UK entry Michael Rice sings for the judges during Eurovision jury show
Michael Rice has made his Eurovision Song Contest debut in Israel, representing the UK with a rousing rendition of Bigger Than Us.
The Hartlepool native took to the stage at the Expo Tel Aviv for the jury show of the grand final, where he performed against a backdrop of a starry night sky.
The 21-year-old found success after winning the BBC One singing show All Together Now, where contestants sing to an audience of 100 music industry experts.
He was joined on stage by an outfit of backing vocalists who assisted him as he broke into the song’s gospel-influenced chorus.
“Thank you everyone,” he said to the crowd.
“I’m living the dream. Thank you so much. I love you.”
The 26 finalists are performing in front of the international expert jury panels who then cast their votes in advance of the televised grand final on Saturday May 18.
Tonight’s event is not televised and fans cannot vote. The jury vote makes up 50% of the overall scores for each country, and the results will be announced during Saturday night’s televised show.
Rice performed 16th, after Norway and before Iceland, whose techno-punk outfit Hatari are a favourite to win.
His performance also came after that of Sweden’s John Lundvik, the singer-songwriter who penned Bigger Than Us.
Flanked by four backing vocalists, the former professional sprinter, 36, stalked the stage against a backdrop of flashing strobes and white light.
The UK, as one of the “big five” countries, along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, was assured a place in the grand final.
This meant Rice did not perform in either of the two live semi-finals earlier in the week, and that his performance tonight was his first to a full audience.
Earlier Israeli pop singer Dana International, who won the contest in 1998 when it was held in Birmingham, sang Omer Adam’s song Tel Aviv as the 26 entries were announced.
The UK’s five-strong jury panel consists of Kylie Minogue’s musical director Pete Watson, radio DJ Adele Roberts, vocal coach Jai Ramage and singer AJ Bentley.
Murder On The Dancefloor singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor was meant to chair the group but stepped down earlier this week citing “unforeseen circumstances”. She was replaced by musical theatre actor George Ure.