Gary Barlow becoming a national treasure
IT has been quite the comeback for Gary Barlow.
With a hugely successful Take That reunion, an X Factor judging role and an OBE under his belt, the 43-year-old is now the closest thing the boyband world has to a national treasure.
Last year's Since I Saw You Last has outsold on-off bandmate Robbie Williams's most recent effort, and finally he can leave the likes of the Maysfield Leisure Centre behind.
This show kicked off his UK tour, with Barlow announcing: "Usually on opening night, loads of things going wrong, but not tonight."
Barlow's back catalogue is brimming with pop gems, and he kept them coming. As well as Take That hits -- from Back for Good to Rule the World -- there was the Andrew Lloyd Webber collaboration Sing and even a cover of Williams's Candy, which Barlow co-wrote.
Meanwhile, material from Since I Saw You Last, including the Elton John duet Face to Face, fitted in nicely. But it was the classics that really got people going.
"Does anyone remember the '90s?" Barlow asked before leading a mass singalong on Pray, while A Million Love Songs saw a jubilant Tracy from Toomebridge being invited on stage.
Indeed, Barlow came across as a very likeable bloke, more at ease with himself than his stiff television appearances.
By the time he'd finished a swing medley, some piano numbers and a guest spot for the Victoria College children's choir, he had laid down not only the gauntlet to Williams, but the entire suit of armour.