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Gary Barlow – The Theatre Tour – A Review

 

If you’ve read my review of The Band or know me at all then you’ll know that for me Gary Barlow is someone I have been borderline obsessed with since I was about 11! Even when he had the peroxide hair and all through his pie eating phase..

I’ve not missed a Take That tour since 1992 and I’ve never missed a Gary solo tour either. So there I was camped out at stupid o’clock on the day the tickets went on sale for this to make sure I got some decent ones 🙂

I ended up seeing this show twice while he was on his little run of the south coast – I’m hoping to go again when he does Portsmouth in a few weeks. This was the scene of my very first gig and my very first Take That gig so it’d be so nice to see him there on his own 🙂

I was lucky enough to see both of the supports announced for this tour. KT Tunstall in Brighton who was absolutely wonderful. I knew of her, I’d obviously heard her most famous stuff but didn’t realise how much of it I did know. She was brilliant. Really funny and knew how to work a crowd. I’ll be looking for tour dates for her as I’d love to see her do a show of her own. She’s brilliantly entertaining and to be honest I wasn’t overly fussed at watching her. I’m glad I did! (My seats weren’t wonderful for the Brighton show so excuse the rubbish photography)

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Bournemouths support was Jason Brock, one of the contestants from Let it Shine. He was actually one of my favourites on the show so I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do.

I have to be honest. He wasn’t my cup of tea. I know he’s been in Thriller Live and the years of being MJ definitely rubbed off on his performance there was a lot of his moves in there and in some of the songs it sounded just like him. Not that it’s a bad thing but I wasn’t hugely impressed. I found him to be quite high pitched, which is great for like a chorus of a song but a bit painful on the ears when it’s a whole song. He’s an incredible vocalist but I think more on a theatrical scale than a ‘pop’ one. Too many ballads as well.

Seeing Gary on his own is a VERY different experience than seeing him with his bandmates. There’s no big stages, no special effects, no huge theatrical productions just one man, his band and his piano.

On paper it doesn’t sound hugely entertaining but he is an incredible musician. I could honestly sit for hours and hours and hours listening to him sing and play the piano.

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The show started with an intro from his musical director of god knows how many years (and current member of ELO) Mike Stevens. It was a little cabaret I have to say. Made me feel like I was watching something in Vegas without the glitz.

I’ll be honest it wasn’t the big entrance I was expecting and although its always super exciting when Gary comes on stage it didn’t feel like the past tours.

The show started, as have most of the last years, with the title track of his most recent solo album ‘Since I Saw You Last’, it’s become somewhat of a fan favourite telling the story of what happened between his mostly forgotten about second solo album and this best selling one. I absolutely love this song, it’s up there with one of my favourite Gary songs so I love that he starts with it on every show. Followed by a few Take That classics and then for me the highlight of the show a new song called ‘Live Those Years Again’.

Gary is most definitely a story teller when it comes to writing and as someone that always listens to the lyrics this was always going to be something I loved. It’s a little bit swing – not something I am a big fan of him doing – but it tells the story of Take That from inception to now and with loads of the dry wit we all know and love, especially his little mention of his ‘appetite for pies’… There were a lot of cheers and laughs during this and I expect it to become a bit of an anthem for him.  (I’ll post the link to the official video below so you can check it out)

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In the last years he’s been involved a lot in musical theatre so it was a given that he’d stick a few of those in there which was nice to hear for us die hard fans but acted as a bar break for those who were just in it for the hits! ‘Something About This Night’ from Finding Neverland is a song I’ve loved for a while so it was so nice to hear that live, it’s so dramatic, almost sounds like Elton John could have written it.

All the Take That classics and a few lesser known album tracks were there including ‘Another Crack in My Heart’ bringing back loads of memories of me as a 14 year old standing in that same venue where they played it live for the first time ever.

Then it went a little bit weird.

Now I love Gary. I’ve said this and generally love everything he does. He’s an incredibly talented man and of course very easy on the eye. I also love swing music. I don’t love it when the 2 mix.

For the past tours he’s always added a swing section, it does go down well with the majority of the audience I have to say, but for me I’m not a fan.

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I love the arrangements of the songs he chooses to do, ‘Sure’, ‘Everything Changes’ and ‘Could it be Magic’ but for me it isn’t a style that showcases just what Gary can do. He does a lot of jokes with the audience as well, exactly like the old crooners would and he is an incredible entertainer but I think I’d prefer hearing the songs done in a different way not necessarily like this.

Having seen GB a good few times some of the jokes he did on this tour for me were pretty much exactly the same as the last tour. Hilarious first time round not so much when you’ve heard it a few times.

Gary is great with the audience, he’s historically got people up on stage to sing to. ‘A Million Love Songs’ has featured one lucky lady for the last few tours. Seeing all the banners during this tour was definitely reminiscent of the 90s shows I loved so much. He reads a lot of them out and gets people up for selfies which is always a lovely moment. Sadly I’ve never been picked, although I’d be a rubbish person for him to sing to. I’d either hyperventilate or cry so probably not the best of ideas.

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‘Forever Love’ has and always will be my favourite Gary song. I walked down the aisle to it when I got married last year and it never fails to give me goosebumps and make me cry when I hear it live. As always this was one of the highlights of the night for me.

The second half of this show was far stronger than the first. With such an extensive repertoire of music it must be so hard to choose what to put in a set for a show like this. For me I would have liked to hear some of the songs that he rarely plays in amoungst all the Greatest Hits some of the album tracks rather than the singles.

One song I was surprised to hear him sing was ‘Cry’. It’s not what you expect from Gary and out of all the Take That singles even though it is the most recent I would not have picked that as one he would choose to add. I loved it. The crowd went nuts as it’s one you can dance to and it was up there with one of the best bits.

The room was lit up with phones for Rule The World, bit safer than the lighters we used to use and as always the show ended with the mass dance that is ‘Never Forget’

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For me this was not the best Gary tour I’ve seen. I’m not sure exactly why but it didn’t seem to ‘flow’ as well as the previous ones. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t come away like I normally do really annoyed that I don’t have tickets for another 2 or 3 shows. The show in Brighton I think was marred by the fact the seats I was told I was in weren’t actually the ones I got and I spent most of the show looking at the back of Garys – very handsome – head. Not really the most enjoyable of shows. It cast a bit of a black cloud over the whole thing.

Bournemouth was way better, I had a fab view and staff at the BIC were wonderful. I’d recommend that as a venue, it’s always brilliant there.

Gary is brilliant. If you haven’t seen him before then you will love this show, all the songs you expect to hear are there. If you have then you’ll love it too but if you’re a bit of a hardcore fan like me I think you’ll agree that there are a few songs in the set that could have been replaced with something way better from the list he has to choose from.

 

 

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The Band.

For me it all started in 1991. I was up at some stupid hour of the morning I wasn’t much of a sleeper back then. Late Night TV then was a little limited. Strange cookery shows for students on one channel and Ceefax on another. The latter being a bit of an odd concept for kids of today. A static TV screen that showed news, charts and gossip. The pages changed every what seemed like half an hour so it was a very exciting thing to watch!! 😂

So you can imagine my excitement one morning when I happened to be up and caught a music show. Live from some nightclub up north. Showing a video of a boyband with their bums out.

That video was a song called ‘Do What U Like’ and the band was Take That.

That very moment there those few minutes of pure pop and leather clad young men was a life changer for me. Little did I know though that 27 years later this somewhat cheesy sounding band would still be such a large part of my life.

The way that I feel about those 5 boys is such a hard thing to explain.

Without them knowing about it they were there for me through so much in my formative years.

I made lifelong friends through that band. People who although I don’t see as much as I should now – life gets in the way – but when we do meet up it’s like we’re those teenagers again.

When I was feeling bad or dealing with bullying everything was ok cos they were always there. They didn’t judge me or call me names. They just sang to me and all was well in the world again.

Spending months and months in hospital? It’s ok cos when it was all over I was going to get to see the boys. It made it all worthwhile and gave me something good to focus on. I lived for those shows. I still do. 80 odd shows later.

They weren’t just a band for us. It was and is so much more than that.

But how do you explain that to someone who doesn’t understand. Someone who says ‘but they’re just a band’?

Finally there is a way.

Last night I watched ‘The Band’ for the second time. You can read my review of it here.

This show is literally everything to us the fans. It’s about us. It’s for us and it shows just how and why having a band we love is so important.

Watching it for a second time with someone who lived through it all with me was a totally different experience. Highly emotional and bloody hilarious.

All the nostalgia the memories good and bad that just smack you in the face when you watch it. We sobbed – a lot, we laughed – a lot. But most of all we remembered. Remembered how we met. The thing that bought us together. Remembered people we’d lost along the way. Fun we’d had going to see the boys and watched so many of our experiences happen right there on that stage.

Some of the performances were EXACTLY the way the boys did them back in the day or had little parts of it. Those bits just put you right back in those arenas at 14, miles away from the stage but screaming anyway. These are things you never expect to experience again. Just sat in the back of your mind. Memories that really I didn’t even know were there until it was played out in front of me.

I literally cannot put into words how much I love this show.

How much I love the way it’s written. How real the girls are in it to me. How much I see myself and my friends in then. I was the one that cried all the time!! I still am that one. I can’t go and see the boys without crying even to this day. I don’t know why. When I don’t I’ll be worried.

Tim Firth is a genius. Coming up with the idea of writing this from the fans point of view is amazing. The research he must have done to get it so perfect must have been immense. Unless of course he was one of us himself.

I have never related to anything as much as I did to this.

I’m hoping talks of a film are true.

Watching the show last night was amazing. But even better. My best mate won it all in a competition and not only did we watch it we met the cast too.

That was pretty awesome. I just wish we’d had a little longer and weren’t so emotionally drained from it all. I’d love to sit down with the boys from FiveToFive and see how it’s all been for them. Even meeting them reminded me of how the boys were back then. Polite and lovely and making conversation cos clearly we weren’t able to!!

Must be strange for them having a million middle aged women wanting to meet them! Cos let’s face it that’s the main audience of this show!!

I was super excited to meet the girls though. After all this show isn’t about the band really. It’s about them. It’s their story. It’s my story. And by all accounts they’re loving being a part of something so special.

This show is still running. Heading to the west end over Christmas and finishing its run next March. It’s the quickest selling touring musical in history. I will never get bored of watching it.

Huge thanks to my lovely friend Helen for letting me go with her last night and to @thebandfans for the opportunity to go. Not to mention being so lovely and patient when Helen gave them the wrong email address….

You can find more information and tour dates and of course book tickets for the show at the band musical