SIMON Cowell has described a few acts as "world class" in his time, but in the case of Leona Lewis he was right.
See The Star on Monday for more photos from the opening night of Leona's tour at Sheffield Arena.
The girl who won X Factor in 2006 was astounding at Sheffield Arena last night, even if at times towards the start of her fantastical show over-loud backing singers and a thumping bass line threatened - impossibly, you would think - to drown out Leona's powerhouse vocals.
Amidst a fairytale forest stage-set inspired by her favourite film The Labyrinth, she showcased the awesome talent that propelled her to stardom four years ago, and even pulled off some nifty dancing.
Her incredible voice - when given free rein centre stage, pared back and powerful, emotive, sometimes haunting - was breathtaking.
Sheffield was the first night of 18 dates on her first ever arena tour and it would be understandable if the debutante was nervous as she appeared, looking every inch the British Beyonce, in a tight black dress, over-the-knee boots and hooded cloak, beneath a gothic ruin swirling in mist.
She launched into Brave, a track from her second album Echo and a somewhat subdued number for an opener, as dancers dressed like woodland nymphs twisted and reeled acrobatically around her.
She dropped to her knees in an amazing peacock blue ballgown on a sparkling stage as she delivered hit Happy, and won a standing ovation for her simple, beautiful version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - a song she said she remembered "from growing up", a track that was "very special" to her.
Enveloped in an ethereal dress of floating white tulle she reclined atop a mossy tree stump to cover Could It Be Magic, and swung and twirled with balletic grace from a harness of enchanted forest vines to sing I Got You.
One of Leona's great vocal strengths has always been her ability to convey powerful emotion, and she was at her brilliant best when the songs allowed her to do just that - to really sing, to deliver the lyrics clearly without too much backing, and to do so without distraction. She covered Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River beautifully, sitting quietly, almost a capella.
And a funked-up, clubby segment including stonking dance track Outta My Head, a cover of Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics, and a nod to Michael Jackson finally got the crowd on its feet and proved Leona's more than just a ballad singer.
Leona made memories for herself as well as the audience when she instructed the crowd to light up their mobile phones while she performed her classic cover of Run by Snow Patrol.
"They all look like stars," she beamed, as she soared high above the stage on a hydraulic central podium for the song's searing finale.
And before belting out Bleeding Love she told her fans: "This is my first tour and my first night and I'm so glad I got to share it with you. This is a dream for me."
Did you go to the concert? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
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