Lots Left of What’s Left of Take That

Not having been able to attend together any of Take That‘s Progress Live concerts in Wembley last 2011 (though we did go see them live separately), at long last my friend Gemmins and I could enjoy not one but two Take That concerts together last May 1 and 2 at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow. Our first intention (besides visiting a bit of Scotland) was attend just the May 1 gig, comfortably seating on Level 2, but such was the magic, sheer beauty and true awesomeness of that night that we couldn’t help but buy tickets – this time standing -, for a second night. And what a night that was too!

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My love story for Take That is a bit curious, not to say ridiculous. I got to know who they actually were through the TV news when Robbie left in 1995, only to split up in 1996. Yes, I guess that, before then, I was living under a rock, as I was only familiar with their ‘Relight My Fire‘ and their ‘Back for Good‘. However, some years after they re-formed as a four-piece, I realized that I had been piling up quite a few songs on my iPod by the then four-piece, so I resolved to dig into their back catalog. And so glad I did because I liked what I heard. So much, in fact, that when they announced their Progress Live tour, I didn’t hesitate one bit to travel to Copenhagen to go and see them live (and spend a long weekend there too, huh!). What I saw there was certainly an extraordinarily well-produced show, with an impressive stage display that certainly amazed all the attendees, and where even the tiniest detail was taken into account regardless of the large sizes of the venues they were touring in back then. I take it that the reunion with Robbie Williams had to be celebrated in kick-ass style. There was so much going on on that stage that just one night was not enough to appreciate it all. Consequently, I bought a second ticket, which unfortunately went to waste due to some food poisoning the crew caught the night before the second show. Bummer! So this was another chance for us to enjoy Take That, now as a three-piece, in their country of birth, taking advantage of once again a long weekend off, and history repeating, we would end up experiencing a Take That show from two different positions.

With Robbie absent (hopefully for this tour and album only?) and with Jason Orange leaving, both Mark Owen and especially Howard Donald have taken on a more relevant role in the III Tour. Meanwhile, Gary Barlow keeps on being, as usual, the Master of Ceremonies during 2h and counting of a show for which, to be honest, I didn’t expect such a huge display of elements on stage. But boy, was I wrong! Getting inspiration (as I daresay they did for the Progress Live too) from The Circus Live tour, with about 20-something dancers, both the singers and the dancers had several outfit changes to perfectly match not only the songs but also the décor in the background, the lights and all the tastefully designed (and mostly moving) props. All that was perfectly combined with ‘quieter’ moments where the focus was, precisely, the three guys from “What’s Left of Take That” taking on the stage in the middle. This didn’t mean that the pace slowed down in those moments. On the contrary, the audience did not have a second to get bored, be it thanks to the complicity between the three members of the band and their jokes, be it for their dances or, needless to say, for the music itself.

Now that I’m at it, a note to U2: you’d better learn your lesson of what a 360º experience for the audience is like from no other than Take That. You might have had a colossal structure with one circular stage plonked down in the middle of huge stadiums with four ginormous legs preventing some people from seeing whatever was happening in the center of your universe while the rest of the space is virtually empty, but elliptical walkways with not one but three platforms acting as stages along with two more smaller elevated platforms on the sides are a wise way to make it easier for every single punter to get to see the singers, the dancers and the props from all points of view. As they say, sometimes, less is more.

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Four huge legs prevented U2 concert goers in front of them from seeing the central stage in U2’s 360º tour, while Take That fans could enjoy numbers from each of the three stages plus two platforms on the sides while the dancers were all over the place if you were not graced with Gary’s, Mark’s or Howard’s presence close to your position.

Despite III perhaps not being the best of Take That‘s albums (or not as innovative as Progress, at least), the now trio defended it in the best of ways, performing the more remarkable or catchy tracks on it (‘I Like It‘, ‘Get Ready For It‘, ‘Let In the Sun‘, ‘Flaws‘, ‘Portrait‘ and ‘These Days‘). With a great setlist where, I’m sorry, I missed ‘Kidz‘ and/or ‘SOS‘ (perhaps they sound too ‘Progress’ for this sort of a kinder, sweeter show/album?) ‘I Like It‘ opened the show, and I daresay the audience really liked it, it being so lively and colorful. Then, after ‘Love, Love‘ (a later addition to the Progress album called Progressed that I’m sure the audience welcomed with joy – I did, at least), and ‘Greatest Day‘ (during which showers of color confetti covered those in the middle of the venue), another track from their latest album, ‘Get Ready For It‘, closed what we could call the first act. Then a huge blanket covered the whole of the central ring to give way to a story told with shadows that would be the backdrop for, in my view, one of the most beautiful tracks in The Circus: ‘The Garden. Do take a peek into how it was made from the inner circle. This garden would later materialize in the shape of a deep sea scene with the lads clad with accessories that clearly reminded us of algae.

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Besides ‘The Garden‘, Mark Owen would keep playing a relevant part in ‘Up All Night‘, which would lead to the quietest of the songs in the setlist, ‘Said It All’, with Gary Barlow at the piano and on vocals. After some oldie dance moves with ‘Could It Be Magic‘, the time came for worshipping the one and only sun with the dancey ‘Let In The Sun‘ during which the attendees were surprised with a magnificent world globe that would turn into a sun lit with fireworks with an acrobat inside.

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And the time came for Howard Donald to glow as he deserves with ‘Affirmation‘ and ‘The Flood‘, where, without meaning to discredit this talented singer and dancer (not in vain, when singing along, do I change the ‘Whoaaaa’ in ‘The Flood‘ and the ‘Hold Up’ in ‘Hold Up a Light‘ for ‘Howard’ :P), I must confess that I did miss Robbie there, after having witnessed his Progress jump from up above the ‘rainy’ wall, tied with a rope, while the other four members descended in four elevators. That is hard to beat even by Take That themselves! If you ever need an example to illustrate how ‘goosebumps’ originate, you just need to check this out (03:18 – 03:53). However, if there is one moment that I must highlight of Howard, together with Mark, that will undoubtedly be their flawless choreography in ‘Flaws’, with bits that will certainly remind you of Ed Sheeran’s choreo for the ‘Thinking Out Loud‘ music clip.

After three revival songs (‘Relight My Fire‘, ‘Back for Good‘ and ‘Pray‘) and fly-riding a bicycle with a sidecar all over the place in ‘Portrait‘, along with some noticeable participation from the dancers using circus elements, …

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… the main part of the concert would come to an end with ‘These Days‘ and the always stellar ‘Rule the World‘. As expected, What’s Left of Take That (renamed ‘Half That and a Half’ by Gemmins and I with the help of my friend Ana) came back for the encore. It consisted of the happy ‘Shine‘ with Markie shining again, and, no doubt, THE Take That anthem ‘Never Forget‘, which we all sang until we got voiceless while clapping as required by the beat. That was Howard’s last moment of glory of the night, while considerably large confetti clouds rained over the audience.

These two were shows that I didn’t just enjoy, I loved them from beginning to end, and so did the security guard, who did not stop dancing, singing and even clapping her hands in the air as did the audience. So joyful was the atmosphere created by all the people in the SSE Hydro!

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Now, members of Take That, I just need to remind you of something: while I know that I still have pending in my bucket list a proper clapping and shouting during ‘Never Forget‘ in Wembley (because you will play there again, right?), if you ever do a European III tour, remember that, beyond the Pyrenees, there’s Spain, which also belongs to Europe. Oh, and my meanie me has one more thing to say before writing the last word in this review: while I did miss Robbie Williams at some points, I bet not many fans missed Jason Orange that much, and neither did I. Take that!

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