The X Factor 2011 auditions in Birmingham: Our exclusive review!

X Factor 2011 judges

The X Factor 2011 auditions kicked off in style in Birmingham yesterday, and TellyMix was there for the first audition show of the current series. The show saw Louis Walsh return with three judges on the panel - Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow - but how did they fare on the show?

From the start of the day it was clear that there was only one judge the audience were looking forward to see above all others; and unfortunately for Louis even after eight years on the show it still wasn't him. Take That's Gary Barlow got by far the best reception from both the crowd and auditionees, easily fulfilling Simon Cowell's authoritative role.

Even Louis Walsh seemed to be overly interested in what the Take That star - described as a "legend" by one hopeful - had to say. In one audition when asked for his opinion by Destiny’s Child star Kelly, the Irish music mogul instead replied: "I want to know what Gary thinks!"

The judging panel has received a bit of criticism from the press, but from what we saw at yesterday's auditions this year's mix of personalities could well be the best yet. They were all on top form yesterday and every single one - yes, even Gary Barlow - were hilarious.

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One thing that became quickly apparent was that all of the judges were giving very detailed constructive feedback. At one point Kelly Rowland even started to perform herself, belting out 'One Night Only' to in order to help an auditionee achieve the right note.

Tulisa arguably has some of the biggest shoes to fill, following as she does in the footsteps of 'The Nation's Sweetheart' Cheryl Cole. We've loved Cheryl on the show but we reckon Tulisa may be even better. As well as offering the understanding and sympathetic role as Cole, Tulisa wasn't afraid to be firm with the less talented auditionees.

"You're terrible!" she told one hopeful after his performance.

Bearing in mind this was the panel's first audition show, the group gelled surprisingly well, with gags between them leaving the audience in stitches.

Host Dermot O'Leary was also on top form as ever, joking about the recent firings on The X Factor by saying: "I'm still here... just!"

X Factor 2011 judges

Onto the auditionees and the talent this year seemed better than ever, but there was still the odd talentless wannabe. Yesterday this came in the form of 21-year-old Mike. "I want to be as big as Take That," he started, ".. or Jedward," to laughs of the audience. "Good choice!" Louis said unsurprisingly.

He performed a completely tuneless rendition of Take That's The Flood, but it wasn't the vocals the judges were talking about - it was ridiculous sparkly pink shirt. "Where did you get that form?" Kelly asked the hopeful.

"Ebay," he replied to laughs from the crowd, "I wanted to stand out. I brought it for my 21st birthday and haven't worn it since."

After a panning of his first song choice, Mike went on to perform a Green Day track. For Kelly and Tulisa though the shirt was too much - both were in tears of laughter at the judge's desk. "Why are you laughing?" Mike asked halfway through the song.

It was then we heard for the first time what is sure to become an X Factor highlight: Tulisa's laugh. The N-Dub star's Alesha Dixon inspired snort-laughing had the whole arena going and it took a good few minutes for a now very teary eyed Kelly Rowland to utter "I can't take you seriously in that shirt," in between fits of giggles.

Eventually it was time to vote, even if the girls didn't see the need. "No!" said Kelly. "It's a no," Louis added. "You're just awful," Tulisa told him.

"Well I would've said yes..." joked Gary Barlow.

X Factor 2011 set

Despite Mike's audition there were glimmers of hope for the show in the form of 16-year-old Lizzy, who performed Gnarls Barkley's Crazy to the 3,000 strong audience in Birmingham’s packed out LG Arena. "This is why I did the show," Gary told the youngster.

Overall the judges were by far a lot more firm than in previous years, don't be expecting any Jedwards or Wagners getting through if our experience yesterday was anything to go by.

It's easy to criticise a line up on paper but seeing the judges in action yesterday allowed us to experience the spark that perhaps the show's producers were hoping to achieve. This year's panel may be a big change and it worked well to make the 8-year-old show feel very fresh and re-energised.

We can't wait until it's back on the telly.

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