Amy Jenkins: Whether back for good or not, Robbie's return could be magic

Take That

Share
Related Topics

Are you Robbie Williams or are you Gary Barlow?

Are you wayward and unpredictable with a tendency to depression and the odd flash of genius? Or are you a solid and dependable hard worker, the decent one who eventually wins through? I put myself more on the Robbie side of the equation – although I'm always trying to call forth my inner Gary Barlow to balance things. So there's something for everyone in the Take That story – and now there's redemption too. The errant Williams has been welcomed back into the Take That fold and an archetypal drama has come full circle.

Williams left the band 15 years ago due to a clash of egos with Gary Barlow. Barlow was the songwriting talent but Williams was the one that the term "X-factor" might have been coined for. Leaving Take That turned out to be a good move and it became clear he was a proper pop star – in some ways an old fashioned entertainer, the kind who has show business running through his veins. He bowled us over with "Angels", a song that became a kind of national anthem. After that we just called him "Robbie".

As his star went up, Barlow's went down. Take That disbanded and Barlow's nadir came when ITV made a "where are they now" documentary centred around the band's first reunion in 2005, nearly 10 years after their split – a reunion that Williams didn't even attend. In a moment of excruciating awfulness, the former band members sat in a hotel room waiting to watch a video message from the busy Robbie in Los Angeles. As they were struggling with the disappointment of their post-Take That lives, the expressions on their faces had to be seen to be believed. Barlow's humiliation was complete.

All seemed lost, but it turned out this was only the end of the second act. Barlow picked himself up, dusted himself down, got his light out from under the bushel and wrote a monster hit called "Shine". The Take That comeback was a runaway success and now it was Barlow who was unstoppable. When he welcomed Paul McCartney on to the stage at the end of his triumphant Children in Need concert last November, we saw in Barlow a man who had earned the respect of his peers and refound his dignity.

But what of Act Four? As with politics, all pop careers end in failure, I suppose – or at least a well-cushioned retirement. This latest twist makes overwhelming financial sense for all concerned. Williams is currently in want of rehabilitation, although not – for once – the drying-out kind. He needs to refocus his talent and halt his Howard Hughes tendencies of late. (He has a UFO obsession.) Meanwhile, the four-man Take That have broken all records with the success of their Circus tour, but are in danger of hitting the inevitable "the only way is down" syndrome. What better way to refresh the brand, as they say, than bringing Williams back on board?

So they're in it for the money, but it doesn't matter. It's still a great story. Barlow and Williams have written a duet called "Shame". Quite apart from the merits of the actual music, whatever they may be, who can fail to be a little bit interested in how events turn out?

Since the days of the prodigal son, we've been gripped by stories of families becoming whole again – and there's something undeniably compelling about this week's photographs of Williams with Barlow and his former bandmates. "It feels like coming home," Williams said – and the part of us that wants to mend our own broken families (whether they are actually broken or not, to the Oedipal child they always seem so) can hardly help breathing a sigh of relief.

Such is the power of the archetypal myth. "Life is beautifully strange sometimes," said band member Jason Orange. "I'm over the moon that Robbie's back with us, however long it lasts."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

The Liberal Left should stop feeling guilty about flying the flag of St George and have no qualms about celebrating Englishness, one of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers said  

Don't sneer at the white van driving flag waving man

Stefano Hatfield
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin