LET’S be honest. Take That could quite easily be doing a tour of the UK right now playing to 60,000 people a night. And that’d be a slow night.
Rather they’ve landed in Perth where they’re playing to 6000 people on their first Australian tour since 1995.
On that tour they were still decompressing from Robbie Williams’ controversial exit — which probably didn’t help local ticket sales. They even covered Nirvana and Pink Floyd, not their finest moments on stage.
Australia is a strange market for Take That. For some locals, Take That are freezeframed in some 90s boyband holding pattern, best known for Back for Good. Which, it must be said, is a pretty fine thing to be remembered for.
Others just know them as the band that gave the world Robbie Williams. Again, nothing to be ashamed about.
But while they had five years of hits back in the early 90s, Take That’s second wind has been more of a distant breeze in Australia, although they
2005’s super-classy comeback single Patience relaunched them with ferocity — in the UK at least — and saw them actually eclipse their first incarnation, both in albums and ticket sales.
Yet Australian radio — always skewed towards American acts — didn’t support Patience or the literal string of UK anthems that followed it — Shine, Greatest Day, Giants or even recent pop bangers These Days or Cry.
Smooth FM (programmed by an expat Brit who gets how big Take That are offshore) have belatedly introduced 2007’s Rule the World to Australian audiences — remember it took Robbie Williams three attempts before Angels got any attention in Australia (pop fact — it only ever peaked at No. 40 on the ARIA singles chart).
So Take That arrived in Australia in 2017 — after actually approaching local promoters themselves, keen to push themselves out of their geographic comfort zones — probably wondering where things sat for them.
At one point Mark Owen even said “For anyone who has not seen us before we thought it might be a good idea to introduce ourselves. We’re a band from Manchester in the UK and we’ve made eight studio albums. There’s a bit of bio on us.”
He need not have bothered.
Their first show in Perth in 22 years was an instant response — the entire crowd, standing, screaming and singing from the get-go.
Sure Perth has a lot of expat Brits, but not a whole venue full.
Rather, streaming has meant modern audiences don’t need to rely on commercial radio to tell them what they can listen to and when.
Greatest Day, Rule the World, Said It All or Giants could easily sit alongside Coldplay or One Republic on local radio — but then they’ve already moved on from playing Robbie Williams’ new material so who knows what will end up on playlists. Being a good song is often not a necessity.
Now down to a three piece — Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald — the joy on their faces playing (for them and the Brits who’d travelled down under) a relatively intimate venue and people knowing their new material was infectious.
Fear not 90s fans, there is more nostalgia than they normally shoehorn into a set.
Pray (No. 10 in Australia in 1993) sees the trio even bust out dance moves that are clearly decades deep in muscle memory.
DNA soaked weepie Babe (sung by Owen) and the saxually-charged A Million Love Songs demonstrate Barlow was prematurely mature — writing big ballads as a teenager, much like his hero George Michael.
He may not get the credit his ‘cooler’ peers do, but Barlow’s songwriting prowess is remarkable, especially in a pop world that relies on external hitmakers and trend chasing. He’s been having — and writing — hits since 1991 with minimal fuss, maximum impact.
Take That Mk. 2’s sound is modern, age-appropriate pop.
The one song from their reunion album with Robbie Williams, The Flood, is gloriously bonkers, epic pop.
They take turns to cover for Williams on early hits Could It Be Magic (a Barry Manilow cover) and Everything Changes, the later morphed with their ultra-90s dance excursion It Only Takes a Minute (a Tavares cover).
The Bee Gees cover they originally used to tap out on their career, How Deep Is Your Love, is back and Barlow handles the huge notes on their cover of Relight My Fire originally sung by Lulu with ease.
Has any other ‘boy’ band has managed to survive a key member leaving while still functioning at the top of their game themselves. And unlike say New Kids on the Block or Backstreet Boys, they don’t rely on nostalgia, it’s just a nice bonus.
Their three-pronged finale is seriously impressive. As discussed, Back For Good is a song so timeless that at the time people believed Barry Gibb had secretly written it. A backhanded compliment to Barlow, but 22 years later, he’s the man behind one of the most enduring love songs of the modern era. And sings it in 2017 with all the passion he did in 1995.
Rule the World, as Smooth FM listeners know, is a gorgeous anthem purpose-built for stadiums and it turns out it works in arenas too. If you haven’t heard it, it’s arguably even better than Back for Good, goosebumps from start to finish. If Coldplay released it, it’d have gone No. 1 worldwide. And unashamed pop fan Chris Martin would probably wish he had.
Take That have written two songs about being in a band, which is two more than most bands. Most recently Eight Letters was Robbie Williams documenting his love, hate and then love for Take That, in that order. The twist was that on the album Progress Gary Barlow sang it.
That’s not aired tonight but their first autobiographical moment is — Never Forget — Howard Donald’s big vocal solo in the band.
Many pop bands tried to capture what being in the eye of the storm of success is like — Never Forget was a young but wise Barlow at the peak of his fame stating it could “all be someone else’s dream” at any moment. A year after they’d released it in 1995 they’d split and it his premonition came true. Hearing them sing it as an encore now in their 40s after actually going through real life adds even more drama (although Jim Steinman produced the single, which meant it was always pretty dramatic).
Anyway, there are still excellent tickets for these Take That shows starting at just $50. Yes, $50. Cheaper than a T-shirt these days. It’ll be the best $50 you spend this week, watching one of the biggest pop bands on the other side of the world putting on a pop masterclass on your doorstep.
Plus Take That share a band with ELO so it goes without saying musically the show is impeccable. They even start the show with a little tease of ELO’s classic Mr Blue Sky. Hopefully ELO can have a word to Jeff Lynne — who hasn’t toured here since the 70s — and remind him it’s never too late.
Get there early to see the over-qualified opening act Dannii Minogue. After years juggling motherhood and TV judging, she’s back in her element on stage. She’s had so many hits she has to crowbar in glittery mash-ups of This Is It with Baby Love, I Begin to Wonder with a spot-on cover of Garbage’s Stupid Girl and Disremembrance with You Won’t Forget About Me. And her new Sia-written tune Galaxy sits in neatly alongside pop stormer Put the Needle On It and an acoustic take on the sultry All I Wanna Do.
Take That play Adelaide Entertainment Centre tonight, Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Wednesday, Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena on Friday and Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Saturday, tickets start at just $49.90 for each show.
TAKE THAT SETLIST
Or a chance to hit Spotify and educate yourself
Get Ready For It
Hold Up a Light
Up All Night
Said It All
A Million Love Songs
Everything Changes/It Only Takes a Minute
Could It Be Magic
How Deep is Your Love?
Relight My Fire
Back For Good
Rule the World