For her long-awaited debut tour, Leona Lewis was inspired by her favourite childhood film, Labyrinth. The 1986 fantasy adventure, starring David Bowie, provides rich pickings for the set designers, but it's the plotline that offers a glimpse into the mindset of the 2006 X-Factor winner – the teenage heroine escapes from a puppet-infested maze by declaring to her captor: "My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as greate ... you have no power over me!"
It's tempting to read this as an allegory for her relationship with a Svengali-like Simon Cowell, but going by the first half of her show, it is an assertion of independence that Leona Lewis has not yet made. The provenance of her fame means that, in some ways, nothing of her talents has been hidden – we all know she is a sweet, shy girl with a creamy, doe-eyed prettiness, an expressive, pure, pitch-perfect voice, but not much of a mover.
With a £5 million budget and the creative direction of William Baker, Kylie Minogue's right-hand man, such shortcomings have been ruthlessly addressed. Dressed in a Minogue-esque cloak and thigh-boots, Lewis moves almost continuously among her dancers, with the mask of an unblinking smile, periodically emitting an hysterically high shriek of “Come on!”
By contrast, her vocals were near inaudible on anything below her top range, yet the audience's proprietorial affections meant that they applauded her efforts but stayed glued to their seats. The inertia really set in when the middle section of ballads gassed the arena like a dry-ice cloud of emotion. Dressed as a fairy-tale princess, her childlike innocence was affecting, and she can certainly convey a trembling, pining heart.
While The X-Factor may not have prepared Leona Lewis for the demands of live performance, it has given her a steady hand for song interpretation, and she threw in pleasing curveballs, from T-Rex's Ride a White Swan to Justin Timberlake's Cry Me a River. But attempting Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – a cover version of one of the most moving cover versions of all time – fatally exposed the emotional limitations behind Lewis’s technical proficiency.
Just when it felt like we were permanently trapped in a maze of polished but stilted performances, a trapdoor opened, strobes flashed and Lewis emerged in strikingly symbolic high-waisted leggings. The effect was startling: she seized control of the music and the audience, ordering them to their feet as she imperiously motored through her final hits.
This tantalising glimpse of Leona Lewis's hidden power suggests that if she wants her to career to really have legs she should wear the trousers more often.