After scaling the heights of 2009's jaw-dropping The Circus
tour, which included everything from hot air balloons to live elephants, it looked as though Take That
had left themselves with nowhere else to go when it came to the live stage. However, two years on and with the missing piece of the jigsaw temporarily back in place, the man band somehow managed to surpass itself again. Progress Live
, an audio souvenir of "the biggest British stadium tour of all time" may be missing the spectacular visual elements (a 60-foot mechanical robot, stunning pyrotechnics) that wowed the near two million fans across 35 dates, but the return of Robbie Williams ensures that the music was always going to be its most intriguing aspect. Recorded at the City of Manchester and Wembley stadiums, the anticipation at seeing all five members together for the first time since 1995 is palpable from the get-go, but fans have to wait until the more familiar recent lineup has run through four of its stadium-ready pop
ock anthems ("Patience," "Rule the World") before the cheeky chappie makes his entrance. Rather disappointingly, he does so on five of his own solo tracks, including signature tunes "Angels" and "Rock DJ" and a rather random outing for "Come Undone," suggesting the ego that perhaps split the reaction to the reunion right down the middle is very much intact. However, once his routine showman schtick is over, it's hard not to be charmed by the group's audible joy at performing as a quintet again, as Take That reel through eight numbers from 2010's electro-focused Progress
, most of which hold up surprisingly well in such a grand setting, and four classic '90s singles, including an inspired moment when Robbie's "No Regrets" (his bitter take on his previous experiences in the band) segues into their uplifting cover of "Relight My Fire." With a set list surprisingly less nostalgic than their previous tours, Progress Live
may not satisfy those who feel they were at their best in their original incarnation. But for fans of Take That in whatever form they take, it's an undeniably impressive show that, this time round, will surely be impossible to top.