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Take That live teach us how to age in style

Perhaps it is no coincidence that at Cavea of ​​the Auditorium Parco della MusicaFor Rome Summer Festin one week Blue performed first, and Take Thatyesterday. They are two sides of the same coin, that of the boy bands that exploded between the nineties and the early 2000s, and yet today they follow opposite paths. Ok, it’s easy to bring up the issue of copies and the original: in the end the big boys of To whoever tells me they came out in 2001, with the market saturated, and they didn’t add anything special, so their live show seems like an episode of TRL, between recorded bases and the rest, without really understanding where nostalgia ends and meme begins, in the eyes of the beholder; instead, Take That invented that world, net of the original sin ‒ they were put together by a shrewd record producer, in 1990, on the model of New Kids on the Block, true pioneers ‒ and being a plastic product, often for teenage girls who today have children, and with their husbands (also passionate, you can see) they fill the audience. But Take That, in any case, are something else, in every way. They play in a league of their own, and this is a live show very seriousfor everyone, not just those who loved them at the time.

Even compared to the Backstreet Boys, born immediately after, who monopolized that imagery and now push, even in live performances, on celebration, on not having moved, Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen ‒ before there were also Robbie Williams, obviously, who left the group in 1995 decreeing its first end, and Jason Orange, who took part in the 2005 reunion, which is still going on, but who has stepped aside since 2014 ‒ they are the only ones who have taken a boy band like that and made it, really, grow. How? With a concert that doesn’t deny anything, but that is a True pop concert, with a set-up that is just the right amount of spectacular, between a ladder to get on stage, two large drums on the sides and a band that plays everything and well with them, who even pass around guitars and pianos. They have learned to play, in the meantime. They do not ape the past, even though they carry themselves well at fifty years each they do not sell themselves as super-young, the references to ballets of the past are at a minimum, only as remakes, and more than anything, with an air and some choreographies almost like a musical, there is the idea of ​​wanting to build something that makes sense, here and now.

Sure, the hits are there and the ritual hour and a half is stretched, from the ballad A million love songs to Prayup to the cover of How deep is your love of the Bee Gees, but also Patience And Shinethe comeback songs, with which they humbly followed in the wake of great English pop music, taking on another generation, albeit with less fanfare, and coming out on top. But the theme is the way in which all of this is revisited on stage, and therefore with a bit of irony, mature but not pretentious arrangements, lots of storytelling entrusted to Barlow (who despite being the least handsome of the three is the leader, the most charming) with the joys and sorrows of the group, with class even when talking about Williams. And then the relationship with the fans, to whom the three ‒ a bit of a charmer and with skill, between crowd baths and honeyed phrases for Italy, it must be said ‒ indulge generously, for example inviting the audience to get up and go under the stage. «We’re used to it», they smile at the security, who strikes them down. The girl who shouts «Mark!» all the while, begging for Owen’s attentions (spoiler: unrequited, too far away), she does it to greet a teenage idol, with gratitude, rather than belated veneration. That, of course, doesn’t even interest Take That, and that’s the key.

As De André said, all that remains of that exaggerated love is a few caresses, but it is from there that the three demonstrate that there is life beyond boy bands, and it is better and more sincere than the original. The songs still speak, of course, but above all their good humor, their energy, the desire and the smile they have. In the end this is a story of redemption, the plastic group, for teenagers, that strips itself of prejudices, rolls up its sleeves and tries to build its own path, more authentic and true. There are no similar cases elsewhere, it is a game of balance with time, fashions and credibility that however, in the end, feels like a lesson on how to grow old and leave aside the sins of youth. On the other hand, the stories of groups like this ‒ and Barlow, in the stories, lets it be understood ‒ are coming-of-age novels: life was first very kind to them, bringing them to the top of the world from nothing and giving them a dream, and then falling, making them fall, trapping them in the past, burning them, bringing down on them all the evil that goes around in the world of entertainment. For this reason, the concert with the smile of Take That in 2024, more than the one in 1994, is important: because they, this time, have earned all of this.

Source: Vanity Fair

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