Music review: Gary Barlow proves it can still be magic

Gary Barlow in concert at the Playhouse Theatre. Picture: Contributed
Gary Barlow in concert at the Playhouse Theatre. Picture: Contributed
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Bleached blonde spike hair, black suit and questionable dance moves – it could be 1993, but the cacophony of shrieking crowds at the Edinburgh Playhouse demonstrate a career already served and a devotion already earned as Take That singer-songwriter Gary Barlow owned the boards for the opening night of his 2018 tour with a slick and dazzling showcase of boyband classics and solo crooners.

Rating: ******* (7/7)

To a thunderous welcome from a rapt audience, Barlow, in a black suit with red highlights, embraced the euphoric mood of the crowd.

And in a nod to his last visit in 2012, he remembered the precious night in the Capital when he found out he was awarded an OBE: “Robbie texted me to say, ‘Wow that’s fantastic’. I think that’s what WTF stands for.”

In a barrel of enthusiasm he rolled into Pray, backed by a nine-piece band, with the same candour of his youth. The crowd responded with unlamented passion at a set-piece included all the “well constructed” choreography of his 16-year-old self.

There is no doubt that in more than 25 years of performance Barlow has honed his skill as a masterful entertainer and fans, with an unmistakable tinge of long-time Take That followers, cheered opening track Since I Saw You Last – his last solo record and was the ninth biggest selling album that year.

Full of energy, the seasoned performer proved it could be magic as he held the audience in the palm of his hand through an explosive, thrilling and polished show. Confetti rained down on a crowd who didn’t use their seats all night.

And although it is Gary’s solo tour, the crowd was undoubtedly Take That as hundreds of voices joined in classics such as Back For Good, Million Love Songs and Everything Changes among many more 90s chart-toppers.

Asked why he had chosen the venues for the solo tour, he said: “I had such a lot of fun back in 2013 when I played those smaller venues because you’re so much closer to the fans.

“The audience always seem to love the intimacy of it all too. I’m also really looking forward to playing in a couple of cities I’ve never played before, as well as ­getting a chance to meet the fans there.”

Experience breeds excellence and with a successful career in the bag Barlow doesn’t have to prove himself. His humour, composure and energy show a genuine appreciation for the fans in Edinburgh that have supported him throughout.

Joined by Edinburgh-born singer-songwriter KT Tunstall for most of the tour, audiences have another chance for a “Greatest Day” with four more Scottish dates, including tonight at the Playhouse.