We've all been to one. The let-down. The disappointment. The deflation. If you're a pop fan, you'll especially know the kind of show that we're talking about; a certain group or performer may be one of the biggest acts on the planet but when it comes to putting on a show, you'd have more craic watching Who's Eddie at the Red Cow Inn of a random Saturday night.
Take That, on the other hand, know how to put on a show. Anyone who's seen the man-band over the years – from their incredible Circus tour, complete with giant mechanical elephant at Croke Park, to their comparatively intimate arena shows – will be aware of their formidable reputation as a live act. There are no corners cut for the sake of expense, no half-hearted dance routines or setlists dominated by the dreaded 'new material'. In fact, within minutes of the trio's Wonderland show opening at Dublin's 3Arena last night, we have the first ticker-tape explosion of the night as the newly-blonde Gary, Mark and Howard join the fray for the opening track of new album 'Wonderland'.
Performed in the round, the staging is spectacular as see-through panels rise and fall from the ceiling, emblazoned with projections of the trio and colourful graphics that enhance the show's carnival feel. Take That's Wonderland is an explosion of colour and carefully choreographed set-pieces, from the eyebrow-singeing flames on 'Relight My Fire' to the Cirque du Soleil-style dancers that adapt their style to the shifting setlist and the live band that appear and disappear underneath the stage at various intervals. Add in some outlandish costume changes and it's easy to imagine such a theatrical show working as a Las Vegas residency – a rumour that was once substantiated by Barlow, but which seems to have since been swept under the carpet.
Then there's the music. There is, of course, a selection of songs from their so-so latest album; the anthemic 'Giants' sets the scene early on, but it's the hits that undoubtedly elicit the loudest reactions. Barlow gives a shout-out to the 'original' fans who remember their debut 'Take That & Party' by running through golden oldie 'Satisfied', and 'Shine' and 'Patience' are huge; there's even a nod to the 'Pray' video with that distinctive dance routine. Midway through the set, a 'jungle-style' interlude catches the crowd unawares as several tracks are stripped back and performed around a cross-legged African drummer. It's a little odd, but a singalong of 'How Deep Is Your Love?' gets things back on track.
If there's one fault to the show, it's that there is little opportunity for chat or bonding with the crowd, apart from the usual 'Hello, Dublin!' shtick; in many ways, it's a reminder that we're just one stop-off on an extensive tour for the trio and their crew. Nevertheless, a raucous 'Never Forget' sends the crowd pouring out the doors of the 3Arena grinning like Cheshire Cats as they pondered the latest twist in Take That's story, 27 years after they first stepped foot on stage together. It may be a curious one, but disappointing? Far from it.
Take That: Wonderland Live from The O2 will be broadcast in cinemas across the UK and Ireland for one night only from 8pm on Friday, June 9th.