Preview performance from Hartlepool's Michael Rice to air after second Eurovision semi-final

Hartlepool singer Michael Rice is in Tel Aviv for this year's Eurovision Song Contest, where he will represent the UK with his song Bigger Than Us.

Wednesday, 15th May 2019, 4:17 pm
Michael Rice performs at his Hartlepool primary school in a visit to children and staff.

Ahead of the competition's live final on Saturday, Martin Phillips is reporting live from Israel bringing the latest updates on all of the build-up to the competition. Stay tuned for more articles from Martin on Michael's journey as the week continues.

Hartlepool singer Michael Rice will be on television this Thursday ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest's finale at the weekend.

Michael Rice performs at his Hartlepool primary school in a visit to children and staff.

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Michael, who is representing the UK in this year's competition with his song Bigger Than Us, will make his first appearance in front of a packed Tel Aviv Expo Centre audience on Wednesday as part of the Jury Show for the competition's second semi-final.

He won't be competing as such, but at the end of semi-final two on Thursday, the hosts will introduce the UK, Germany and Italy and they will do their first run through in front of a large audience.

This will be recorded on Wednesday to be tagged on to the end of Thursday night's show.

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TV talent show star Michael Rice returns to former Hartlepool school
Michael performs Bigger Than Us on the Graham Norton Show. Picture: PA.

On Monday night, the recording of the host country Israel, France and Spain presented some technical hitches, so hopefully things will run more smoothly for Michael, S!sters from Germany and one of the hot favourites, Italy's Mahmood.

What is the Jury Show and why is it so important

The Jury Show is vitally important for two reasons.

As the name suggests, this show is viewed by juries of professionals in the music industry, which includes past Eurovision performers, national and international singers, and other industry professionals.

Michael on stage in Hartlepool.

The juries from each country cast their votes on Wednesday, and the results remain confidential until they are incorporated into the public vote on Thursday night, when the 10 countries advancing to the final are announced.

The jury and public vote are weighted 50/50, so no one can let down their guard - the juries must be impressed.

Also, the jury semi-final is recorded to run simultaneously with the live broadcast so that KAN, the Israeli broadcaster, can switch to it, should anything go wrong with the live feed, or if there is a repeat of last year's shocking stage invasion during the British song performed by Surie.

Michael will represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.

It's a definite advantage for Michael to be recording his performance for the second semi-final on Thursday. The second semi-final almost always draws a bigger audience and the higher quality of the songs and performances will have fewer people drifting away from their TVs.

Tuesday's semi-final delivered both Australia's spectacular Kate Miller-Heidke, swinging atop her 20 foot pole, and Iceland's Hatari, choreographed so superbly to compliment their PVC, spikes and chains, to the final.

Both create an assault on the senses, but whether both appeal to all the senses is another thing.

Australia's operatic song might sound fractured and lacking melody, whereas Iceland's hard, industrial techno base-driven song may be a step too far for sensitive souls.

However, it's already 14 years since Finland's Lordi won, and few people thought they would bring Eurovision to Helsinki in 2007.

There were also a few surprises in the first semi-final, although Slovenia, with their white-clad young male/female duo were not tipped to succeed with their grindingly repetitive and monotone song.

San Marino’s Serhat, returning for a second go at Eurovision with his 1970s-style disco song Say Na Na Na, was the other surprise, particularly since it’s an indisputable fact that Serhat can’t sing.

His song was an amusing bookend to the show, but it wasn’t supposed to get to the final. Yet, no one begrudged his success.

Perhaps the biggest highlights of the first semi-final were the opening number by Netta, who won for Israel last year, and the beautiful and touching rendition by 1998’s winner Dana International of Bruno Mars’s Just The Way You Are while couples young and old, straight and gay, kissed on the Kisscam, applauded by the whole audience.

It set a beautifully inclusive tone for the week, and it must be said that Dana barely appears to have aged a day in 21 years.

Thursday’s second semi-final show is set to be cut throat.

Stronger songs and performances across the board will result in many failing to qualify for the final. It’s a shame but it’s the luck of the draw.

While there is some engineering of running order by the producers, decisions on which country is in which semi-final are made before all the songs are known.

Only 10 of the 18 acts can advance and nine of them are almost sure bets, including Azerbaijan, Denmark, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.

That leaves nine acts, including Ireland’s Sarah McTernan battling for the last spot. Many here in Israel feel that Sarah will scrape through with her song 22.

Who to watch at Thursday's second semi-final

On Thursday night, watch out for an amazing performance by Chingiz from Azerbaijan, which will vacuum up votes from all the ex-soviet countries.

Chingiz is highly photogenic and his presentation is perfection.

Sweden’s John Lundvik delivers a wonderful upbeat number Too Late For Love. His stage presence and delivery, with his four soulful backing singers is so strong that Sweden has decided to let the song stand on its own without the usual costly stage props.

Switzerland has the hugely infectious She Got Me (Dirty Dancing) by Luca Hanni whose dance routine will amaze.

Russia’s Sergey Lazerov has also returned with his Scream, also a favourite. This is his second attempt to take the crystal microphone trophy.

Lastly, The Netherlands’ Arcade by Duncan Laurence is a huge favourite among the fans here in Tel Aviv.

It’s been 44 years since the Dutch won Eurovision with Teach In’s infamous Ding-a-Dong, but they have been doing well in recent years and some think it could do very well with the juries and fans despite the downbeat nature of the song and the lack of pizzazz.

Many would love Eurovision to return to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague.

Viewers are in for a treat with Thursday’s semi and betting folk would be wise to place money on Sweden, Azerbaijan and The Netherlands to advance to the final.