A 21-YEAR-OLD singer with the weight of the UK’s Eurovision Song Contest hopes on his shoulders has already made an impression on delegates 3,000 miles away from home.

Hartlepool performer Michael Rice is warming up for the 64th annual competition hosted this year in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he will represent the UK with his song Bigger Than Us.

The North-East star will be performing the song to an audience of up to 7,000 guests and millions more globally in the hope of giving the UK its first Eurovision win since 1997 with Katrina and the Waves’ Love Shine a Light.

Ahead of the grand final on Saturday night, Eurovision superfan Martin Phillips is reporting from Israel with all-things Michael Rice.

Mr Phillips began reporting on the annual spectacle following up on his ties to the contest after growing up in the same village near Swansea as the UK’s 2013 Eurovision entrant, Bonnie Tyler.

He is joined by New Jersey-born Darron Copeland, who has attended the contest every year since 2006.

In their most recent update from Tel Aviv, Mr Phillips said: “Michael Rice had not one, but two once-in-a-lifetime experiences on Monday.

“Firstly, in the morning, he realized his dream of going up in a hot air balloon over Tel Aviv and last night he was guest of honour at the British Ambassador’s beautiful home.

“He was warmly welcomed by the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey and his husband Henriquez, along with a couple of hundred guests, all enjoying the Ambassador’s wonderfully illuminated back garden in an upscale neighbourhood of Tel Aviv.

“The Ambassador laid on high end fish and chips, along with an array of desserts and drinks – Pimms to the front.

“Michael mingled with the crowd for a couple of hours, many jostling for photographs.

“After a warm up act by three local drag queens, he took the stage for two songs – Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, the song he made his own on All Together Now, and a version of his Eurovision song, Bigger Than Us with just a piano and his backing singers.

“It was previously announced that Michael would also sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, but wisely, he opted to save his voice, since being in top form for Saturday’s final is critical.

“Michael appeared quite humbled by the event and rather bashful on stage – everyone there genuinely loved it, and anyone who doubted Michael’s natural singing talent left the garden party a believer.”

The first full rehearsal ahead of last night’s semi-finals showcased some standout songs and stage performances for diehard Eurovision fans, Mr Phillips and Mr Copeland.

Mr Phillips reporting from Tel Aviv added: “The semi-final selections are designed to reduce the impact of political voting which can’t be totally avoided, and the approach has usually been successful.

“But this year, it means that weaker songs from the first semi-final will move forward, while performers on Thursday’s second semi-final will fail to make it.”