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Friday 9 December 2016

Review: Take That at the 3Arena

Take That (L-R) Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen perform during a secret gig for Magic FM at One Marylebone on April 24, 2015 in London, England.
Take That (L-R) Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen perform during a secret gig for Magic FM at One Marylebone on April 24, 2015 in London, England.

The boys in the colourful, three-piece suits would like to take a moment to introduce themselves.

 “Hello Dublin, I’m Mark,” announces the one in pink. “I’m Gary”, says the next (resplendent in royal blue). “I’m Howard,” declares the last (he’s rocking the turquoise). “And we are what’s left of Take That!”

Aw, now that’s a good one. They said it in unison; a handy reminder that a) the newly-downsized man band is missing its Orange light, and b) Take That don’t do things by halves. It’s the reason that (most of them) are still with us. Tonight is a lesson in big-budget pop extravagance  – it’s what we’ve come to expect from a group of lads who, on their last visit to Dublin in 2011, sold out Croker and brought a robot the size of a small skyscraper with them.

Yes, things are different. Again, Jason Orange jumped ship, and Robbie Williams decided to sit this round out. Take That is now a trio, ladies and gents. They called their seventh studio album III. There are three seats on the mechanical bicycle on which they ‘fly’ around the arena. You get the picture.

But this isn’t a concert. It’s a theatrical wonder; a Broadway musical, only, with better tunes and enough bells, whistles, balloons and carnival treats to last an entire career, never mind a two-hour pop gig. Which isn’t to say that the Take That live experience in 2015 is all about distractions. Brush away the costumed army of dozens, the orchestra, the Willy Wonka-esque visual trickery (we’ve got giant jellyfish, people) and the acrobat spinning from an explosive globe, and what you’ll find is some of the best British pop songs of the past 20 years, performed by a keen and likeable ensemble of consummate showmen and musicians.

They’ve all aged magnificently, not least Gary Barlow (44). Some outfits are better than others, with Mark Owen alternating from cartoon gangster to someone who might have fallen into a box of Christmas decorations. They’re in on the joke when it comes to reliving the cheesy, choreographed antics of their glory days, not least Gary, who blushes and giggles his way through Could It Be Magic and Relight My Fire.

On Back for Good, Take That try out something new: they sit on stools. “They were left here by Westlife and Boyzone,” jokes Mark. On the electronically-fuelled Affirmation, the guys do their best Kraftwerk impression. Indeed, it’s a feast for the eyes and the ears, with Barlow and Co running through ELO-like pop gems (Shine) and modern funk delights (These Days).  Sure, you’d miss Jason and Robbie. But, you know, we’ve got giant jellyfish.  A triumphant, and hugely entertaining pop spectacle. HHHHI

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