This review has been co-written with Guest Blogger Sophie Wray
Date: May 23rd 2015
Venue: Manchester Arena (Manchester,UK)
In September of 2014, we made a post about the implications of Jason Orange’s exit from Manchester pop powerhouse Take That. In that post, we expressed our skepticism about Take That being able to protect their “brand value” as a three-piece. Not much longer after Jason announced his exit from Take That, the band released “These Days” – an unapologetic and uplifting dance-along track that sounded different from anything they had ever recorded and rose to the top of the UK singles charts. “These Days” was the lead single for their UK #1 album titled “III“. That being said, the real “moment of truth”, as far as we are concerned, was their ability to translate their chart success on to stage. The fact that they had scaled down the show from a stadium performance to an arena performance had already triggered some concern. Fortunately, the band’s performance at the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2015 may have neutralized any skepticism that both critics and fans may have shared as they watched Take That take the stage together as a 3-piece featuring pop svengali Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, and Mark Owen.
After waiting thirteen hours to get to the barrier of the venue, indulging with sumptuous quantities of food from McDonalds stalls (conveniently located near the queues), plenty of friend-making with fellow ‘Thatters’ (a term commonly used to identify die-hard Take That fans), it was time to enter the arena. It appeared that despite the exit of Jason Orange and international superstar Robbie Williams since the band’s “Progress” tour in 2011, there appeared to be no significant change in the demographic of the audience. This, in itself, was a positive sign that no love had faded since the band’s last tour. Apparently, a hiatus for Take That does not seem to result in depleted levels of interest for their fans. The notion of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” doesn’t ring truer for any other musical act than it does for Take That.
The show’s opening act was X-Factor star Ella Henderson. She delivered an outstanding performance including the hit “Mirror Man” and she made the show her own. Her beauty and voice combined made anyone unaware of her career fall in love with her, and she showed respect and admiration for Take That and got the crowd to cheer for them. She interacted with the audience extremely well, but soon enough, her set was over and the whole crowd quietened down.
There was a mild tension in the air, shared feelings of excitement and anticipation for what’s going to come next. No one knew where to look, and no one knows what to expect, and then a man walks on stage. “Is he a part of the show? What’s going on?” There were questions floating around the crowd, but one thing everyone knew was that they were going to have the night of their lives. This is Take That after all. More performers made their way on to the stage and the music began to build.
It appeared that the scaling down from a stadium act to an arena act did not in any way dilute the inherent theatricality of a quintessential Take That concert. The performers told a story in the way they moved and in what they did, and everyone stared in awe. For both people who had already seen the show, and people who were there for the first time, it didn’t fail to surprise. Then the opening song played loudly, the bassline and the drums sending vibrations through the crowd and everyone screamed. The band opted to open with a lesser known uptempo jam titled “I like it” from their latest album “III“. It sounded fresh and new and worked well for an opener. It seemed almost symbolic of a band looking forward as opposed to looking back at a stellar legacy.
On came Mark Owen in a pink suit, Gary Barlow in a blue suit, and Howard Donald in a green suit. They filled the stage and made it their own. After the heartbreaking departure of talented singer, dancer and guitarist Jason Orange, a few people had feared that the standard of Take That shows would plummet. The stage would feel empty, and many would be visibly sad, but this was something different. This was new and exciting. A step forward. Every Take That show is different, and no matter who is there, whether it be three, four or five, everybody has a good time, and everybody participating manages to bring something new.
The band showcased a healthy mix of the old and the new – right from their signature hit “Back For Good“, to “Greatest Day“, to recent UK #1 single “These Days“. Every album of theirs was represented. Fans were also surprised when Take That appeared stood on tall podiums while patterns were projected on to their bodies. The beat for “Affirmation” (from the “Progress” album) kicked in and everybody was amazed at how intense it was. They got to hear Howard’s vocals in full, and truly appreciate the sound of his voice, which is always a rare treat since he does not take many lead vocals. The guys stood completely still as electronic themed patterns of lines crossing over each other to make different shapes were projected on to their bodies. It tied in well with the song’s electro style and was very intense compared to the usual child-like bouncing around, singing, smiling, dancing Take That. Howard has always struck us as being Take That’s “unsung hero”. He is a criminally under-rated vocalist. His other shining moment in the concert was the one in which he took over Robbie Williams’ vocals on “The Flood” (the first hit single for the reunited quintet in 2010).
Take That never fail to make their audience laugh with their senses of humor. Some moments that stood out to the crowd were Mark singing the song Up All Night. There are always many costume changes during a Take That show and in this segment Mark was wearing a massive gold and black, tasseled, extravagant jacket. Instead of singing the line “But would you like to come back to my flat?” He sang: “But don’t you really like my lovely jacket?” Which got a lot of laughs from the crowd. After the song had finished Gary told him it was time to take it off now, joking that they had to return it to the zoo which also made us laugh. Then there was the introduction to Back For Good when stools were brought on to the stage to the crowds amazement, as Take That never sit down during a show. Mark told us a story of the first time they sang Back For Good in the 1990s at the Brits, then went on to say: “So, we thought we’d bring the tradition back, also, I’m knackered!” Which made us all chuckle, it’s nice to see Take That aren’t pretending to be young, they’re embracing the way they are now and creating a new style. Finally, there was the introduction to Rule The World (the song before the encore.) Gary and Howard were telling us about how it was their last song, and everyone was booing and joking with them, but Mark covered his mouth with his hand and mouthed to the crowd saying: “No we’ve not, we’ve got three!” Then kept holding up three fingers and laughing. It’s great when they interact with the crowd like that.
Each member brought something different: Gary Barlow sung his heart out, made the crowd laugh and attempted a few dance moves reminding fans of the good old days. Mark Owen was his usual smiley self, walking about the stage, holding people’s hands and smiling and laughing with the crowd. Howard Donald showed us his moves, his underrated voice, gave it his all and added that little bit extra to the show. Together they were unstoppable.
Showmanship and entertainment value seem to be core attributes for the band’s live presence. So far, we’ve had a giant disco ball in the “Beautiful World” tour, a mechanical elephant and hot air balloon in “The Circus” tour, and a 60 foot robot in the “Progress” tour. In this concert, the band has bumped things up a notch with a flying bike, with a side car, that flew over the crowd. This wasn’t all though. There were countless jaw-dropping moments including fire, rain, ticker tape, gigantic jellyfish, a silhouette puppet shown on a canopy brought over the arena, a dancer inside a sphere which rose above the b-stage with fireworks and fire shooting out of it to create a sun, a beautifully choreographed dance from Mark and Howard, lights and false fireworks during the performance of “Rule The World“, and the sense of unification and family as everyone did the “Never Forget” dance during the last song. Credit is most definitely also due to the backup band featuring the talented Mike Stevens, Milton McDonald, Donovan Hepburn, and Ben Mark.
There were many heart-warming moments that happened that night in Manchester Arena, but I think the best was seeing the three men that bring happiness to fans all over the World enjoying themselves, and still amazed at the amount of support they have after all of these years. Although Jason Orange and Robbie Williams are missed dearly, Take That, and their fans will always be reassured with the knowledge that the door is open and anyone is welcome to come home to World of Take That again, if they want to.
The Take That guys always say they want people to come away from a show thinking: “Wow, I want to come back again tomorrow,” and without a doubt, they have achieved this yet again, so if you haven’t seen the show and there are tickets available near you, I strongly advise you to go and watch it, I promise you will not be disappointed.
The Take That story is a rare pop saga and showcases a career trajectory (with its highs and lows) that is rarely ever seen. The concert at Manchester Arena suggests that this band shows no visible signs of calling it quits. There is at least another chapter left in this saga and we can only hope that Jason Orange and Robbie Williams are a part of it to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary next year – a career milestone that many modern music acts are unlikely to ever see.
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Take That is a regular staple on our radio station – even though we are an American radio station. We were the first US-based station to feature “The Flood” when it released in 2010. In addition to Take That singles and singles by members such as Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Robbie Williams, we also feature album tracks and b-sides by these artists fairly regularly on our 24/7 global broadcast. Right now, “These Days” by Take That is getting 5 plays a day on our station.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!