X Factor: Live finals begin!

The first of the live finals has taken place in the latest series of The X Factor – with the performers facing the public vote for the first time.

This year’s series, hosted by Dermot O’Leary, features four categories for the first time ever, with new judge Dannii Minogue mentoring the boys. Sharon Osbourne is looking after the girls, Louis Walsh is in charge of the 25 and overs category while Simon Cowell has the groups.

One of Sharon’s singers, 19-year-old Kimberley Southwick, kicked off the show, in which all the acts performed classic number one hits.

Her interpretation of Geri Halliwell’s chart-topper It’s Raining Men received a mixed response from the judges. “You’re not the best singer in the world,” said Louis, “but who cares, I love you!”

Simon Cowell, however, was less kind. “It was fine if you like karaoke on a big budget,” he said of the flashy performance.

Andy, the first of Dannii Minogue’s acts, was next on stage with a rendition of Rod Stewart’s I Don’t Want To Talk About It. “I predict you’re going to goa long way,” Louis told the Welshman, while Sharon called him a “fabulous young man”.

The favourites, Futureproof, were next on stage, singing Robbie Williams’ She’s The One. “What I’m really excited about but scared about is that you guys are good!” Dannii told them.

Beverley was next, performing I Will Survive – and the short-haired teacher surprised the judges by appearing with long curly locks. “Fantastic!” raved Sharon. “It’s like you’ve been performing your whole life!” Dannii, meanwhile, praised her “amazing transformation”.

The youngest performer, 15-year-old Emily, was up next, singing I Knew You Were Waiting For Me. “You’ve got a great raw talent,” Louis said, “but I would love to hear you do a big ballad, I don’t think the song suited you.”

The judges weren’t nearly so kind to Leon, however, who delivered a jazzy interpretation of The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love. “You are great,” said Louis, “but the song was a disaster.”

Simon, meanwhile, described the performance as “a complete and utter nightmare. I think you’ve taken the place of someone who should be in the show,” he told the 18-year-old.

Louis had few kind words for Same Difference, who sung Steps’ Tragedy. “The tragedy is that Simon has put you into this,” he said. “They haven’t got a chance of winning it.”

Simon quickly hit back, calling Louis a “miserable old man” and praising the pair. “Guys, you did great,” he said. “Don’t listen to the old age pensioner.”

Niki, meanwhile, wowed the judges with her interpretation of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. “You’re in a class of your own,” said Sharon, who said the 34-year-old had given the performance of the night.

Alisha, singing Gabrielle’s Dreams, followed, and then Rhydian took to the stage with a flamboyant version of Meat Loaf’s I Would Do Anything For Love. The operatic Welshman has divided opinion among the judges but received a largely positive response, with Simon saying he gave “the performance of the night.”

Finally, Daniel sung Bryan Adams’ Heaven, and the show was rounded off with Hope performing Rihanna’s Umbrella. “You’re good looking, you’re sexy, you can sing – and I hate you!” Sharon told them. “You look as though you’ve been doing this for years,” Louis said.

The results will be revealed later on Saturday evening, with the bottom two acts having to sing again to remain in the competition.

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