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Blog: Take That at The O2

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Last Friday, for my BIRFDAY, The Days In My Diary and I set out to right an historic wrong. Several years ago we'd booked to go and see Take That at Earls Court - as regular, or indeed irregular, readers may know i BLOODY LOVE Take That for personal reasons and also just because they are ACE, so I was very excited to see them. We'd spent ages working out where we wanted to sit and spent CA$H MONEY to get exactly what we wanted. All was well until a few weeks before the show when we got an email saying that we'd been MOVED to "equivalent" seats which were miles away and also behind a PILLAR - we were distinctly UNAMUSED and so put the tickets on eBay! We made a MILD profit on them, but still, it was disappointing!

SO when we saw that The That were not only playing on my actual birthday this year but also at our local, favourite* big London venue (*i.e. the only non-horrible one) we thought it would be rude NOT to go, so once again worked out where we wanted to sit (pretty much the same place as we did for Macca and Mozzer) and the aforementioned Numbers On My Ticket got us BOOKED as my birthday present. HOORAH!

Come the day itself I was EXCITED. As we headed to the Jubilee line a part of my BRANE kept saying "Crikey, this train is going to be PACKED with teenage Take That fans, singing and crying and shouting!" The rest of my BRANE kept pointing out that this was unlikely, but it wasn't until we got on board that the truth was proved: there were indeed quite a lot of Take That fans in the carriage, but they were NOT teenagers!

When we arrived at the O2 the makeup of the audience was made clear. There WERE some people in their thirties but it was mostly people our age who'd loved Take That the first time around, some of whom had brought their kids. There were also a surprising amount of BLOKES there - though nowhere near as many women, definitely not any GROUPS of them, and mostly escorting PARTNERS. Thinking about it, weren't Take That supposed to have a gay following? If so, they were not much in evidence! It was like being in a room with a MASSIVE hen do, but a hen do that was going to have a drink and some fun but was going to be SENSIBLE. Mostly.

We saw a bit of Ella Henderson (it was OK, she can sing LOUD), waited twenty minutes or so, had a beer, and then the SHOW began! Well, it had sort of begun already, and then it took quite a while to PROPERLY begin, for LO! you know when you read a review of a huge pop band doing a gig and the review says "It was more like a Broadway show than a gig!"? This was one of THOSE, although to be more accurate I would say it was more like an OPENING CEREMONY than a gig, as there seemed to be TONNES going on all over the place, all the time. There was a normal STAGE at the front, with another raised stage above it, but also a circular stage in the middle of the room with great long stairways leading to it, and EVERYTHING was used. The opening was something about a small man dashing around lots of people doing complicated things with bicycles and umbrellas, running in a wheel to get a floating city to come to life and make everything turn to colour - you know the sort of thing: Opening Ceremonies. I was pretty darned cynical about it to start with, but by the time it had PEAKED with LOADS of people dancing around and running about and Take That THEMSELVES came on I was WHOOPING along with the best of them.

The first song (it was one of the new ones but I can't remember which) was HUGE and CAMP and set the tone for the rest of the night. There was to be very little in the way of Quiet Acoustic Moments as everything was LARGE - part Broadway but also very PONTINS with shiny smiles, a grinning band and lots of DAFTNESS. It was EXTREMELY English with lots of silly remarks and "oh stop mucking about" sections. My favourite was probably near the start when they introduced themselves as "We're what's left of Take That." That combination of glamorous pop, northern english daftness and cheesy trying-a-bit-too-hard (Gary) is, i reckon, one of the reasons people who love Take That really do love them.

Aside from the SHOW of it all, the songs were AMAZING. They haven't HALF had some hits, and it was amazing how many of them were post-restart. All right, I could have done without 3 or 4 of the album tracks that popped up, but there aren't many bands who've been going over 25 years who can casually finish their first set (introduced with "this is our last song... but we do have a couple more exhaustively rehearsed ones if you clap enough") with a NUMBER ONE hit from last year and then another from a few years before (i.e. "These Days" and "Rule The World"). It was very noticeable that a lot of the new stuff was BUILT for huge stadium gigs - it was NOISY! - but also how pleased everyone was to hear old stuff. Oddly "Patience", the comeback single, felt like an OLDIE now, but the biggest cheers came when they did songs like "Could It Be Magic" and "Pray". They even did one of their old DANCE routines to (i think) "Pray" which featured a LOT of going own on one knee, then both knees, then back up again. You could feel the entire audience WINCE as the three of them did this, and then applaud the fact they could still manage it when they got up again! Well done boys!

It was a bit of a STRANGE gig for those of us unused to this sort of thing though. Every half hour or so there was a sort of INTERVAL when the band went off and there was an Opening Ceremony THEATRICAL bit or, once, a FILM projected onto massive closed curtains. Everyone else seemed used to it and took the opportunity for a sit down, but we felt mildly confused - we'd just got going and now we were having a break? The other ODD bit was when Howard and Mark did an INTERPRETIVE DANCE PIECE! Gary sat and played a song and then the other two DANCED AROUND like BALLET or something. It was very sweet, but not what I'm used to!

Another odd thing was the fact that they had about 50 people at the back of the stage who were sometimes an orchestra, sometimes a choir, and then sometimes just leading the audience in a Mexican wave - people as set dressing!

For all the oddness it was totally BRILLIANT all round - other exciting features included ACTUAL FLAMES in the middle of the auditorium for "Relight My Fire" (I thought they'd get Ella Henderson back on for The Lulu Bits but they sang it themselves), Gary's big happy face that the new ones were going down so well (OBVS a part of me wanted to shout "Pay Yr Tax Gary!" but clearly he had spent it on FIREWORKS), and OF COURSE them doing "Back For Good". Before the song began the three of them spent AGES introducing the musicians in the band, and it was LOVELY as it turned out it WAS an actual band, most of whom had been with them for DECADES. Then Mark introduced the song itself by saying they were going to do it sitting on stools ("we started that") just like they had the first time they ever performed it live at The Brits in 1995, thus proving that The Lesson Of The Smiths is FACTUALLY ACCURATE. He then undercut his own announcement in the same PONTINS way as ever by saying "So, this is the first time we've done this since... yesterday". It was LOVELY.

That would have been enough for me, I was SATED, but then they did the encore with "Shine" and then BUT OF COURSE "Never Forget" which was AMAZING. I'm not saying it's as good a song as "Hey Jude" or anything, but I did have a similar feeling as I had a few weeks ago watching 20,000 people singing along to it when we went to see Macca. EVERYONE in the building sang, did the handclaps, and whooshed up a HUGENESS of shared emotion, partly about Take That and what they meant to everyone, but mostly about ourselves and where we'd been in our lives and... I'm sorry, one of those bits of ticker tape what fell from the ceiling must have got into my eye.

It was, basically, BRILLIANT - a wonderful introduction, for us, to a very English kind of Stadium Pop. I don't think I'm going to ever want to swap it for the tiny indie gigs that I love the most, but it was an INCREDIBLE way to spend an evening and an historical wrong VERY MUCH righted!

posted 23/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett

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