professionals, and the song actually sounds much cleaner and more organic live than on record. The staging, while far from subtle, is very dramatic and communicates the story of the song well. One of the most pleasant surprises of the day.

LOSER: FYR Macedonia: Daniel Kajmakoski – Autumn Leaves

Daniel Kajmakoski - Autumn Leaves | Eurovision 2015 Macedonia

Overly complicated choreography killed Macedonia stone dead last year, and unfortunately history looks set to repeat itself here. Autumn Leaves is a very strong song, and Daniel is a charming presence with a great voice. But the dance routine feels totally out of step with the message of the song, and there are times when the presence of the former members of Blackstreet make Daniel feel like a guest artist in his own performance. There are some strong elements here, but as a performance it just isn’t gelling.

WINNER | Finland: PKN – Aina Mun Pitää

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät - Aina mun pitää | Eurovision 2015 Finland

There were few surprises in the Finnish performance – simple, industrial staging, no distracting gimmicks. But on a day that saw several artists shoot themselves in the foot, this delivered everything it needed to without over-egging the pudding. The boys themselves were also a charmingly anarchic presence all day, particularly during their press conference. Doubtless one of the star acts of this year and likely finalists.

LOSER | Belgium: Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside

Loïc Nottet - Rhythm Inside | Eurovision 2015 Belgium

The Belgian rehearsal was far from a Dutch-style disaster, but something wasn’t quite gelling either. The choreography was ambitious, but felt like it was swallowed up by the stage. There was also too much focus on the backing dancers at Loïc’s expense. Vocally he sounded strong, but veered into Jessie J-style over-singing territory more than once. If he loses sight of the melody and the visual isn’t tightened up, this could be a surprise casualty on Tuesday night.

WINNER | Moldova: Eduard Romanyuta – I Want Your Love

Eduard Romanyuta - I Want Your Love | Eurovision 2015 Moldova

This campy, tongue-in-cheek performance was far from perfect, and in places it definitely felt like the scantily-clad police officers were a distraction from how flimsy the actual song is. But on the whole it was an energetic opener with a classic Eurovision feel, and viewers may welcome that in an otherwise fairly serious semi-final. The ‘Solayoh‘ of 2015?

LOSER | Estonia: Stig Rästa & Elina Born – Goodbye To Yesterday

Elina Born & Stig Rästa - Goodbye To Yesterday | Eurovision 2015 Estonia

To be fair this isn’t so much a loser as an underwhelmer. Nothing went terribly wrong here – they sounded fine, the staging had some nice shadow effects. It just wasn’t quite the wow moment that many of us wanted from one of the big favourites of this year’s contest. Plenty of time for improvements of course, but several viewers expressed the opinion that their Eesti laul staging was far superior to the routine they’ve cooked up here.

Tomorrow, Serbia, Hungary, Belarus, Russia, Denmark, Albania, Romania and Georgia – aka the rest of Semi One – have their first rehearsals. I’ll be covering it on Twitter @escgold and also writing blogs here and as part of the team at

If you were watching the rehearsals today, or if you’ve been following online, let me know your thoughts below. Who was your favourite of the day? Have your opinions changed on any of the likely qualifiers?