ALTHOUGH Gary Barlow’s sporadic solo recording career has taken a backseat in favour of keeping the Take That juggernaut (now down to three members but still going strong) rolling as long as possible, he’s proving to be a master of cultivating what’s known in the age of social media as his “personal brand”. From stints as a television talent judge on X-Factor and Let it Shine to – as he noted here – leading his usual band in playing Rule the World at Buckingham Palace and the Olympics, he’s been making a concerted play in recent years for “national treasure” status.
Playhouse, Edinburgh ***
Indeed, it’s a measure of how well thought of he is across the generations that he can fill two nights at the Playhouse and further dates in Perth and Dundee, and it still seems like an intimate show. A four-piece band plus a three-piece brass section and two backing singers may have seemed extravagant by other standards, but to Barlow this was a club show.
What’s most interesting to note is how little showmanship Barlow employed when onstage on his own. Of course, he turned out dance moves here and there – how could he not during Relight My Fire? – but he seemed happiest behind his piano, firmly playing up the image of the singer-songwriter over the pop star, whether he was playing Shine or a lounge version of Could It Be Magic?, or adapting others to his style with Stormzy’s Blinded By Your Grace Part 2 and a teasing snippet of Robbie Williams’ Angels. It was a safe setlist, thin on his solo songs (Open Road, Forever Love and Love Won’t Wait all appeared) and heavy on Take That’s, but it managed to give the audience what they wanted and offer something different all at once.