"The penultimate event of The Longridge X Factor saw the stakes upped tremendously," writes Sam Booth.
"The judges were not about to acquiesce a spot in the final to just anyone; they were not going to let anything slide. The contestants knew that to impress, they were going to have to pull out all the stops.
"With £1000 and a recording session on the line, the contestants fought harder than they ever had before.
"This time: to really test the contestants, they all had to perform two songs each.
"Fan favourite and previous ‘The Voice’ contestant, Geno Eccles kicked off the night with his rendition of Rod Stewart’s “I don’t want to talk about it” in raspy, smoky tones that have really become Geno’s signature sound. Geno has been a favourite for many weeks now, and has always skated through every round without a sweat. While the judges could only call Geno “soulful, passionate and a born performer” they couldn’t say that his performance was as good as previous ones. They speculated that maybe this was due to a not yet warmed up audience and the lack of ‘liquid courage’. Geno’s score meant that he had a lot to make up for later on with his second song.
"With guitar in hand, Cat Perrin-Griffiths took to the stage to perform her acoustic take on Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” (a usually synth based song). Not only did Cat perfectly transpose the song into her own unique style, but she jumped a hurdle of technical difficulties as a mic malfunctioned during her performance. However, Cat, like a true artist, tackled it without a flinch. Cat earned a near perfect song for her performance to which the judges only had positive comments for: “Cat you are sensational and you’ve clearly got a fanbase from the people who’ve seen you.” Judge Jane also noted that Cat is “so much better than when [she] started this competition”
"The first of the competition’s young singers, Sean Grealis shyly took to the stage and amazed everyone once more as he has many times, with his fantastic voice. Sean’s enchanting performance was met with a roar of applause and cheering from judges and audience alike. Judge Rupert suggested that “We have probably seen the best performance we will see tonight already. And that’s [Sean]”. Judge Alan, a professional musician and music teacher expressed his incredulity to Sean, “you have an outstanding natural talent and the things your voice does are amazing. I don’t like that song. But I do now”.
"Fionnuala McBride, the second of the competition’s young singers chose to sing “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande. Her song was clearly a fantastic choice for her voice as Fionnuala nailed every last note. She had clearly enthralled the judging panel as the only thing judge Pete could say was “I’m speechless, you have grown in technique and performance so much”. This was no lie as Fionnuala earned a score that landed her in the next round safely.
"James Wiltshire, a hidden gem of the local music scene had the bar set unbelievably high. However, James had no problems owning the stage and owning the audience’s attention as his unique dulcet tones commanded a hush to fall over the room. James performed Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” which made a change to his usual choice of power ballads. It was clearly a welcome change as James secured himself a solid score in the leader board. All that could be said from the judges was “So fantastic, I loved it”.
"Tony Hannon was the last contestant to sing before the second round with “To love somebody”. All eyes and ears were hanging upon Tony’s every lyric as he adopted the song into his own style with his smoky tones. Tony had made a brave decision in his song choice, and his gamble paid off without a doubt as Tony was showered in positive reactions from the judges. Judge Rupert’s only comment was “smokin’” slurred in a Sean Connery-esque manner, he followed it up with gun fingers aimed at Tony; this must have been a good thing as Rupert scored him very generously.
"After a short hiatus to allow the acts to prepare themselves, Geno took to the stage, having thought about the judges comments he gave a truly unique performance by singing Van Morrison’s “Moondance” remixed with Oasis’ “Wonder wall”. A seemingly random and improvised diversion from the song that had a professional and rehearsed quality. Until X Factor “I associated Geno’s with a place to get a nice pizza and chips, but now I think of Geno the superstar!” said Judge Pete. Geno made it through to the next round by a huge margin
"Cat PG returned to the stage, this time behind a keyboard to recite an original song of hers. While the audience took to Cat’s melancholy tones, she was unable to ride high on the energy of Geno’s performance a few minute earlier. The judges, while impressed and appreciative of Cat’s musical prowess were not taken with her song choice and deemed it “not as good as last time”. This slightly shaky performance landed Cat in the sing off, in which she ditched her instruments to let her voice truly shine and in doing so won the favour of the judges to go through to the final
"Sean Grealis unfortunately was unable to follow his previous spectacular performance in his take on Michael Jackson’s “the way you make me feel”. However, the judges were able to see that this was not due to Sean’s lack of singing talent, but a poor song of choice for his voice. Sean had “well and truly held his own” according to judge Jane. Despite the somewhat frosty reception of his second song, Sean scored so well in his first choice and averagely in his second that he managed to make it through to the finals.
"Fionnuala, whose earlier performance had potentially fallen short of her past songs truly outdid herself with “Set fire to the rain” by Adele. Everyone’s jaws sat firmly on the floor throughout the performance as Fionnuala had “tackled a song by the voice of the century and sounded better for it” explained judge Alan. Alan went on to say that Adele on her albums has a lot of effects overlaid her voice to get her unique sound, yet Fionnuala had achieved that sound completely raw. Fionnuala went through to the next round with the highest score of the night.
"James Wiltshire’s song choice for this second song was “Bridge over Troubled Water”. James’ skilled vibrato on his voice struck an emotional chord with the audience and judges as James received the only standing ovation of the night. “The only way to say it is that you’ve got penash!” said judge Alan. James unfortunately only made it to the sing off and in a very tough call for the judges was kicked out of the competition. However, due to an overwhelming uproar from the crowd, James was brought back as the competition’s Wild Card!
"Tony Hannon was the last of the night to perform. He attempted the legendary power ballad “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in a last minute song change. Unfortunately, this last minute change transpired to be a poor decision as even the judges told Tony that “it was clear you struggled there” and “disappointing compared to what we have seen”. Sadly, Tony had overstretched himself in an attempt to claim his position in the final and it cost him dearly.
"The final will take place in two weeks time on Sunday, June 25 at 6pm. The five finalists are James, Geno, Sean, Fionnuala and Cat will battle it out and the winner will be declared and receive their £1000 cash prize. See you there!"