While Take That are renowned for their lavish sets – giant elephants and all – Gary Barlow on his solo tour got back to basics, with an emphasis on talent and stagecraft.
But what a stage this was!
Nestled in a circular clearing among majestic towering pine trees on a balmy summer evening, this Saturday night spectacular at Sherwood Pines was part of the Forestry Commission’s Forest Live concert series.
Backed by an accomplished 10-piece band, Barlow bounded onto the stage with a sprightliness that belied his 47 years.
With freshly peroxide-bleached hair and wearing a red-trimmed black suit, he looked like a cross between Billy Idol and Michael Jackson.
He then took us back on a rollercoaster ride through the years, with both solo and Take That songs, often and strangely giving the audience the exact day, month and year the song was released.
But they were all there, the ones we wanted to hear. Greatest Days, These Days, A Million Love Songs – serenaded to a moon-eyed Thatter selected from the audience – Love Ain’t Here Anymore, Everything Changes, Could It Be Magic, Shine and Relight My Fire to name but a few in this 90-minute, 25-plus song setlist which had a 6,000-strong audience dancing around their picnic blankets and crunching pine cones aplenty underfoot.
What plainly came across is that, after a chequered career, Barlow now seems happy in his own skin, enough to send up his dancing skills in Pray and a self-deprecating new song Live Those Years Again in which refers to his time in the post-split wilderness with the lyrics: “My appetite for singing slowly dies, replaced by an appetite for pies”.
In a bid to beat the rush, we left before the encore but, car windows down, heard most of it as we drove past.
Rule the World was an apt finale for one who had certainly ruled the woods.