“WE’RE what’s left of Take That!” Thus yelped the heroically ageless Mark Owen on the first night of Take That’s inaugural tour as a trio.
Did anyone miss departed member Jason Orange? Their adoring fans, many of whom have kept the faith since the resurrected boy band’s 1990s pomp, didn’t seem to.
Instead they lapped up this grandiose circus of sweetly silly, flame-throwing nonsense, during which Owen, Gary Barlow and Howard Donald reasserted their roles as the people’s pop stars.
Always more endearing than their anodyne peers, Take That have never been afraid of looking daft. A gaudy undersea segment, replete with giant floating jellyfish, saw them draped in gold tassled seaweed. Later they appeared as white-robed Krypton elders to perform an earnestly camp jolt of Teutonic electro-pop. Despite Barlow’s credible artiste pretensions, they care not a jot about cool.
A clumsy, homoerotic ballet between Donald and Owen – yes, they still bare their chests – was rather touching. The bathos of middle-aged men acting as teen idols isn’t lost on them.
After doling out such hits as Patience, Pray and borderline classic Back For Good, they capped their pre-encore set by soaring gently above the crowd in a suspended bicycle and side-car, with Donald attired in Eric Morecambe cap and mac. It was like a psychedelic remake of Last Of The Summer Wine, and quite possibly the greatest visual metaphor for the spirited charm of British pop that I’ve ever clapped eyes on.