REVIEW: Rule The World, Kings Theatre, Southsea
Here's a review with a difference - I freely confess I have never bought a Take That single or album, or attended any concerts. I also never phoned the hotline set up to offer counselling when the band first split up in February 1996.
Those revelations meant I was in a minority of probably one inside a sweltering King's Theatre to see Rule The World - the only TT tribute band praised by Gary Barlow - completely win over an adoringÂ crowd comprising around 97 per cent of women.
As a guy in his early to mid 20s, I was far more likely to be listening to REM, the Manics or Oasis around the time Take That emerged to eventually carve their name into the hearts of millions of girls. And, as the years stretch into decades, it is easy to forget just how successful the boys were - 12 UK No 1s (joint sixth on the all-time list) and the best part of 50 million albums shifted worldwide. Ok, album sales do not always equate to critical acclaim - 'Take That and Party' isn't 'Pet Sounds' or 'Dark Side of the Moon' - but it does equate to cultural acclaim. And Gary Barlow and co were HUGE.
Boy bands - especially if you're a bloke who likes rock musicÂ - are forever easy game for a cheap laugh, but try telling that to a Kings audience who were literally on their feet within seconds of Dan Maines (Gary), Matt Hall (Mark) and Gabriel Keogh (Howard) hitting the stage. I've been to many concerts spanning a wide range of musical genres - from the intimately cosy to Wembley stadium - but rarely have I clapped eyes on such an enthusiastic crowd determined to squeeze every ounce of enjoymentÂ out of aÂ trip down memory lane.
The women - including my partner, if you're wondering why I wasÂ at the Kings in the first place! -Â danced all night, they sang, they belted out all the lyrics, they screamed when they thought the boys would whip their shirts off (they didn't), and they waved their arms in the air when they were asked to, and even when they weren't they still did anyway. In short, they had a wonderful time and hardly anyone would have left without being covered in a sheen of sweat.
Even if you're not a fan, a roll call of Take That's greatest hits produce songs most people are familiar withÂ - '˜Greatest Day', '˜Back For Good', '˜Relight My Fire', '˜Everything Changes', '˜Shine', '˜Pray', 'A Million Love Songs' and 'Never Forget' - mainly because from 1992 to early 1996 they were all anthems for a generation and rarely off the radio.
Tribute bands have big business for several years now,Â the best ones providingÂ a chance to wallow in a luxuriating bubble bath of nostalgia which reminds us of a time when we had far less cares and concerns. Our youth, in other words.
Dan and his matesÂ have been together for over a decade, and their appeal and longevity is obvious - they are highly-polished performers whoÂ spookily sound, and look, a lot like the real thing.
For two hours, the audience were transported back to a time when Take That really did, in some ways, Rule The World. You always remember the bands, the singers, that made you fall in love with music, whatever the genre. And for those who lapped it up at the Kings, that certainly rang true.
'Never forget' they sang along to.
Twenty six years on from the boys' breakthrough hit, the Kings audience certainly haven't. And I'm guessing they never will ...