One of my wife’s Christmas presents from me was a ticket to see Gary Barlow at the Arena in town. Generous to a fault, I got myself a ticket too. Now, I admit that Mr Barlow is not exactly my idea of the ideal gig, but I bought the Take That “Greatest Hits” CD back in 1996, and we actually went to see them on their reunion tour in Hamburg three years ago so I was hopeful of a reasonably entertaining evening. I was more excited by seeing old Beatles haunts than seeing TT in action over in Germany, but they certainly put on a good show and I quite enjoyed it all. Pet Shop Boys supported that night, which was a good bonus.
We started off the evening by going for an Indian meal in Balle Balle, a new restaurant on us that was OK but is not well positioned, so I fully expect it to close down within a year or two. I’d definitely put it behind East Z East for a decent pre-Arena gig curry. But I digress.
The curry meant we missed support act Eliza Doolittle, no great shame I reckon. We were just in time to find our seats and settle in for the arrival of housewives’ favourite Gary.
The set was scattered with TT songs as well as seemingly fewer from his solo career. He broke out his old dance steps for “Pray” (I didn’t recognise them, of course, but the wife confirmed he was busting the old moves), and then invited someone up from the crowd to sing “A Million Love Songs” to – a woman called Angela who got a mixed reception due to being Italian and having come from Manchester! She was a red, which led Gary to briefly wish his team success against Manchester City that weekend (and they got it!).
Barlow worked hard to keep things interesting, with a short acoustic set at the front of the stage for mellower versions of songs including “How Deep Is Your Love”, while Eliza Doolittle came back out to sing “Shine” with Gary. He also performed some songs in an alleged swing style, which I think was pushing the definition somewhat. “Everything Changes” and “Could It Be Magic” were done in this section. He then walked through an ecstatic crowd to a separate stage in the middle of the main floor for a couple of songs on the piano, including “Love Ain’t Here Anymore”. A local kids choir from Everton joined in on “Sing”, though I thought the lead soloist was a little shaky.
The hits kept on coming – “The Flood”, “Back For Good”, “Relight My Fire”, “Rule The World” and “Never Forget” among them.
I was never expecting this to be the gig of the year, but kudos to Gary he worked the crowd and arena pretty well, and put on a good show. Touchingly, he apparently led the audience in a minute’s applause in honour of the Hillsborough victims on his second show at the Arena on the 15th April, the 25th anniversary of the disaster.
I decided to match my shoes again, so I went for a brown Beatles t-shirt this time. No t-shirts in the audience of note for this one…