The 12 finalists in The X Factor 2010 have taken to the stage for the first of this year’s live finals – and they were joined by some familiar faces.

A much-hyped twist was revealed at the start of the show – that the judges had each chosen one more ‘wild card’ contestant to join them on the live shows, making a total of 16 finalists in all.

Cheryl chose Treyc Cohen to join the live line-up for the girls’ category, while Dannii opted for Paije Richardson in the boys.

Simon’s fourth group was flamboyant duo Diva Fever, and finally Louis opted for Brazilian singer Wagner Fiuza-Carillho in the over-28s.

And it was a good night for the majority of the 16 acts, most of whom received positive comments from the judges.

Among those who fared well with the panel were favourites Matt Cardle and teenager Cher Lloyd.

“You’re like a little doll but when you sing it’s just very very powerful,” Louis said of Cher after she had performed 80s classic Just Be Good To Me. And Dannii agreed. “You were so watchable I can’t take my eyes off you, you command that stage like no-one else in this competition.”

Matt also won praise for her interpretation of When Love Takes Over, infused with the Coldplay hit Clocks. “I think Dannii’s done a great job,” Cheryl Cole said, “that was a fantastic song choice.”

Aiden Grimshaw and Treyc Cohen also came in for warm praise. “This is the second time I’ve sat on one of these shows and been blown away by that song,” Simon said of Aiden’s performance of Mad World.

And he was equally keen on Treyc’s vocals. “I am amazed we’ve overlooked you in this competition,” he said following her rendition of U2‘s One, “because by a clear mile that was the best vocal of the competition.”

Others who made a positive impression included Dubliner Mary Byrne, who sang the James Brown classic It’s A Man’s World. “It was like you meant it,” Cheryl said. “I heard every single word of that performance.”

And wild card Paije Richardson also made his mark, singing the hit Killing Me Softly. “I was praying Dannii would bring you back as the wild card choice,” Simon admitted. “You’ve got something rare which is that you’re infectious.”

It was a good night too for Rebecca Ferguson, who impressed the judges with her version of the Womack and Womack 80s hit Teardrops – but Simon exercised a note of caution.

“I kind of feel you’ve been pigeonholed to talk about things which are sad,” he told the mum of two. “You’re a fun girl and you’re a great singer – put that aside and enjoy every second you have on this show.”

Meanwhile all of the groups did well, including FYD who kicked off the show, Belle Amie and One Direction. “You looked like you were meant to be together as a group,” Cheryl said of the latter.

And although he raised a few eyebrows by putting Diva Fever through as his wild card, Simon was quick to justify his choice once they had sung. “Whatever you may think,” he said, “it always makes me smile when I see you guys perform.”

However some of the quirkier acts including Wagner and Nicolo Festa divided the judges, as did Katie Waissel who performed We Are The Champions while playing a brightly coloured keyboard and sporting some peculiar feathery headgear.

Simon described Wagner’s rendition of Ricky Martin‘s She Bangs crossed with the B52s’ Love Shack as “the most bonkers performance I have ever seen in my life” while Cheryl was none too keen on Nicolo’s stage get-up which included a pair of red sunglasses.

“The connection you have comes from your eyes and it put me off a bit having those covered,” she admitted.

Meanwhile Katie also attracted attention for her appearance – while Simon approved of her outfit Louis wasn’t so sure. “At your first audition I thought you were more style than substance,” he said, “and I haven’t really changed my mind.”

The results will be announced on Sunday evening’s show, with two acts leaving in a double elimination.