Take That’s Gary Barlow talks to us about their bombastic new album and recording with the audience in mind
Take That ready for anthemic gig in Dubai
Gary Barlow was so close yet so far. The UK singer and songwriting force behind big-selling boyband Take That had to watch the final Abu Dhabi F1 race on Sunday from an airport in Dubai.
The band’s trio were in the country for a few days for promotional duties before jetting off on Sunday, only to return today to perform at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.
“It is a bit disappointing that I couldn’t attend the race,” said Barlow. “But we have been touring even more this year, and that’s a really good thing. I am looking forward now to coming with the boys to Dubai because I always have a great time there.”
Indeed, Dubai has always been the favoured October holiday destination for Barlow and his family, for more than a decade. However, it was only after his 2014 Dubai debut as a solo artist that he realised the UAE was a viable touring destination for Take That.
“The first time I played a gig I was actually really surprised,” he recalls. “The fans were crazy and they sang every word. I was so excited to get back and tell the guys about it because I thought, I’ve got to get the band out here; I can’t believe we’ve never gigged here before.”
More than 10,000 fans watched Take That’s UAE debut, at the amphitheatre a year later. Remarkably, such audience figures are a relatively intimate gig for a group who continue to sell out arenas across Europe – and stadiums in the UK.
Such large and communal gatherings were in the mind of the group, which also consists of Howard Donald and Mark Owen, when recording their eight album Wonderland. Released in March, it is bombastic and chock-full of anthemic and chanting choruses, such as the Barlow led single Giants.
“We’re a band who’ve been around for like 27 years now, and you’d think that less and less people would come and watch you, but it’s the complete opposite for us. We can’t put enough tickets on sale, and people just keep buying them, and we’re so lucky,” says Barlow. “So whenever we make a record, it’s always with a live audience in mind. So we try and have a good energy, a good drama, because we like to be quite dramatic with our visuals, and we have a brilliant band that tours with us.”
That vibrancy also extends to some of the welcome left-turns in the album. While Wonderland has its fair share of trademark ballads, the record perks up with the infectious disco stylings of Lucky Star and the soft rock of River, featuring a soulful vocal by Mark Owen.
Barlow says some of these diversions were made to keep them and the fans interested. “You have to have a reason to make music. When you’re eight albums down the road and 25 years in with people, there has to be a reason to do it,” he says.
“But Take That records have always been eclectic and that’s because there’s three of us bringing different musical tastes. Howard really loves the dance music. Mark really loves more of a rock side to it, and I love the ballads and the more dramatic songs.”
Despite each member’ tastes, Barlow’s songwriting – responsible for hits Back For Good (1995) and Patience (2006) – remains the group’s calling card. That said, Take That is a band of equals with Barlow viewing himself as more of a filter than the final arbiter of what tracks end up on each album.
“The songs always come in different shapes and sizes, but I think generally what happens is all the music runs through my laptop,” he says. “So whatever we write, whatever we create, it comes into my computer, and then from there it goes to the producers and the people we use that help us make the music.”
Take That perform at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on November 29. Tickets begin from Dh350 from www.takethatdxb.com