When a client of mine called yesterday to offer me two tickets to the Gary Barlow concert at the Royal Albert Hall that evening, it was quite the squeal that confirmed my acceptance. I’d have loved to have gotten tickets when they went on sale and to have taken my mummy, but the spur of the moment plan somehow made it even more exciting. The concert, in aid of The Prince’s Trust was the first of two nights for Gary at the awesome venue, and having agreed to donate the ticket price to my client’s current charity, Adam and I were off to South Kensignton.
The evening started with support band The Pierces, two sisters who make up a sound rather like half of Fleetwood Mac, crossed with Sheryl Crow. Then after a short wait, on came Gary’s band and in the first few bars of Greatest Day Of Our Lives, on came the man himself to screams, cheers and uncontrollable squealing.
Wearing the shiniest shoes, Gary soon asked us if we were ready for some ‘old school’ and lead us into a medley of favourites….. Musical Director Mike, with sax in hand was introduced and Gary told us it must be for Careless Whisper as they actually started to play A Million Love Songs accompanied by Gary’s piano.
There was a real spectacle in store as Pray began and Gary treated us to two rounds of the Take That routine through the chorus. Much screaming ensued. But no one could be quite as moved as Sadie, one audience member whom Gary went to ask to do up a button on his cuff!
It all got a bit gooey as the star cloths began to glow and Gary sung ‘Nobody Else,’ originally written for his parents. But things soon picked up as Gary announced his ‘Swing while you’re thinning’ medley of swing classics…. I’ve Got You Under My Skin….. Fly Me To The Moon…. and my favourite, Moon Dance. With plenty of Big Band brass, Gary was smooth and actually pretty cool.
After a little piano practice of a rather (purposefully) out of tune Amazing Grace, he led the audience into Love Ain’t Here Any More, proclaiming his surprise when he asked the men to sing alone in reply and they actually did… “we’ve got fellas in the gig!” And this made the start of a string of quieter piano solos, with Why Can’t I Wake Up With You and Forever Love.
Next, Gary announced that there would be an interval (suggesting we get ourselves a Fab, Cornetto or Zoom) but that didn’t happen until he’d performed a rather climatic Could It Be Magic. Still on piano, and in a much slowed down version, he stirred up the audience into quite the frenzy as the rather choral chorus was repeated again and again.
After our ice cream break, and after a rather jazzed up Sunday Through To Saturday Love, and Wasting My Time, Gary introduced the band and then announced it was time he came to meet the audience, whilst performing Everything Changes But You. Thus ensued a gob smacking trip through the stalls, surrounded by extremely proficient and bulky security staff, as Gary made his way through his fans. The surge of bodies we saw from above in our Circle seats was incredible, and fans scrabbled just to touch him for a second. One lucky and savvy girl even managed to sneak around to steal a kiss!
And then Gary shared that he was about to introduce the first of a few special guests, and as we heard the first few bars of Relight My Fire, I only hoped it was who it turned out to be…..for as the famous soul-filled solo came up, on strutted none other than Lulu, looking and sounding incredible. I couldn’t believe she’d come along just for a solo in one song, but I was more incredulous still as Gary introduced his next guest (and good friend apparently), my long time heart throb of old, Jason Donovan! I think Adam must have felt as though he was stood next to a complete stranger as I turned into a screaming crazy, accompanied by so many other members of the audience too. And rather than another Take That number, they joined to perform Too Many Broken Hearts which was even more ‘old school’ than anything Gary had offered up yet.
He still felt the need to ask “can anyone remember this one?” though as he started up back For Good, and even Adam joined in for a sing song. But before long things were brought rather more up to date as Gary introduced his final guest, Olly Murs who took up Mark’s place singing Shine. Perhaps the most enegetic and bouncy performance yet, Murs quickly won over the audience, ending in a big cuddle with Gary. Aw.
But not so popular was Gary’s next announcement, as he explained “it’s time for me to go” and the band struck up Rule The World. The audience were happy to sway, wave and sing along, until of course Gary left the stage and the chanting and foot stamping for his return escalated.
And of course it wasn’t really the end….the band and Gary returned not a minute later and the squealing rose again as, just like on the Progress tour, he finished with Never Forget. Confetti fell by the bucket load, and the awesome audience (there are no fans like Take That fans) left buzzing and humming their favourites.