Subscriber OnlyMusicReview

Take That in Dublin review: ‘Whose idea was it to have stairs?’ puffs Gary Barlow as the band roll back the years with dazzling show

Elaborate stage set-ups are par for course with Take That but bells and whistles would mean nothing if songs were not up to scratch


3Arena, Dublin

They once sang “We’ve come a long way, but we’re not too sure where we’ve been”. More than three decades into a career that could well have seen them rendered has-beens before their 2006 reunion, Take That’s latest tour serves as a reminder of exactly how far they’ve come. Still capable of filling arenas 31 years after they first played Dublin’s Point Depot – and now comfortably settled into middle age – tonight is the first of two sold out nights on their This Life tour. In the audience are diehard fans who undoubtedly copied the dance moves from the band’s Top of the Pops performances, alongside a new generation of second-wave devotees far too young to remember their 1992 debut Take That and Party.

Emerging from a giant retro television set amid a blizzard of ticker tape, the trio launch into a glut of tracks from their recently-released ninth studio album. Elaborate stage set-ups are now par for the course for Take That; this is the pop band, after all, who once brought a giant mechanical elephant to Croke Park. The staging is undoubtedly hugely impressive, adopting a 1970s theme that incorporates glitzy Las Vegas cabaret sets (water fountains et al), a recording studio and a fake TV show that effectively sees them narrate their own story. There’s wry humour, too; at one point, they collapse halfway up one of the two huge staircases that form the centrepiece of the stage with a theatrical exhaustion. “Whose idea was it to have stairs?!” puffs a disgruntled Barlow, before his bandmates dourly remind him: “It was yours, Gary.”

Yet the bells and whistles would mean nothing if the songs weren’t up to scratch. After breezing through songs like Everything Changes (now less “frivolous pop” and more “MOR canter”) and the sleazy funk cabaret of Sure, the second half of the show acts as a potted history of-sorts that showcases their highlights and a few of their lowlights. Gary Barlow, who seems more comfortable in his “reassuringly avuncular” era rather than his “sex symbol” one, reminds the crowd what an exceptional songwriter he is with a tender A Million Love Songs, while all three members have their chance to shine with solo cuts – although Howard Donald and Mark Owen’s efforts are dramatically less potent than their bandmate’s ballad Forever Love. The solo segment leads to one of several lulls in a set list punctuated by new material, but the crowd are brought back onside with Pray, a soaring Patience and emotive ballad The Flood with gusto, anthems coming thick and fast once the nostalgia has been dispensed with.

Another costume change sees them emerge as space age warlords in metallic capes and eye masks for Greatest Day, as 3D-graphics whizz past as if we’re in a collective fever dream. Relight My Fire has the wow factor in every respect, the staircase bursting into flames before the trio launch into Back for Good, rain pouring from the ceiling. It is such a fantastically entertaining and well-constructed pop show that even the dads and grudging partners find themselves on their feet for a rousing Never Forget. A line in that song, about the fleeting fickleness of fame and the importance of staying grounded, sees them warn their audience: “Someday soon, this will all be someone else’s dream.” With shows as dazzling as this, it seems like that day is still quite a way off.


Take That play the 3Arena on Tuesday night. The band have further gigs in Cork’s Virgin Media Park as well as Malahide Castle in Dublin in June and Belfast’s Ormeau Park in June.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times