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How Bad Can ‘The Band’ Be? Spectacularly.

Just as it is hard to hate someone who has smashed the wing mirror off one’s car if the note under your windscreen wiper comes with a little smiley face at the bottom, it is hard to completely dislike the cunning adherence to the jukebox blueprint.

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Sadly, by no stretch of the imagination is The Band a good musical.

Featuring the songs of Take That, The Band has broken box office records making it the fastest selling touring musical of all time and with advance tickets sales for national tour of ‘The Band’ reaching £10 million(!)

Gary Barlow and musical theatre seemed like a good idea at one point, but by the time he started actually writing songs for musicals, it turned out that he was the worst thing to happen to the genre in the last decade. See: Finding Neverland.

Do you think “Take That have had a good run and should call it a day” is a fair statement? Do you think there’s a chance we might, by now, have heard Barlow’s best work? Well it doesn’t matter what you think because Barlow is not listening. See The Girls. 

But, when it comes to twentieth century pop Barlow remains peerless in his field. Take That had sold 10 million singles in the UK alone before splitting in 1996 – an event that prompted the Samaritans to set up a helpline for grieving fans. Subsequently they reunited as a four piece in 2006, welcomed Robbie Williams back for a lucrative tour and album in 2010, lost a member in 2014 and are now at large as a trio. Williams is listed as a co-producer but has had nothing to do with the promotion other than being on the giant billboards.

Tim Firth’s musical is, above all else, a marketing exercise which has no role for the audience beyond handing over their money. Featuring the winners of the dreadful BBC series Let It Shine (AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Yazdan Qafouri Isfahani, Curtis T Johns & Sario Watanabe-Soloman) who play the singers of old Take That songs. They drive the narrative along like plucked, tanned, buffed, polished and scrubbed Ken dolls. Nothing can rescue them from being bewilderingly dim. They *mostly* sing in tune.

The show has one of greatest pop song lists… and one of the idlest scripts. I wasn’t expecting an evening of Pinter. What I did expect to be able to do, however, was recognise all of the songs. Most of them, in fairness were familiar. The inclusion of Hold Up A Light and These Days, though, is baffling.

Cynicism bleeds into most of these songs, with most of the tracks sequencing built around cavernous incoherence; one of the best pop songs of the last fifty years, Back For Good sounds like it is being sung by The Military Wives. Unforgivable. The show’s air of will-this-do? is encapsulated by some terrible choreography and a cloying mawkishness that extends to the formulaic narrative. Someho—–

BUT YOU AREN’T BEING OBJECTIVE CARL – YOU’VE TROLLED THE SHOW HANDLE FOR FOUR MONTHS – SAY SOMETHING NICE AND CONSTRUCTIVE.

Oh. Okay… Shine is a genuinely enjoyable finale to Act 1. Fans of Take That will have a good time. Theatre makes the people come together. Some of the scene transitions and set are genuinely inventive. The female cast members are not awful.

So there we go.

Anyway, the worst Take That song of all time is, of course, their single, These Days. So, in case you are not aware of this song’s charms, simply imagine a Take That song, but worse. Its most terrifying feature is in its first millisecond, that the Five To Five boys vocals appear completely without warning. This sound of hell opening up offers the audience no safety zone in which to leap towards a fire exit. Basically, what a racket.

Finally Never Forget arrives “Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream.” If only. I can’t remember much else to be honest.

Is it all just bit of fun and perfect for the target audience? Perhaps I was pre-destined to dislike the show. Perhaps I am trying too hard and maybe The Band is actually clever and postmodern or satirical or something like that.

Food for thought there, readers. Food for thought.

The tour continues through until July 2018 and you can check out the tour dates and venues here.