Review: Take That bring the joy after week of chaos for fans

Take That were back in Manchester and in the mood to party
Take That were back in Manchester and in the mood to party -Credit:Manchester Evening News

If life really is a rollercoaster, Take That fans have been riding the equivalent of The Big One over the course of the past week.

With every disastrous cancellation of Co-op Live's non-opening shows came the jangling of more nerves among the TT fan faithful as the band's dates trundled ever closer to hitting the buffers.

The prospect of a postponement for fans was pretty grim to bear, given some 75,000 had already meticulously planned everything from their travel and hotels down to their natty outfits for these five shows this week.

READ MORE Take That fans flock to the AO Arena for first night of mammoth residency following Co-op Live reshuffle

Thankfully tour promoters, who presumably know better than to mess with an army of Take That fans on the band's home turf, managed to save the day and rearrange the gigs to the open arms of the AO Arena just in the nick of time.

And hence, here we all are, back in the familiar, cavernous climes of the AO Arena after the last minute switch for their five May gigs this week.

The change has not been entirely seamless though, given yet more drama was to come when fans got their new ticket numbers - and some felt their new seats were "far worse" than those they'd originally chosen for the venue across town.

The trio wowed crowds at the AO Arena
The trio wowed crowds at the AO Arena -Credit:Manchester Evening News

But for those of us who were just grateful to be taking a seat and seeing Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen back in joyous action, the ups and downs of the past week were nothing a few jaunty notes of Windows couldn't melt away within minutes of their arrival on stage.

And it was always going to be special for the lads to be back here in Manchester, where it all began.

“I’ve waited a long time to say this,” says Howard before a long drawn out “Manchesterrrr”. Mark adds: “It all started for us here”.

Meanwhile Gary makes a reference to the dramas of the past week with a dry: "Well thank bloody hell we got on here tonight".

Mark later pays tribute to their fans' patience in the run up to this gig, amid the last minute changes. He says: "Listen a few days ago we weren't sure if we would get to do a gig so we're absolutely made up and we say thank you to all you wonderful people for crossing the street and coming over to see us here, thank you to the AO Arena for putting us on here tonight, it's been absolutely amazing.

"We could not, not play Manchester we're so happy to be here," before adding chirpily: "Good luck to the Co-op."

Howard, Mark and Gary take centre stage
Howard, Mark and Gary take centre stage -Credit:Manchester Evening News

This new This Life tour is quite the change from the bombastic theatrics of past years - gone are the elephants and giant robots and even the dance crews. Without such distractions, the trio of Howard, Mark and Gary are firmly taking centre stage with a show that packs a real emotional punch.

Naturally, this wouldn’t be a Take That gig though without razzle dazzle - we have wind, rain, fire and even snow thrown out at will amid a spectacular stage set with swinging staircases and vast video screen.

Although they all make fun of their age as Gary jokily struggles up the stairs at one point and says: “whose idea was it to put these stairs in”.

Having walked out of a retro TV screen to kick off the show, the stage later transforms into a kind of 1960s TV show as the trio “take us on a big Take That journey”. Naturally it all starts with Gary singing A Million Love Songs on a battered old piano. He’s in seriously stunning voice throughout this opening night performance.

The trio were in fine voice -Credit:Manchester Evening News
The trio were in fine voice -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Howard and Mark return to stage to continue the journey, from how they all got together in Manchester, clad in their studded leather jackets, as something different to the “cool” bands like The Smiths and Happy Mondays and the dance crowd at the Hacienda. Howard fondly recalls their first audition on Canal Street - when only six lads turned up “and five of us made it.”

There are huge cheers as they throw back to merrily announce their first number one and we get to enjoy the vintage dance moves to Pray. It cleverly weaves through to how “they went their separate ways” and allows each one of the singers to perform their own solo work.

Remembering how the band got back together means a triumphant reprise of their comeback smash Patience with every word sung back by the home crowd.

The trio performed their most-loved hits
The trio performed their most-loved hits -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Things take a truly spectacular turn when the trio return to the stage clad like spacemen in silver cloaks to walk across a bridge that descends smoothly from the arena rafters. Belting out Greatest Day as they stride across their adoring fans to reach the strobe-lit B stage is really quite the moment.

Olly Murs had earlier been the perfect party starter at this gig. Getting the audience dancing and singing along to his pop hits, he got everyone on board with his thank yous for the warm wishes since becoming a first time dad just weeks ago.

It felt like almost a full gig of his own as he got arms swinging and the oh-ohs going for his hits from early X Factor days to current chart-toppers.

Olly Murs gets the party started as Take That's support act
Olly Murs gets the party started as Take That's support act -Credit:Manchester Evening News

And what better way to endear yourself to the audience than with a raucous cover of Take That’s It Only Takes A Minute (complete with some 90s dance moves) to a near deafening response.

As the main Take That show builds to its natural finale, Gary, Mark and Howard return to stage in dazzling white suits and each wearing a crown. Rather fitting as they reign over this crowd with ultimate fan anthem Hold up a Light.

We then get some good old Manchester rain in a spectacular finale of Back for Good, and the inevitable singalong of Never Forget and Rule the World.

Lads, on this showing, your crowns remain firmly intact.


Keep Your Head Up



Days I Hate Myself

Everything Changes



A Million Love Songs

I Found Heaven


Forever Love (Gary Barlow solo)

Clementine (Mark Owen solo)

Speak Without Words (Howard Donald solo)


The Flood

Get Ready For It

March Of The Hopeful

The Champion

This Life

Greatest Day

These Days

Time & Time Again

Relight My Fire

One More Word

Hold Up A Light

Back For Good

Never Forget

Rule The World