IN a word: WOW.
Take That kicked off their Progress Live tour in stupendous style to a sold-out crowd at the Stadium of Light.
The look of the show had been kept under tight wraps, but it didn’t disappoint.
Think Minority Report, a slice of space age, a touch tribal with a dash of Alice in Wonderland thrown in for good measure.
Add to that a human chess set and a giant pipe-smoking caterpillar and you get some impression of the visual feast the band dished out to their 55,000 chanting fans.
Yet it was the music that mattered most as the lads worked their way through a selection of classic hits and more recent chart-toppers.
Seeing the band as a five-piece was what everyone had been waiting for, but the crowd were kept in suspense for a little longer as Gary, Mark, Jason and Howard opened the show minus Robbie.
Despite a rainy start to the spectacle, it couldn’t dampen the spirit of the night as the four-piece belted out the anthemic Rule The World and Greatest Day amid a tour-de-force of pyrotechnics.
Then it was Robbie’s turn in the spotlight as he burst onto stage to smash hit Let Me Entertain You.
In typical Williams fashion, he had all the swagger and confidence of his solo days topped off with his trademark cheeky grin.
You couldn’t help feeling it was the Robbie Williams show at times, but his performance of Angels, Rock DJ and Feel as he floated above the audience on a platform had the audience’s energy soaring high above the home of the Black Cats.
An ad-libbed ode to Open Night also went down well with its nods to former SAFC manager Peter Reid and mackem lasses.
You’ve got to hand it to Williams – he commands the stage like no one else.
Soon it was time to see why Progress Live’s become one of the fastest-selling shows ever: Take That touring with Robbie for the first time in 15 years.
All the stops were pulled out effects-wise as they performed Flood above a human waterfall of dancers who performed aerial acrobatics in a cascade of water.
It was a theatrical spectacle I didn’t think could be beaten until the fab five were joined on stage by a Goliath of a robot which stood 60ft tall.
He moved around and out to the crowd and the band even sang in the palms of his hands: befitting as this is exactly where they had the audience.
But, despite the £15million reportedly ploughed into the concert and the amazing special effects such a huge budget affords, it was the original Take That line-up gathered around Gary’s piano for a good old sing-song which proved one of the biggest highlights of the night.
They’ve had solo hits, they’ve had hits as a four-piece, but nothing beats the magic of Take That’s classic 90s tunes.
A Million Love Songs, Babe and Back for Good proved to be a phone/camera/any-light-you-can-find in the air moment as the crowd swayed in mutual reminiscence.
Robbie may not be back for good, but after this show you can almost forget he ever left.