One thing that makes the latest, six-legged incarnation of Take That supremely likeable is how happy they are to take
the piss out of themselves.
‘Hello Manchester!’ a very sweaty Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald roar in unison to an ear-splitting homecoming crowd. ‘We’re what’s left of Take That!’
The band’s story is a wild one. As a five-piece in the 1990s they became the most successful British group since The Beatles – until Robbie Williams quit in 1995. The remaining four made an acclaimed comeback after a decade in the
wilderness, eventually welcoming Williams back into the fold – until he left again. Then last autumn, Jason Orange was off, too.
The trio that remains released the album III shortly after. It not only became the band’s sixth no.1 album but was the most pre-ordered record in Amazon UK history. ‘Most of our audience have been with us for nearly 25 years now,’ says songwriting supremo Barlow as we meet backstage, giving me a handshake almost as firm as Donald’s famous abs. ‘They’ve seen so many changes. The only question after Jason left was, will they want us to carry on? And it was quickly obvious that they did. Coming back as a trio, we felt like we had it all to prove again but those challenges
keep you on your toes.’
After Williams first left he lost contact with most of the band for almost a decade and never lost an opportunity to slag off Barlow (now one of hisbest friends). There’s clearly no chance of anything similar happening with Orange.
‘We’re in touch and he’s so proud of us but he’s not emailing us every day asking if he can come back,’ laughs Owen. ‘We kind of hoped he would but not yet. He knows he’s welcome.’
Any doubts that the man band might seem a little diminished on stage are put to bed at the barnstormingly bonkers III live show – part Broadway musical, part Cirque Du Soleil, part good-old-fashioned singalong. It’s all family-friendly stuff but there are some pleasingly out-there moments, too – for example, when Donald and Owen perform a contemporary dance routine that wouldn’t look too out of place in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. ‘People know they’re gonna get a show,’ says Owen, ‘And we’ve always enjoyed providing a good night out.’
‘Take That is a very strong, shoulder- to-shoulder brotherhood,’ says Barlow. ‘It’s a lovely environment to be in and that’s what’s in that room tonight.’
It’s all very cockle-warming but Take That haven’t been without their share of scandal – questions about tax avoidance and extra-marital affairs are strictly off the table. But they’re an undeniably charming and enthusiastic trio, ever eager to keep proving themselves and already excited about writing their next album.
‘As much as I have amazing memories from the 1990s, the second time round is 100 times better,’ says Donald. ‘I hope we’ll become an “old man band” and still be playing arenas at 70, although I’m not sure we’ll be doing all the routines. Being on tour is pure enjoyment and we know that comes across.’