Take That still the hot daddies of British pop as they titillate fans on new tour

Take That are back and they’re as hot as ever – literally (Picture: Dave Hogan)

Any doubts Take That can still deliver the goods are firmly laid to rest as they embrace their position as the elder statesmen – and yes, hot daddies – of British pop, delightfully dodgy dance moves and all.

C’mon, clenched fist pumps!

On their first tour in five years, titled after their latest album This Life, remaining members Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen provide the blueprint on how to transition from boy band to fully-fledged crinkly-eyed man band gracefully.

(That said, this great big gay of a reviewer would have liked to see them recreate the homoerotic, scantily clad food fight-cum-music video for 1992’s Do What U Like; what can I say, Gazza has aged like a bottle of one of his own-brand fine wines.)

Before the trio arrived on stage at the O2 on Tuesday night, special guest Olly Murs whipped the predominantly female crowd into an absolute frenzy. The former X Factor favourite recently became a first-time father, welcoming daughter Madison into the world with wife, Amelia.

‘I’m a dad,’ he giddily exclaimed. ‘Who’d have thought? It works! I can’t believe it… what a feeling. I’ve got a baby girl, little Madison Murs, you can see her name in lights. For everyone asking, Amelia’s doing fantastic. I’m on tour, which hasn’t gone down well. We didn’t plan it because we might have planned it a little bit better!’

Olly Murs kicked things off just weeks after becoming a first-time dad (Picture: Becca Wheeler)

A consummate showman, Olly proved to be the perfect appetiser for the main course as he rattled through his own batch of bops, including Dance with me Tonight, Heart Skips a Beat and Up. He leaned into his newfound DILF status too, with lots of twerking, hip-wriggling and the odd crotch grab. Cue orgasmic screams from the crowd.

The mood shifted when Olly paid a touching tribute to late friend and ex-colleague Caroline Flack, dedicating his tear-jerker Dear Darlin’ to her. ‘I’m thinking of a special person, Miss Caroline Flack, who I miss very much,’ he shared. ‘I always think of her when I sing this song.’

Olly wrapped up his set with a lively cover of his hosts’ hit It Only Takes a Minute Girl, cheekily quipping: ‘I just want to clarify one thing… it doesn’t take me a minute.’

Then it’s the moment the huns – knickers in hand, one imagines – have been waiting for: Take bloody That. 

Having easily moved from boyband to man band, Take That really do still have it (Picture: Callum Mills)

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen occupy a space that was previously filled by five huge personalities, and they do it well (Picture: Dave Hogan)

A dramatically broody opening sees the lads, clad in black, emerge from inside a massive TV set singing Keep Your Head Up, as wafts of dry ice and a blizzard of snow-like confetti billows around them. Pretty nifty.

Fans have come to expect super-sized spectacle – the mechanical elephant from the 2009 Circus shows springs to mind – but the focal point this time around is a pair of revolving staircases, a visual cue that these industry veterans will never stop stepping up their game.

Throughout, they clamber up and down those stairs, and I really hope they were wearing their Fitbits. ‘Whose idea was it have stairs?’ gasped Barlow, with a grin, after playfully collapsing, out of breath. Let the stairlift endorsements roll in.

Proceedings do become a tad awks when the group takes a trip down memory lane with a retrospective of their 32-year career, from the original lineup with Robbie Williams and Jason Orange, to now. It veers into a 50s-style sitcom comedy skit, faux telly set and all. Indeed, the only thing missing is canned laughter.

The dramatic opener saw the lads (sorry, men) kick off the show in moody black (Picture: Callum Mills)

Gary’s still got it! (Picture: Dave Hogan)

As has the lovely Mark and his guitar (Picture: Dave Hogan)

Naturally, Gary, Howard, and Mark tickle the sweet spot when they move from their cosy current material to the classics – they have 12 number-ones – whether it’s Barlow sitting behind the piano for heartstring-plucker A Million Love Songs, or Pray, gamely dusting off the original choreography – Amen to that.

Other high points were the glittering Shine, accompanied by jets of water and a Great Gatsby-esque backdrop, and throat-clearing anthems The Flood and Patience.

Even better is an unexpected segue into sci-fi when the group slip into silver coats inspired by Tron/foil-wrapped jacket potatoes and matching goggles for a next-level rendition of Greatest Day.

They then turn up the heat, literally and figuratively, with Relight My Fire, as blasts of flame shot into the arena.

For their victory lap, they finished with a triumvirate of their finest tunes, Back for Good, Never Forget and the rousing-as-a-whiff-of-poppers Rule the World – a fitting end for a band sure to reign supreme for years to come.

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