It's been a busy year for Take That who just completed their first UK/European tour as a trio. However you may feel about them, it’s impossible to deny the band’s enduring appeal. I recently found myself in the company of some TT fans - affectionately referred to as Thatters - when I went to see them perform for the first time in my life.
Picture this: it's 9 am outside the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. My friend Ineke and I spot tents - some fans have camped overnight to make the front of the queue. We're momentarily confused - is it 1993? - but it turns out that the Take That boys are still very much loved. Their fans have even devised a queuing system, hence our early start. The first 50 fans to arrive are assigned a number, thereby securing a privileged spot in the queue.
Carla, from the boys' hometown of Manchester, explains the system to us - it’s very obvious this is our first TT experience. She also tells us she has supported the band since they first made teenage girls go wild in the '90s. Her favourite is Mark who she ran into all the time at her local shopping centre back in the day. Through Carla we meet Kitty, a Dutch fan who saw the band perform in the Netherlands directly after they announced their split back in 1995. We bombard her with questions about that (can you blame us?!) The bottom line: there was a lot of crying (can you blame her?!)
What is it about the Gary, Howard and Mark that keeps women of all ages coming back (for good)? Diane, from Scotland, sheds some light on the matter. She is a proud member of the #GBarmy and shared with me that she loves Mr. Barlow's voice, his expressions when he performs and that he is aging like a fine red wine. Marriage and young children prevented Diane from seeing them live in the ‘90s, but this time round she has been to every show since Circus in 2009.
For me, part of Take That's appeal is their down-to-earth attitude, coupled with some childhood nostalgia and their ability to write catchy pop tunes that stick in your head. Despite having travelled all over the world, their northern accents have remained firmly in place and they’ll never say no to a cup of tea. They’re also extremely nice to their fans. The morning after the concert my Twitter feed is saturated with photos of my new Thatter friends meeting their idols. Diane admits to being starstruck and Cat, also from Scotland, is still on a high from seeing Gary in the flesh. Both mention how lovely he was. I'm pleased as punch for them.
Ciara, a 17 year old school-girl who travelled from Birmingham with her mum to see the show, has already met the guys but is eager to see them again (and does so, along with Diane and Cat- yay!). I’m surprised to see a younger female generation of women interested in Take That and ask Ciara about it. Her love for the band started in 2010 when she saw them perform "The Flood" on The X Factor and instantly fell for their music. Mark is her favourite - she loves his bohemian style, his solo albums and says he inspires her to be a better person.
This time round, younger fans like Ciara, don't seem to be taking it quite so far as girls did in the '90s. Inside the venue we met 2 Dutch women who had travelled to Manchester as teenagers to help Mark Owen move house and slept in Howard's garden for 3 days hoping to meet him. The mass hysteria surrounding Take That when I was younger was something that always fascinated me - how does that happen? Despite all the hype, the guys never dated anyone famous or forgot about their fans.
One detail I noticed during my first Take That experience is how devoted their fans are - it’s heartwarming. Dutch fan Marjolein has put together a tour photo book, with all proceeds going to the Child Bereavement UK Charity, a cause close to Gary's heart. Welsh Sarah has bought tickets to a Christmas charity ball where Gary will be singing. My friend Ineke was happy to finally see the band live: as a teenager she was devastated when they broke up, as she never got to see them perform, and didn't foresee a reunion. I was so touched that the majority of fans I contacted were happy to share their Take That stories. They haven’t all made it into this post but I couldn’t have written this without them.
I think Take That say (well, sing) it best in the opening song of the III tour, I Like It: Everybody's looking for / Someone that they can adore / Give them what they came here for / Always leave them wanting more.