Review: Take That can offer Progress rather than perfection to adoring fans
Take That Hampden Park, Glasgow ****
Take That are in a league of their own when it comes to pop extravaganzas, having only have their past form to compete with. The Progess Live tour has already made history with its 1.76 million ticket sales but 2009's theatrically exquisite Circus tour remains a hard act to follow.
This time round they have one bankable attraction that was not available to them two years ago - the errant Robbie Williams. Following a carefully managed rapprochement, the black sheep of the Take That clan is back in the fold, allowing the group to tour as a five-piece for the first time since 1995.
Robbie needs Take That more than the four-piece Take That need Robbie but the ever-generous (and shrewd) Gary Barlow has never underestimated the fans' appetite for a full reunion.
Before the famous five appeared to a Hampden roar, there was prestigious support from the Pet Shop Boys, a band with an even more formidable pop back catalogue than Take That. Their set, nicely integrated into the whole aesthetic of the evening, was striking in its own right, reprising the key roles of the brightly coloured, sculpturally attired, perfectly in-sync dancers from their own Pandemonium tour. And as for the music, who can argue with some of the most glorious synth pop tunes - It's A Sin, Suburbia, West End Girls - of the last quarter century?
In keeping with the evolutionary concept of the show, a four-piece Take That arrived to little fanfare, sang one of their best songs, Rule the World, and made a stadium filled with 50,000 people feel intimate, pressing the flesh with the fans, conducting a communal singalong of Flower of Scotland, and displaying a simple, but touching camaraderie while the rain pelted down on them.
The first big set-piece was an Alice in Wonderland-themed Smile to complement its psychedelic Beatlesque feel, culminating in Mark Owen riding off on a giant pink caterpillar.
Next, the Robbie solo set - a wish come true or an indulgent intrusion, depending on your feelings towards the joker in the pack. Say what you like about the insecure, attention-milking egomaniac, but he knows how to work a crowd, even if the mugging and grandstanding quickly became tiresome.
Sinister hooded monks and a display of aerial Spiderman-like acrobatics against a wall of water (superfluous under the soggy circumstances) heralded the moment when four became five and Take That were reunited as a fully functioning organism.
A sequence of rather odd electro-tribal totalitarian tracks from the Progress album coincided with the emergence of OM, their 25-ton robot centrepiece whose Manchester malfunction left Mark Owen and Howard Donald stranded in its iron grasp. Don't they know the first rule of showbiz is never work with robots and monks?Technical hitches avoided, the five performed a piano medley of early hits which showed off their solid musical chops and their bantering humour.
But if there is any Take That song worth standing up for, it is the celebratory Never Forget and, sure enough, OM reached his full extension for their crowning pop gospel moment followed by a souped-up campfire pow-wow of Relight My Fire which no amount of rain could extinguish.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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