Gary Barlow review: Take That man bars heart and soul at intimate hometown show for just 400 fans – Dianne Bourne

Gary Barlow has entertained thousands and thousands of fans at the world’s biggest arenas and stadiums – with boyband Take That, and as a solo artist.

But his latest project takes him to an entirely different type of stage stage – in front of just 420 fans at The Brindley Theater in Runcorn.

Why Runcorn?

Well, it’s just a stone’s throw from where the entire Gary Barlow story started, in his hometown of Frodsham in Cheshire.

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Naturally, upon announcing this new one-man theater show in January, it swiftly sold out – even though there were few details about what would be in store in the show aptly titled A Different Stage.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t that” laughs one lady leaving the auditorium on Friday night, still wiping away mascara trails from all the tears.

“I didn’t know how funny he was either,” chirped her friend.

It’s safe to say none of us knew what to expect with this new one man show from Mr Barlow, hot on the heels of his huge solo arena tour in December.

At those gigs, fans got exactly what they expected – Gary singing all his biggest hits and a few Christmas songs thrown in for good measure.

What Gary delivers with A Different Stage is a brave and beautiful retelling of his whole life story – warts and all – and he really does bare heart and soul.

For those who grew up on the music of Take That, it makes this more than just a show, this is a seriously emotional experience.

Gary Barlow is performing at The Brindley Theater in Runcorn

Gary is keen to keep the element of surprise with this project – fans are warned from the outset that there are strictly no photos or videos allowed inside, and at the start of the show Gary’s voice booms out to comically ask that the audience go old school in their approach tonight – and “watch with your actual eyes.”

Over the course of the two hour one-man show we get to hear all the magical, memorable and heart-wrenching stories from Gary of growing up in the north west and playing the working men’s clubs of Halton and Connah’s Quay, while dreaming of hitting the big time somewhere exciting and glamorous “down the M56”.

We hear in his own words how he first met Take That creator Nigel Martin-Smith in Manchester, and how he became one fifth of the boyband that aimed to become “the British New Kids on the Block” – Take That.

Gary has worked with his old friend and theater collaborator Tim Firth on this show, which is essentially Gary narrating his life with brilliant comedy timing as well as important songs peppered into the action.

So don’t expect this to be a Gary’s greatest hits night.

Gary retells the story of how Take That were formed in his own words

Instead, this is the story of how music first shaped a man, and how his music shaped the lives of so many.

I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the evening with too much details of the stories Gary tells, but I will say that for Take That fans it’s an unmissable night of hearing how those four northern lads (and a young upstart from Stoke) became the biggest band in the country, on to the pain of their split, and the emotional toll it all took on Gary, before that triumphant comeback.

He doesn’t shy away from any topic – from the highs of pop superstardom to the heart-breaking lows and yes, even talking about that tax scandal.

He reveals the stories behind some of Take That’s biggest hits of which Gary performs snippets of through the night, at first on his original casio keyboard bought for him at the age of 11, through the Yamaha organ his beloved dad Colin worked night and day to afford to buy him, and on to his baby grand piano.

Take That in their 90s heyday

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by many of the incredibly moving elements in this show.

Indeed I can feel myself tearing up again just recalling the moment Gary talked through the tragedy of his stillborn daughter Poppy – and how she inspired his new perspective on life and the beautiful song Let Me Go.

Naturally, the show all ends on a high, with the crowd on their feet not only to wave their arms in the familiar salutes to Never Forget, but to give Gary the most deserving of standing ovations for this most personal and poignant of performances.

The show continues at The Brindley Theater for the next four nights, and if you’re lucky enough to have secured a ticket you’re in for a night you’ll never forget as well.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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