Chart superstars Take That set the seal on their reunion with robots, giant caterpillars and high wires as they kicked off their spectacular sell-out tour - one of the biggest to be staged.
The show – staged at Sunderland’s Stadium Of Light Premier League ground – was the first major public gig by the group with Robbie Williams restored to the line-up.
The gig also proved to be almost a three-for-the-price-of-one offer with Williams performing a set of his own hits part-way through as well as two versions of Take That performing.
And the 37-year-old looked emotional as the group finally appeared on stage as a five-piece again to perform their hit The Flood.
Williams rejoined for last year’s Progress album after quitting the line-up in 1995, paving the way for years of acrimony. He held off rejoining when the band reformed for a series of shows in 2006, instead concentrating on his solo career.
But the factions eventually buried the hatchet and they secretly entered a recording studio in 2009.
The show opened with the group’s number two hit Rule The World, a no-frills opener and the first of five songs from the Robbie-free years, all performed without Williams.
It was followed by Greatest Day, one of the group’s 11 number one hits during their career which now spans 20 years, performed in the round and accompanied by plumes of yellow confetti being shot into the air.
“Who cares about the rain?” said Gary Barlow, referring to the downpour which began moments before the band took the stage. “We’re from up north – we’re used to it.”
Within minutes Mark Owen was riding a huge caterpillar on stage as the group sang an Alice in Wonderland-themed Shine.
Williams dropped 40ft to the stage by harness to begin his section of the concert with his huge hit Let Me Entertain You, going on to play some of his biggest hits.
He went on to rap about the rivalry between Geordies and Mackems as well as super-injunctions as he was pulled across the stage in a chariot by scantily-clad dancers.
“Do me a favour – all go out and get as smashed as you like because you will like the shows much better,” he told the audience of 55,000 to rapturous applause.
The band reunited properly as they launched into The Flood, as a red-eyed and emotional-looking Williams led the singing, while dancers performed a routine suspended by wires under pouring water.
Williams then plummeted to the stage head first from a platform on a wire of his own, while the others descended on elevators.
During Underground Machine the band each adopted instruments while Williams went on singing and a giant robot was brought on to the stage.
The band relived their 90s hit years with a tongue-in-cheek “cheesy” section with a medley of hits including Babe, and Back For Good.
Moments earlier they drew attention to their reunion.
Jason Orange told the crowd: “Check this out – one, two, three, four, five.”
Mark Owen joined in: “It’s a special moment ladies and gentlemen.”
As the group all held arms, Williams said: “Group hug.”
Williams again looked teary as the band wound down the show with Eight Letters.
The sell-out run of dates will have been seen by 1.75 million people by the time the 27 stadium shows in the UK and Ireland are complete.
The huge spectacle takes the stage crew around 48 hours to assemble at each new venue, and a further 19 hours to dismantle.