First night: Take That: Hits and hugs in a gig to never forget
'The Take That and Robbie Williams show' -- it's what they should have put on the posters. Sure, everyone knew what to expect, but when that gigantic countdown comes to an end, and only four men appear on stage, it kind of frightens you a little. The lad's done a runner, you think, and it's not like they address the 'problem', either.
Then again, Gary, Jason, Howard, and Mark have a show to focus on -- young Robert will arrive in due course. And when he does, well, it's a bit of a letdown, really. But only for a few minutes.
Indeed, what we have here is a short, yet memorable pop performance of a tight collection of solid, hit singles. Followed by a lacklustre solo gig courtesy of an over-confident entertainer. Followed by the greatest concert of the year. Well, if that's how these men wish to present their tour, then that's how I'll grade it. And who knows? Maybe Robbie was nervous about presenting to his Irish fans his first solo set here in five years (his last concert at Croke Park disappointed many, including the man himself). But don't confuse coarse language and shouty vocals for a talented showman.
The best thing that ever happened to Williams was receiving the invitation to re-join his former bandmates. And perhaps he knows it too, as he sits backstage, listening to the crowd lap up a riveting first act courtesy of Take That: The Quartet. As soon as he stands alongside the others, the ego disappears, and there's an undeniable sense that one of the finest pop groups of all time have finally found their groove as a five-piece.
It's taken a while, what with this being the fully reformed vocal group's first tour together in 16 years. And the only thing better than producing a genuinely terrific album (Progress) is delivering to an audience the kind of live show that leaves your head in a spin. For The Flood, the stage becomes a waterfall. During Never Forget, a giant mechanical robot of sorts named 'OM' towers above Croke Park ... an astonishing sight, to say the least. Elsewhere, we have marching monks, ballet dancers, and fire. Lots and lots of fire. But the lads still know how to keep things simple, at one point sitting around a piano for a classy and playful medley of their '90s hits.
There's plenty of room for jokes, insults, and, of course, group hugs. What's more, they look and sound delighted to be in this position again. So do the audience. And you know what? It's a genuine kind of thrill, too. Is this the start of something bigger? It certainly seems that way. Superb stuff. HHHHH