Monday, June 22, 2009

A Day At The Circus

Music history is littered with over-reaching statements bearing no relation to hard fact.
John Lennon claimed, at the height of The Beatles' fame, that they were bigger than Jesus. Keeping up his own Fabs-robbing legacy, Noel Gallagher later went one better, saying Oasis were bigger than the Messiah's own daddy.
Paul Weller, upon hearing that John Peel had declared The White Stripes' Jack White to be "the new Hendrix" responded by saying "That old cunt should know better".
And though he was a fictional comedy character, Alan Partridge's assertion that Wings were "the band The Beatles could have been" can never be forgotten.
So today, when I state that Take That are as close as this generation may get to having its own Beatles, my tongue is only partially in my cheek. And my second assertion, that Take That are the live band The Beatles could have been, will no doubt be ridiculed.
When Mrs Wife's friend had to pull out of attending the last of Take That's three Glasgow concerts on Sunday, I was drafted in as a last minute substitute. I had no qualms about attending, but said all along that I would rather see a genuine fan take the ticket. But when no such fan could be found at such short notice, I made the trip to Hampden, little more than a week before I'm due to go there to see AC/DC.
We made the mistake of entering the stadium when the gates opened at 4pm, unaware that opening act Gary Go wasn't due onstage until around 7pm. As a result, we spent far too long standing in the heat and in the midst of a crowd that wasn't so much moshpit as menopause pit.
But enough of the preamble - why am I making ridiculous claims that Take That are this generation's Beatles?
Firstly, the show itself. Based around a Circus theme, in tribute to the band's latest album of the same name, I have never seen such a vast and complex set up for a gig. I've seen stadium gigs by The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Oasis and U2, but the shows put on by all of those members of the stadium rock elite pale into near insignificance when compared with the sheer scale of Take That's Circus. A troupe of dancers, jugglers, trapeze artists, acrobats, tightrope walkers and other assorted circus performers formed an intricate part of the show. As did a full-size mechanical elephant that rose from the second stage.
The opening sequence saw these circus performers take a long walk from the main stage to the second stage, evoking a psychedelic take on a Victorian circus that brought to mind The Beatles' work around 1967 - think Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite turned into a Yellow Submarine-style live action movie and you're getting close.
Amongst all this hoo-ha, a vast cloud of balloons made its way to the second stage, and at the crescendo of this introduction, the balloons rose to reveal the four members of Take That dressed in black militaristic uniforms that fell somewhere between those worn by The Beatles on the cover of Sgt Pepper and those sported by My Chemical Romance in their Black Parade phase.
And it's that showmanship that leads me to my claim that Take That are the live band The Beatles could have been.
If, instead of splitting, The Beatles had gone the way of the Rolling Stones and become a massive globe-touring stadium band, I can imagine that their show, or sections of it at least, would be similar to what Take That put on for Circus - pageantary, the idea of making a show a real event, a huge psychedelic video screen as a backdrop and a lot of matey, self-deprecating banter.
So perhaps you'll forgive the comparison - is it so difficult to imagine The Beatles, had history played out differently, playing to a million people in the space of a month on a UK stadium tour, backed by one of the most lavish stages ever built?
But that still leaves my second claim unanswered - that Take That, musically, could be as close as this generation will get to a Beatles of its own.
First off, I don't mean for a second that Take That have anything like the genius of The Beatles.
But few bands ever rise to a stage where they can play to packed stadia night after night. And while there were definitely considerably more women in Hampden last night, there was also a substantial number of men - all of whom, I'd imagine, could probably name 10 or more Take That songs (and, dare I say it, sing along).
The only other British band of a similar age group to Take That with the ability to effortlessly fill stadia and have all 55,000 people sing along with their songs is Oasis. But Oasis perhaps don't have the same across the board appeal - you can't imagine two parents taking their primary school age son and daughter to see Oasis, can you?
And so it comes to pass that I, a massive Beatles fan who should definitely know better, have just spent a rather lengthy blog post discussing Take That without actually mentioning any of their music - including the rather special Back For Good and Shine, both of which could probably slot fairly comfortably into The Beatles' back catalogue - and reaching the conclusion that they're the post-Millenial Beatles.
I'm blaming the Scottish summer sunshine....


Mike Smith said...

Scott Wilson - the Tynecastle stadium announcer and Edinburgh DJ - said it was the best live gig he had ever been to. I thought he was taking the Colin Nish...

Anonymous said...

Mither says...Well i never thought I would hear you speak of the fab four and the other fab four in the same sentence never mind making comparisons!!