Comeback king Gary Barlow drives the ladies delirious at Belfast Waterfront
It's been an awfully eventful 24 hours for music fans. David Bowie's first single in a decade and Gary Barlow's first appearance in the Waterfront in 14 years bookended a day that should by rights be known as B-Day henceforth.
The Starman's new material might have provoked slightly more international adulation, but it was the infinitely more earthbound TV star-maker that had 40-something women involuntarily gyrating to inoffensive and often pleasant pop music.
It all started in the Waterfront lobby with a terrifying re-enactment of Robbie Williams’ recurring nightmare. That is, a group of slightly tipsy women hoving into view in tight clothing and Gary Barlow masks.
It concluded with the slightly less surreal but lively set of two lengthy acts, a honking four-piece horn section and a factor-50 charm offensive... not to mention a liberal sprinkling of Take That hits. “Belfast, tonight is going to be a good night,” promised the extremely suave Barlow, who has a way with a knowing wink.
The capacity crowd roared their assent as he launched into a solo number — Stay Close To Me.
But, predictably, the biggest howls from the audience were reserved for the Take That classics.
Hits such as a A Million Love Songs Later and Pray were greeted like edicts from the soft-rock Sermon on the Mount.
“Do we have any original Take That fans in tonight?” asked Barlow, knowing the answer full well.
“Any of you call the helplines when we broke up?” he continued, all puckish and playful.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” he laughed finally.
But, of course, he didn't mean it. And on Tuesday night he proved, once again that — gasp, horror — he was the talented one in team TT.
If he wasn't making light of the “42 copies” he sold of his first solo album, he was serenading the gals in the gods with his earnest bellow of a Moondance cover. Even the dread words “ballad medley” couldn't deter delirious Barlowvians from a form of what can only be described as squirmy seat boggling.
So then, Bowie and Barlow may be planets apart in the great wide open solar system of show business, but they both know how to play a comeback.
“Please don't make it another 14 years until I come back again,” pleaded Cheshire's finest purveyor of cheese at one point.
He may just get that wish.