VIDEO: Golden Gary saves the day

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“It’s Gary Barlow,” screamed a rather thickset lady with glasses, an odd remark given the giant screens had been flashing Barlow’s name all evening so she must have had an inkling he’d pop on stage at some point.

But that’s the effect Gary Barlow has on people, certainly the female kind.

Pictures Martin Bostock'Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On 2013'Gary Barlow

Pictures Martin Bostock'Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On 2013'Gary Barlow

The man is a national institution – singing superstar, X-factor judge, Queen’s best friend and, now, the latest plus on his CV ... saviour of Blackpool Illuminations.

When Irish band The Script pulled out of last night’s big bash, Switch-On organisers Marketing Blackpool must have felt like they’d fallen down a huge hole.

Tickets cost upward of £30 (this is the first time there had been a charge for Switch-On night) and suddenly they had no headline act and only 48 hours to find a new one.

But then Marketing Blackpool not only discovered gold at the bottom of their hole but an emergency ladder as well, as Barlow – reading about the problem on holiday in America – agreed to fill in.

Barlow played a terrific 45-minute set ahead of the moment, at 9.20pm, when Jonathan Ross flicked the switch and the Illuminations lit the resort for another year.

Flicking the switch Ross joked the Lights were one of three things visible from space, along with the Great Wall of China and Simon Cowell’s ego.

The Tower and Prom looked beautiful as the famous Lights came on for the 101st time.

Earlier the 5,000 strong crowd saw Eliza Doolittle belt out some tunes, and before that local acts Karima Francis and Last Breath.

Barlow, though, was the undoubted star. He has previous at this event, switching on the Lights in 1999.

That was before he returned for a second crack at Take That and became the international star he now is.

Backed by a terrific band and delivering wonderfully slick versions of hits like Back For Good, Rule The World and Patience, Barlow had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

“Good evening Blackpool,” he said, thousands screamed. “Are we going to have a good night?”, he added,thousands screamed.

The arena was clearly half its potential capacity, not that those in attendance seemed to mind.

It remains to be seen if the issues of the last couple of days, or the ticket prices themselves, were to blame.

But, thanks to Gary Barlow, the night was a triumph.