Close to 18,000 people watched on as comedy favourite Peter Kay flicked the switch to turn on the Blackpool Illuminations.
Following a storming performance by pop sensations Little Mix, and a rocking set from Texas, the Bolton comic came to the stage to round off Switch-On night with a bang.
“It’s not raining,” he said, “how fantastic is this?”
Kay then had the crowd howling with laughter as he revealed: “It’s not me actually switching on the Lights, it’s a lad from Blackpool Council called Asif. He’s outside Coral Island now... up a ladder doing it with two cables!”
He then added: “It’s an honour. I’ve been coming here all my life. I came a few of weeks ago with my kids – I love it.
“I used to get fish and chips from Yorkshire Fisheries and sit outside with my gran and grandad.
“It means a lot to me to be asked to turn them on – thank you and thank God it’s not raining.”
He dedicated the night to Barry Carberry – “a shining light to many” – before starting a countdown “from 14” to the big moment.
Fireworks lit up the sky from the top of The Tower as the whole Prom burst into a sea of light.
Not that the Switch-On star wanted to leave the stage, mind you, as he appeared to jokingly mock the lack of fireworks before talking to those on the front row.
Before Blackpool favourite Kay flicked the switch, chart topping pop stars Little Mix bravely bared their pins and showcased hits such as Salute, DNA and Wings – with stunning dance routines and crystal clear harmonies.
Speaking before their set, Jesy Nelson said: “We are raring to go, we love a bit of Blackpool. The weather’s not the best. It’s not raining now, but wait ‘til we get on stage, when our barnets come out it will rain.”
Perrie Edwards added: “We love Blackpool – it’s always a good crowd and up for it. We’ve got more energy to keep warm when it’s a bit frosty.”
Little Mix followed Scottish rockers Texas, fronted by Sharleen Spiteri, with a set packed with hits, closing with Black Eyed Boy to a rousing response.
Texas had been delayed getting to the arena by a number of traffic hold ups outside of Blackpool, which meant the show fell half an hour behind schedule.
Not that crowd inside the Tower Festival arena seemed to care.
Boy band Union J told the crowd the show was the “coolest thing we’ve ever done”. Speaking after their set, band member George Shelley said: “The crowd was brilliant – 20,000 people in Blackpool is one of our best shows and a highlight of our summer – probably the best show we’ve ever done.”
Josh Cuthbert added: “We get to do so many exciting things, but this is up there with the best we’ve done.”
Pixie Lott, who was this week named as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, said ahead of her power-packed set: “It’s good to be back in Blackpool.
“I would love the chance to come back to the home of ballroom at The Tower (in Strictly).
“It’s a few years since I was here for the Switch-On, so I know what’s coming. The crowd was really good last time and they sound so up for it tonight.”
Guitar bluesman George Ezra – famed for his hit Budapest – was coolness personified in his set before girl group Neon Jungle took the stage.
Proudly wearing her ‘I Love Bpl’ hoodie, band member Jess Plummer said: “I’m representing Blackpool right now, we are lucky and glad to be here.
“Some of us have been to Blackpool before, but never as Neon Jungle and it’s exciting to see what the crowd is like.”
Earlier in the night acts such as X-Factor winner Matt Cardle entertained the crowd while Blackpool boxing champ Brian ‘The Lion’ Rose and son Oscar (pictured) were welcomed on stage.
Last night’s show – which was a free event for those lucky enough to bag one of the 20,000 wristbands – was heralded a massive success by organisers VisitBlackpool and hosts RockFM.
It followed last year’s heavily criticised event which saw just 5,000 people turn up – with many blaming the £34 ticket price.
Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said : “The night was fantastic – absolutely fantastic.
“All the comments are positive. Everyone has had a good time. The atmosphere was electric and the arena full.
“You had a feeling all the acts were excited to be here.
“A lot of people loved the fact they were playing in Blackpool’s single biggest event of the year.”
He added: “It’s the start of the extended season. Hopefully this (tonight) will replicate throughout and build momentum.”
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