Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

X Factor Live Tour: Still turning out superb singing talent

Talented: X Factor winner Sam Bailey
Talented: X Factor winner Sam Bailey

After 10 years and as many series, TV talent show The X Factor certainly seems to still have it.

The 2014 live tour rolled into Belfast's Odyssey Arena at the weekend to kick off five weeks of nationwide dates.

And with fans camped out at the arena gates since early morning and a full house for Saturday's opening night, the stage was set for another poptastic evening.

Tamera Foster had the task of opening proceedings, which she did in loud and raucous style with her cover of Rihanna's We Found Love.

Scots teenager Nicholas McDonald was next, performing Candy, by Robbie Williams, against a confectionery-themed backdrop.

With gaudily attired male dancers prancing about and lifting the singer up on a throne, it was all rather camp, but McDonald kept his cool in the face of an arena full of screaming punters.

Equally confident was Sam Callahan, another crowd favourite, who belted out Bryan Adams' evergreen soft-rock anthem Summer of '69.

Despite sporting the de rigueur outfit of leather jacket and skintight jeans, the part-time barman didn't seem to even break a sweat as he leapt off steps and dropped to his knees.

A solo vocal performance by Hannah Barrett brought the tempo down a bit, and Abi Alton offered further contrast with her piano-led rendition of I Wanna Dance with Somebody, by Whitney Houston.

But not even the bespectacled crooner, in her Elton John-like outlandish outfit of a flowing, red gown – which she needed two stagehands to help her carry – could steal the show from Luke Friend.

Clearly Belfast's choice, the dreadlocked Devonian made his entrance through the audience and stamped his authority on Play That Funky Music and Kiss from a Rose (though it was a bit dismaying that Friend's question, "Does anybody know a guy called Seal?" was greeted with just a smattering of half-hearted cheers).

Elsewhere in the first half, boyband Rough Copy gave their interesting spin on Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight, and the whole ensemble got together on Ellie Goulding's Burn.

After an interval, during which we were repeatedly invited to enter a text message competition to meet the 'stars' backstage, the second act served up more from each act, complete with duets, Friend on guitar and a six-song mini-set by 2013 winner Sam Bailey.

The 37-year-old mother-of-two's vocal prowess made up for her relative lack of glitz and glamour, and it felt like she held the final note of And I'm Telling You, from the Dreamgirls musical, for at least half a minute.

At the end of the day, it is meant to be a talent show, after all, and Bailey's triumph has proven that.

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