SOMETIMES when considering the right choice of tack for a review, it’s easiest to cede to those who know the artist best.
Star rating: * * *
In this case, the three flushed and well-dressed ladies conducting a breathless post-mortem afterwards. “He’s a really good songwriter,” conceded one. “But he’s no’ Robbie,” another was forced to admit.
There’s Gary Barlow’s problem in a nutshell. He’s a pastmaster at the kind of dignified, blandly yearning establishment balladry which best serves his voice and his image (think handsome middle-managerial rising star on a night out), but when called upon to convey a bit of the pounding sexuality which fans of his old band Take That love, guiltily or otherwise, he seems out of his depth.
At the one extreme, a perfectly pleasant version of Sing (beautifully backed by the Glasgow Gaelic School choir) was prefaced by an almost parodically worthy film of Barlow in conference with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Prince Charles before gazing out over dusty African plains; at the other, the pounding disco bassline of Relight My Fire left his drab “it’s party time – yeah!” intro sounding somewhat lame.
Amidst the token Elton John videoscreen ballad on Face to Face, the extended solo piano spot on a dais mid-audience and the joyous, stand-out country rattle of Mumfords-style recent hit Let Me Go, the points at which Barlow’s muse finds its most universal expression are the most predictable: serenading a lucky audience member during A Million Love Songs or revisiting high water marks like Back For Good and Rule the World.
He’ll be back with Take That next year, he said, and it’s probably for the best.
Seen on 02.04.14