Take That, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

It's time to stop mourning, girls: the helpline has finally closed
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The Independent Culture

It comes as a timely reminder, though, just how big a deal it was when he quit the band, and very soon after they called it quits. It's a moment that sums up the artifice of a show where hits are knocked off like a factory assembly line and the whole concept of the boy band is parodied with knowing irony.

When Take That announced they were to split just over 10 years ago, the reaction from the fans was so extreme that telephone hotlines were set up to help them come to terms with their loss. Given the over-zealous outpouring of emotion from tonight's crowd, however, it is debatable whether the counselling had any real effect.

It's the concept of Take That upon which the foundations of today's disposable pop culture was laid. Just read the checklist: They were manufactured by a Svengali-like manager. Their ambiguous sexuality opened the way for them to be marketed at both teenage girls and gay men. Their personalities fit a formula; the cheeky one, the fat one that wrote the songs, the weird one, the girlie one and lastly the one that nobody noticed. And then there was the rule they laid down that the first member to leave would enjoy the greatest solo rewards. It's a formula the band know only too well. Even the introduction to this show sees them emerging from the "Band Manufacturing Room''. Obviously this ironic wink tells us much about the fact that tonight is all about the grown-up Take That. So "It Only Takes a Minute" is turned into a mature tango, while "Everything Changes" is converted into a touching guitar ballad.

To the fans of Take That's anodyne pop the band were anything but disposable. Tonight, a decade since they last mattered, they are still able to sell out their arena stadium shows in only 30 minutes. Take That know that their strength lies in remaining exactly the same. So they play a set of hits, deliver a series of homoerotic dance routines and strike a series of poses for the mobile phone camera generation. Indeed during a particularly cheesy rendition of "Babe" they even get the audience to hold their phones aloft in a modern equivalent of the lighter.

And as they deliver their impressive catalogue of hits the fans sing-along as if it was 1996 again. The atmosphere is rather like a super-sized hen party where the strippers may have attended (there's more than a touch of The Full Monty about the older Take That) but the groom has no intention of actually showing up in the flesh.

It's time to stop mourning, girls, the helpline has finally closed, and if the awful Beatles medley doesn't make this that clear, surely nothing will. It's a section of the show which suggests Take That will be enjoying their next comeback tour in 10 years' time on board a cruise ship.

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