If Take That once thought they weren’t invincible, the events of the last few years might beg to differ. Having taken what was surely a massive gamble by returning in 2005, they launched themselves on a commercial and creative path that managed to eclipse that first run of boyband success – peaking with the success of Progress and the subsequent enormo-tour. Since then departure of Robbie (a good thing) and Jason (not so much) has left them wobbling slightly, the feeling that those glory days are behind them hard to shake – on record at least.
Try telling that to the 19,000 who find their way through the roadworks and traffic jams to the 3Arena over two nights and you’d probably get a flashing deely bopper round the chops for your trouble. This is adoration writ large and undiminished by time. When the three members appear in the recesses of the room and make their way through the crowd to the central stage pandemonium erupts and stays with us pretty much for the next two hours.
They deserve it too. Take That’s continuing investment in their live show has ensured that they’ll be a draw even as interest in their studio output starts to wane. This Wonderland tour is no exception, staged in the round and easily one of the most eye catching productions we’ve seen in a long time. There’s a lot going on, sometimes too much to be honest – we could do without much of the interpretive dance and circus performers – but they do need help in carrying the show. The 2017 Take That model are hardly a charismatic powerhouse. Chat is kept to a scripted, wooden minimum and Gary never looks happier than when he’s behind a piano. The increasingly ludicrous costumes really don’t suit them, especially Mark’s daft hats, and only Howard exudes the air of a proper pop star.
Of course none of this really matters when you take into account the music. We may be in the minority, but the decision to largely neglect the first phase of their career suits us just fine – reflecting a band who have produced some of the most well crafted pop music of the past decade. ‘Back For Good’, that first spark of something substantial, heralds a peerless closing run that moves from highlight to highlight. ‘Patience’ is rightly introduced as one of the most important songs of their career, ‘The Flood’ is as visually breathtaking as their slightly creaky revisiting of the original dance routine on ‘Pray’ is charming. Which is perhaps the key to tonight’s success. For all the flash and technology, despite the odd moments of awkwardness, a Take That show has real heart. That and a mass of people losing their minds to ‘Never Forget’. They promise to still be coming back in ten years, still leaving the dream. Stranger things have happened you know.