Take That, Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Stars have lost none of their shine
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The Independent Culture

Take That's return to their original line-up 15 years after Robbie left them was, by most standards, pretty mega. The two-hour spectacle played to 56,000 fans cost over £15 million, took more than 100 trucks to transport, over 200 roadies to execute and shattered the bar set by other artists for an intimate and accessible show in a stadium.

Robbie, Mark, Gary, Howard and Jason warbled the old tunes together and repeatedly went in for cuddles, making their reunion a true bromance. But one man stole the show and, luckily for the others, it wasn't Robbie.

That man was OM, as he was nicknamed by the band, a 20-metre high animatronic robot, who peeped over the stadium roof. A chunk of the routine involved OM picking up one or other of the boys in his gigantic hands and moving them around. During the finale the giant walked at full height down a gangway into the crowd as Take That marched ahead. The sheer ludicrousness of this epic prop, even bigger and more impressive than the mechanical elephant centrepiece of their Circus tour, meant that I half expected OM to break free from his restraints and lead Take That's zealous fan-base to conquer the world.

The set played out like an anachronistic history of the boys' careers. They performed the first five songs, including "Patience", "Shine" and "Greatest Day", without Robbie. Then the latter burst through a virtual projection of himself onto the stage to perform "Let Me Entertain You" and other solo hits alone. An impromptu ditty, sung with raised eyebrow and a mocking bow, contained the lyrics: "I have just done some coke and just shagged a whore, that's what injunctions are for."

When all five finally came together they made a splash. Largely because there was a 60-gallon waterfall onstage at the time. Spiderman-like dancers suspended on ropes fought against the torrents as the quintet launched into "The Flood". What followed was a medley of early Take That hits and songs from Progress – not one of their tunes was omitted.

All told, they were not so much a homogenous entity as Robbie and Take That. The banter between them was like a bad pantomime and the show was so full of ideas as to be overwhelmingly disparate. But with everything from pyrotechnics, chanting monks, Alice in Wonderland -inspired dancers (including a caterpillar), go-go girls and the campest moves and grooves, it was one heck of a show.