Michael Rice gives his all during impassioned Eurovision performance

The 21-year-old is aiming high despite the UK not winning in 22 years.

Michael Rice has delivered a rousing performance at Eurovision as he bids to turn around the UK’s fortunes in the contest.

The Hartlepool native sang Bigger Than Us at the Expo Tel Aviv venue in Israel against a backdrop of a starry night sky and racing comets.

The 21-year-old was joined by an outfit of backing vocalists dressed in white as he broke into the song’s gospel-influenced chorus.

He performed 16th, after Norway and before Iceland – whose techno-punk outfit Hatari are a favourite to win.

The UK, as one of the “big five” countries, along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, was assured a place in the grand final.

Rice, who rose to fame after winning the singing show All Together Now last year, has said he hopes to improve the UK’s reputation at the contest.

The UK has not won Eurovision in 22 years or entered the top 10 in a decade.

Speaking before the performance, Rice told the Press Association: “I’m so looking forward to tonight. I’m going to sing my heart out and give it my best shot.”

Each finalist is performing for the international public vote, which will make up 50% of the total vote, with the other half determined by a professional jury in each participating country. They cast their votes during performances on Friday.

Malta’s Michela Pace opened the show with her song Chameleon, dancing in front of shifting graphics showing an urban landscape.

The first highlight of the night came with the arrival of Sergey Lazarev, who returned to the contest with the song Scream.

He sang Russia’s entry in 2016 and finished third with the song You Are The Only One.

Swedish entrant John Lundvik’s gospel-tinged pop song Too Late For Love secured screams from the audience.

The 36-year-old former professional sprinter is also behind Rice’s track Bigger Than Us.

Then came the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence – the favourite to win the contest – with the piano ballad Arcade.

Laurence, 25, was named front runner shortly after releasing his anthemic song in March.

UK fans can vote over the phone, by text or via the Eurovision app, available on iOS, Android and Windows devices.

As per one of Eurovision’s most famous quirks, fans can vote up to 20 times but will be unable to select their own country’s entry.

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