X Factor Live Tour in Belfast dazzles even if TV series loses sparkle
The X Factor Live Tour 2016, SSE Arena, Belfast
You know it's mid-February when the weather is faintly improving, the cinemas are pumping out rom-coms and The X Factor Live Tour rolls into a cavernous venue near you.
It's a grim time of year to be mounting a feelgood extravaganza, but perhaps that's the secret of why it has attracted upwards of three million punters to date.
The annual instalment of the cross-country jaunt reached Belfast last night for the first of two SSE Arena shows.
Reflecting the declining fortunes of the series that spawned it, three or four-night stands in each city may be a thing of the past, but the X Factor hardcore - if you can call 8,000 people a hardcore - were out in force last night.
They got an above average array of finalists for their troubles.
Things kicked off with Reggie 'n' Bollie, who delivered a high energy rendition of I Like To Move It.
This song could get even the most committed pop-hater's toes tapping, and it woke the audience up rather nicely for Ché Chesterman.
The crooner's soulful mash-up of Tears Dry On Their Own and Ain't No Mountain High Enough was as sharp as his suit, and he seemed genuinely delighted to be on the Belfast stage.
Next, Filipina girl group 4th Impact wrapped their impressive tonsils around Bang Bang and Ain't No Other Man, while self-styled bad boy Mason Noise tried very hard to dispel the notion that the most entertaining thing about him is his name.
Then came powerful-voiced Lauren Murray, followed by fan favourite Anton Stephans.
It was soon time for the return of 4th Impact, who entered through the audience, along with special guest Seann Miley Moore.
Their medley of Rich Girl and Fancy, plus Moore's solo The Show Must Go On, was one of the highlights of the evening.
Murray and Chesterman popped up again - the latter belting out a brilliant When a Man Loves A Woman - then Reggie 'n' Bollie had a crack at Who Let the Dogs Out.
The dance anthem is another of those dumb, fun tunes, purpose-built for a family pop show.
A group performance of Happy, featuring more confetti and balloons than at Elton John's wedding, closed the first half in determinedly upbeat fashion.
Act two offered more of the same, plus headliner Louisa Johnson, whose appealing singing and canny song choices suggested that if The X Factor is beginning to peter out, it's little to do with the talent of the acts.