Music review: Take That

Can it really be 30 years since five cheeky northern lads were assembled in pursuit of chart domination? Apparently so, and here’s the anniversary tour to prove it.

Donald, Owen and Barlow  plus local  Lulu spared no effort in this extravaganza to please the rapturous crowd Picture: Dave J Hogan
Donald, Owen and Barlow plus local Lulu spared no effort in this extravaganza to please the rapturous crowd Picture: Dave J Hogan

SSE Hydro, Glasgow ****

Actually, as Generalissimo Gary Barlow revealed during this extravagant two hour show, they actually formed in December 1989. I guess they just couldn’t wait until 2020 to unleash their lucrative greatest hits juggernaut.

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On the first night of three sold-out shows at this 14,000 seater arena, they were blasted with an unrelenting tsunami of ear-splitting screams. It was like peak That mania all over again. “You might think we say this every night,” beamed Barlow, “but this is a bloody loud crowd tonight!” Inevitably, that was greeted by an even louder display of rapture.

Take That are beloved, understandably so. They were always more personable and self-deprecating than their ‘90s boyband rivals. It’s hard to imagine Boyzone opening a show in 2019 while dressed in shiny Thunderbirds fitness trainer outfits, bellowing, “Welcome to the ‘90s!”

They also released better singles than their bland contemporaries, all of them wheeled out tonight with commendable energy and enthusiasm for three men in their forties. Barlow, Owen and Donald were never overwhelmed by an impressive stage set dominated by a massive revolving Death Star-cum-Pac Man and its attendant runways, staircases and elevated platforms.

Visually, the theme of this tour is a glitzy Hollywood amalgam of Busby Berkeley-style backing dancers and nods to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. These boys – they’ll always be boys – give good value for money.

During Everything Changes there was even a brief cameo from Robbie Williams, albeit via a newly filmed video performance. Jason Orange – very much the John Deacon of Take That – has quietly retired from the whole shebang, so he was only represented via archive footage.

Undoubtedly present was Glasgow’s very own Lulu, who was in great voice during an extended strut through disco banger Relight My Fire.

Their early hits are much more fun than those from their ‘mature’ comeback phase, the honourable exception being the glorious ELO-influenced Shine. I even felt quite emotional during an acoustic performance of Barlow’s one true classic, Back for Good, the waves of “Were we e’er so young?” nostalgia in the room being too powerful to resist.

Take That are inveterate crowd-pleasers, pure showbiz. All good people will always have a soft spot for them.