Live music review: Take That, 3Arena, Dublin

****

Take That survived the boy band apocalypse by donning sensible suits, embracing middle age and delivering a series of consistently spectacular tours. The latest, Wonderland, scores high for production values, with its 360 degree stage, multiple costume changes and an eye-popping set piece in which slim-lined ensemble (reduced to a trio with the 2014 departure of Jason Orange, and the longterm absence of Robbie Williams) croon beneath a glowing waterfall.

Behold the Pink Floyd of pop – a group that understands wiz-bang effects can pack as big a punch as all the emotive warbling in the world. With the theatrics doing the heavy lifting, there was less pressure on the actual music as Take That kicked off a two-night residency. But here Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald delivered too, with a set that leaned heavily on the mid-paced anthems that became their signature following their 2005 reunion.

The obligatory tracks from their new album – also called Wonderland – justified their place, too, with the swooping Giants suggesting the spiritual distance between Take That and fellow emotive Mancunians Elbow has narrowed with the years.

There was, naturally, lots of cheese too. Introduced by torch-yielding jugglers, ‘Relight My Fire’ was a camp disco odyssey on rocket boots and a delve into the “deep cuts” from the group’s 1992 debut Take That And Party suggested early 1990s pop was a strange and alien place to which nobody should wish to return.

Super-sized ballads such as ‘Back For Good’ and ‘Pray’ – an excuse for some ironic dancing on behalf of the three – have aged rather better while the visual highpoint was provided by ‘The Flood’, during which Barlow and company stood beneath a four-way waterfall lit up with green LEDs. The aquatic theme was persisted with on their banging Sigma collaboration ‘Cry’, as the stage reconfigured so that Take That and their dancers appeared to pirouette in a giant fish tank. It was gloriously bonkers – a reminder that, in refusing to be defined by their past or hidebound by chart convention, Take That have carved out one of the most singular careers in pop.


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