|Take That (pic: Shirlaine Forrest)|
The stadium was rammed; City themselves could only dream of this kind of match-day attendance although admittedly they might struggle getting the ball past the deely-boppers. It’s an awesome sight to look out and see that many people all there for the same thing, or at least their piece of one of four things. This was a fact that didn’t escape the boys as they burst onto the stage in a flurry of velvet and Victorian gentlemen’s tailoring, a universe away from the baby oil years.
Age and autonomy have worked wonders; without the pressures, expectations and Robbie wrangles, this was pure unpretentious, tongue-in-cheek musical showboating. Gary’s dancing was made fun of, (mostly by Gary), they put a shout out to find a girlfriend for Jason, Howard was still looking fine in his leather trousers and every time Mark’s face graced the big screens, it got all crunchy underfoot as 50,000 hearts shattered across the stadium.
Gary Barlow has one of the finest voices in pop; there were soaring moments of long-held notes segueing into key changes that got the goosebumps out in force. Mark was as faux-forlornly beautiful as ever during Babe and Howard and Jason even had more than a decent stab at their bits of the resurrected Beatles medley.
One of the most entertaining parts of the night was their damning indictment of the manufactured pop industry with a whole section dedicated to taking a caustic swipe at the restrictions and incredulities of their formative years, even making reference to the need for one member to “break down and have to be discarded.”
Talking of Robbie, there’d been a lot of hype prior to this gig as to whether Mr Williams would appear. Two songs in and I really wouldn’t have wanted him there. Watching the remaining four putting their all into everything, humble to the point of ridiculous and just being phenomenally entertaining, you wondered what he’d ever added in the first place.
A better addition was always Lulu, who popped in for a rendition of Relight My Fire, aided by the newly gonged Beverley Knight MBE, who’d opened proceedings much earlier in the day.
Will the boys be back for good? If the reports of the massive record deal are anything to go by, the answer's a resounding yes, and I, for one, will be glad to welcome them, and few who mock-screamed, laughed, danced and grinned their way through this show will argue.