Monday 16 December 2019

Can Take That survive their very own Orange revolution?

Jason Orange has announced he's leaving Take That. Can the veteran boyband carry on, asks Ed Power

Jason Orange, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald of Take That perform during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games
Jason Orange, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald of Take That perform during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games

Ed Power

The last time a member of Take That announced his surprise departure from the band, the response was a collective teenage howl audible from outer space. It was 1995 and, after a busy summer hanging with Oasis and eating Mars bars, Robbie Williams had grown fed-up with adolescent stardom and its controlling ways. Fans were hysterical - a helpline to assist Take That-ers cope with Robbie's exit jammed under the weight of calls (this in the dim and distant days before you could Tweet your anguish into the ether).

Eliciting a markedly different reaction is news that 44-year-old Jason Orange is to be a Take That warbler no more. Following a succession of gruelling world tours, Orange let it be known he couldn't go on - "I no longer wish to do this," he said, in a terse media release. In a statement the remaining members of the group - all three of them - revealed their erstwhile bandmate had wrestled with disillusionment for some time. With sessions for their latest LP about to begin, zero hour had arrived and Orange was out.

Anyone who has seen Take That in concert will understand the broad-shouldered dancer and (sometime) singer was by no means a musical linchpin. He could strut, a bit, and looked presentable in the sensible Marks & Spencer suits of which Take That are fond. But he was no Gary Barlow - or even Williams, who temporarily rejoined the group for their last LP and world jaunt. Nonetheless, there are legitimate grounds for wondering whether, with Orange's departure, Take That may now be on borrowed time. At first pass, the suggestion seems ridiculous. From the outset, the outfit was essentially a vehicle for Barlow's songwriting. Yes, joker in the pack Robbie brought an agreeable irascibility; for all that, their best songs started and ended with Gaz.

However, music, like life, is not always straightforward and the loss to a band of an apparently peripheral member can have far-reaching consequences.

Going by the logic that Take That was just Barlow and some pouting hangers-on, the singer's solo career, launched with a considerable flourish in the late '90s, should have been a success out of the gates. In fact, Barlow floundered badly - his writing turned bloated, along with his appearance (quickly he exhibited the puffy miserableness of someone who spent their days in front of the television, trying to smother their unhappiness in carbs and processed sugars).

From a broader perspective, it is clear that pop groups, like cars, can't always function if they lose a wheel. Though the creative engine may continue to rumble and roll, that's not enough to prevent an unseemly wobbling about in the middle of the road.

The facts of this are true across genres: Led Zeppelin felt they couldn't go on without drummer John Bonham who passed away in 1980; REM and The Stone Roses were never truly the same after their stickmen - Bill Berry and Reni, respectively - upped and left at the peak of their success. And what of Oasis, much diminished when their original rhythmic section was replaced by an altogether slicker collective of Noel Gallagher protégés?

In the realm of boy bands… well yes, Westlife rather shrugged off the exit of Brian McFadden. That, however, was a notable exception. More typical were the Spice Girls, fatally torpedoed by the departure, in May 1998, of Geri Halliwell (there was one final album - in which nobody, Spice Girls included, had any interest).

What did Jason Orange bring to Take That? Having listened to all their records and attended half a dozen concerts, this writer, hand on heart, cannot say for sure (he did ride a mean unicycle during their 2009 Circus tour).

A cynic might say nice facial hair was the beginning and end of it. Yet, without question, Take That's resilience - which they have drawn on over and over since their reunion in 2005 - has owed a great deal to the gang mentally within the line-up. It may seem peculiar to describe a mere pop group as possessing an 'us against the world' mindset. And yet that was the quality that shone brightest watching the quartet mug and preen on stage.

Now 'us' is no more - and you wonder if Take That have the strength or will power to re-imagine themselves all over again.

How many times can the band relight their fire?


Take That and posterity! Potted history of the band

Struck by the success in the United States of New Kids on the Block, in 1989 Manchester music manager Nigel Martin-Smith sets out to create a UK boyband in NKOTB's image. He is introduced to a young Gary Barlow, who has performed his own material in North of England clubs since aged 15.

Auditions are held and Howard Donald, Jason Orange - a former break-dancer - Mark Owen and Robbie Williams are recruited.

In 1992, have their first big hit with the Barry Manilow cover 'Could it be Magic'.

By 1995 the group are huge across Europe (though the US remains immune to their charms). However, Robbie Williams, just 16 when he joined, is growing apart from his bandmates.

Post-TT, Barlow is soon on a slide to obscurity while Williams scores a mega hit with 'Angels'.

In 2005, the band, minus Williams, reforms. Their comeback tour is a huge success.

Irish Independent

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