*This review was written two days before the horrific terrorist attack at Manchester Arena. My thoughts are with those who lost their lives and were injured in this senseless tragedy. I’m #standingwithmanchester
Along with tens of thousands of my closest friends, I popped out to see the Mancunian boys made good who have arrived for a barn-storming return to the city they call home.
They have been through the mill, lost a few key members and admit it’s no longer so easy to fit in a full-length spandex white jumpsuit, but somehow three men with a stunning back catalogue of anthemic and sometimes cheesy singalong tunes boast a following so loyal there is simply no stopping them.
And this concert is testament to why.
This gig is a mammoth undertaking, it took around 170 people all night to erect the stage for this Wonderland tour, a deceptively simple-looking construction in the round which transforms throughout the evening into an awe-inspiring Lewis Carroll-esque, whimsical yet modern, thing of wonder using the magic of lights, video, elastic pulleys and even water.
There are no giant elephants but the Wow factor is there before the main men even hit the stage – in fact they don’t – instead appearing in the audience on podiums ensure maximum screaming in a frenzied crowd from minute one.
It’s not just the audience who enjoy this, Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen are demonstrably happy to be here and they launch a typically energetic set, romping through the greatest hits from their back catalogue and newer album Wonderland, plus a enjoyable whizz through a lesser-known selection from their earlier years, including album-only songs aimed at the hardcore ‘Thatters’ in the audience.
This night is all about the show, with all three men showing off an impressive collection of sparkly and glittery stage outfits, with the best and most camp reserved for the irrepressible Mark, who pulls off not just a feather headdress, but harem pants and a rather nice pair of red heeled boots.
They are brave too – particularly Howard who really shines in this show – taking to the air on pulleys, singing in the laser-lit rain and running through the crowds but where they come into their own is their likeability, genuine emotion and joy in performance.
The undoubted highlights of the evening are the predictable anthems including Shine, Relight my fire (with real fire), Back for good, Patience and of course The Flood with its absolutely jaw-dropping water-feature that uses lights and strobes to incredible effect.
But it’s never a more obvious and emotional proof of the success of this trio of local lads when they sing ‘Rule the world’ accompanied by the tens of thousands of people shining a light from their mobile phones.
Rule the world, they do.
Even without Jason and Robbie.
There’s no tougher job than warming up a packed 21,000-capacity arena crowd who probably didn’t come just to see you so it is testament to the skills and impressive back catalogue of All Saints – that they had an entire crowd singing along.
Singing on a central round stage without the advantage of the circus-esque show to follow for Take That, these four are still every single bit as youthful-looking and talented as they were in the 90s when they first rose to the fore.
It’s easy to forget just how many hits this game-changing girlband had, but it’s obvious when they hit the stage that the audience soon remembers and sings along.
They pull out the hits, including their breakout hit Never Ever and end on the song famous as theme tune to The Beach ‘Pure Shores.’
It’s obvious from the looks on their faces that a return to a stage this size is a dream come true for them as well as their faithful fans who have grown up with them, which I admit includes Your Truly.
An inspired choice as warmup from Take That who come into an auditorium already suitably warmed by the 90s nostalgia of a band, as current now as they were then.
This review first appeared in titles including @leponline HERE