Review by Andrea Rabin • Photos by Brad Holland
After reading reviews of this tour in the UK, and never seeing them in concert previously, I was unsure about what this evening was going to be like; The Trust Arena is certainly not London’s O2 Arena – or any of the other UK arenas for that matter – so I was hopeful that it would be a more intimate affair and less of the 7 costume changes that had taken the boys off the stage. There were not many there under 40, except for the 2 young kids that looked like they’d been dragged there by mum who’d been a fan at 16, and culturally, 75% of the audience looked (and sounded) like ex-pats – this could be recognised by the amount of beer in hands coupled with a ‘diamond geezer’ swagger, and girls in glitter and sequins on a Happy Birthday night out. Take That, Gary Barlow (46), Mark Owen (45) and Howard Donald (49) were here – they were in the building.
Once Mark had teed off with a “Kia Ora Auckland, let’s see your hands in the air” it was like a starting pistol for 5 powerhouse songs that not only did Auckland do just that – all hands in the air – but we also were up on our feet and dancing along. I was struck by what a hard working band they really are, in the sense that they are consummate performers, interacting with the audience, never standing still, always on the move, but in an engaging way and appearing to have all kinds of fun. If you’re going to see a pop band, then they have to deliver – and they certainly know how to do that.
Shine, Greatest Day, Get Ready for It, Giants, and Hold Up A Light were anthemic; between their songwriting skills (yes, many of the songs weren’t written solely by Gary) combined with others, a great groove was established that kept us all on our feet. Their early days doing clubs certainly meant they had their patter down pat, and the audience was encouraged to sing louder… louder, and we were putty in their hands, particularly when Mark said “Up here we can feel the a-row-ha (aroha) in the room”.
The arena certainly felt like there was more than 3,000 in attendance, and the place exploded when the boys rocked out Pray, complete with their dance moves, well, I say dance moves, but highly pseudo erotic as per their early 90s videos. Howard moves like a man half his age, and kept this energy up (mostly) all night. I’d always thought of him as one of the extras but tonight he changed my mind; he can sing, and sing well, and for me, had a much better voice than Mark – maybe he just needed the other two to depart so he could have his chance in the spotlight? He sang with a genuine desire and took hold of Robbie songs (The Flood and Never Forget for a great example) and gave it a mellow tone that emphasised and harmonised that this is a BAND – and not a solo singer trying to be better than everyone else and waiting to get out of the group.
Three slow songs followed, which left me wondering if they needed time to recover, and this really was the only low point of the night. The odd guy went to get another drink, a few of the women even sat down, albeit briefly, but even the slower songs have great form and structure. Knowing when to insert and crescendo, when to have a pedal bass line drawing us to an elongated climatic point, well, there are many younger bands that should be looking to Take That for a lesson in this is how to do it. These guys are more than just a band from the past, something to make you reminisce; they are the crowned kings of sing-along pop.
Their camaraderie on stage feels so natural — “come on Marky, give us a tune of two, get your plectrum going” — and their slickness on stage does not look rehearsed, but you know that it is as various instruments had to be moved depending where Mark needed a guitar, Howard played a keyboard or snare drums, or bits where they just sat round the piano with Gary.
Auckland got to party time with the bands rocking out on stage, without the singers; they are a mighty band full of well-heeled musicians, and a left-handed bass player who played a left-handed bass, but strung in reverse (kind of like Anika Moa would do) – and the one and only time the boys left for a clothes change, it was time to Relight My Fire, and back into dance moves, beloved of the crowd and performed slightly tongue in cheek, and we were being taken on the final 4 songs before encores. The noise was overwhelming for the first encore – clamping, stomping, cheering and we were treated to Back For Good. The lady in front of me was transported back to her teenage years, using her bottle as a microphone and singing without a care in he world, arm wrapped around her friend and occasionally both sharing the ‘mic’. This is it, this is them. They are like the warm comforting feeling of coming home after a great night out – except the other way around.
Ne-ver forget where you’ve come here from
N-ever pretend that it’s all real
Arms up, singing along, looking around the arena it was something like the arms in the air when Freddie did Live Aid at Wembley. The atmosphere was electric, and even the husbands/boyfriends/partners who’d been told they were coming were joining in and (seemingly) having a good time. Gary knows how to treat his fans, saying that they can’t believe that they’d not been here before and that we’d been a great audience as we’re half of their show – awww! I’d heard on the radio on Wednesday morning the discussion that when they’d done a telephone call to Gary, that it was like talking to an old friend who was your best mate; tonight he was everyone’s best mate. He has a great pop voice, soulful, great range, pitch perfect, and being the kind of Mr Nice Guy that he appears to be, he did not hog the limelight.
This gig reminded me that Take That are not just a band from the 90s. They have truly well crafted and chart-topping songs since their comeback album Beautiful World in 2006 right up to date in 2017 with Cry – in collaboration with Sigma; who’d have picked them for doing a drum and bass driven song, but it works! The Arena was treated to a night of dancing, arm waving, and singing – better than any step class you’ve ever been to – and a renewed reminder that they are a band worthy of attention. Take That were a band formed ostensibly around the creative talents of Gary Barlow who, great on his own, is even more amazing as a trio; this is a definitive Take That.