A sold-out Empire Theatre welcomed home local X Factor finalist Christopher Maloney ahead of the show’s climax this weekend, as he returned to Liverpool to a rapturous welcome.
Arriving in the city on a Mersey ferry where he was greeted by Lord Mayor Cllr Sharon Sullivan, Maloney toured his Liverpool haunts alongside mentor Gary Barlow ahead of a one-off concert at the Empire, with his visit filmed for Saturday’s programme.
Cheered on by a vociferous crowd of more than 2,000, the man who has defied his critics to reach the talent series’ final performed a short but sweet collection of some of the hits he has sung throughout the competition.
The 34-year-old performed Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’, which he dedicated to his best friend Steven Doran from Kirkby, who died when Christopher was at the boot camp stages of the X Factor.
He also gave an emotional performance – not once but twice – of ‘The Rose’ by Bette Midler – a song from his first audition which was played at his grandad’s funeral.
Introduced by judge Gary Barlow, the call centre worker arrived on stage via the back of the Liverpool Empire before stopping to hug his biggest fan, grandmother Pat, who was in the front row of the audience after spending time with Maloney and Barlow at her Norris Green home.
The Take That star believes his act can win the X Factor and that Maloney has “earned his place” in this weekend’s final. He added: “I was confident about Chris from the start. There were a couple of weeks where I thought we could be in trouble, but he’s never been in the bottom two.
“Chris has done great and people are voting for him. One of the big things is how Liverpool gets behind their own and there’s lots of local support, I love that.”
Thanking the audience for their support, Maloney also performed Boy Meets Girl hit ‘Waiting for a Star to Fall’, much to the delight of his fans. He added: “Without you I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all my life.”
His performance was a far cry from his first audition at the Echo Arena, where he appeared nervous and shaking uncontrollably as he held the microphone. Instead he looked calm and composed in front of his adoring fans showing how far he had come.
Audience member 24-year-old Daniel Niblock of Netherton was fully confident that Maloney would triumph over fellow finalists Jahmene Douglas and James Arthur. He said: “I’ve backed Christopher from the start and always thought he would reach the final.
“He has overcome so much in terms of all the negative media publicity and for that alone he deserves to win.”