The X-Factor has an inimitable style, and for those of us acquainted with it, there was a definite sense of the predictable even as the lights began to dim, and Tamera Foster opened the show with her version of Rihanna’s We Found Love.
The flashing lights and pyrotechnics we’ve come to expect are admittedly eye-catching, but as each act was introduced with a video montage of the finalists’ journey through the TV show, everything begins to feel a little too repetitive.
By the time Nicholas McDonald followed Tamera with a performance of Robbie Williams’s Candy – complete with Willy Wonka-inspired sets and choreography – I was worried the experience would be sickly sweet.
However, the bar was raised by Hannah Barrett, whose powerful voice filled the arena with Emeli Sande’s Read All About It.
The most local of the acts, Abi Alton from Guisborough was also one of the most charming and told the crowd it was a special moment for her to be playing the Arena after attending concerts there when she was growing up.
Her interpretation of Whitney Houston’s eighties anthem, I Wanna Dance With Somebody was refreshing and intimate, and almost unrecognisable in its reinvention as a contemporary ballad.
Despite missing band member Kaz due to illness, Rough Copy were arguably the most entertaining act on the night, coupling great stage presence with their versions of Phil Collins’ Another Day In Paradise and Earth, Wind and Fire’s September.
The unlikely meld of disco, funk, 80s and R&B songs showed the group’s strength in their range, and gives them an edge over other performers.
As is her right, the X-Factor winner Sam Bailey performed last, and demonstrated a clear step-up in vocal ability, choosing ballads to project her powerful voice, with imposing range.
Her belting out of Jennifer Rush’s Power of Love offered a stark change from what had come before with other acts, and was striking, if a little out of place with the expected X Factor model which traditionally focuses on the younger, more pop-focused audience.
Not that the assembled crowd minded one jot as the nation’s chosen winner rose head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
I’m sure many will be delighted to hear Sam has booked herself a date with Sage Gateshead on February 11, 2015.
As might be expected from an event with such variety, the evening, which also included performances from Luke Friend, Sam Callahan was a mixed-bag, with glitters of gold in Rough Copy’s performance, Hannah Barret’s soulful voice and Sam Bailey’s unrivaled vocals, and less memorable performances from some other acts. But that’s the X Factor for you.