How Take That’s Gary Barlow Dominated the Music Industry
Never forget where you come from here! Gary Barlow certainly didn’t, as he recounts his extraordinary life and career in his one-man show A different step.
From humble beginnings to worldwide success with boy band Take That, to his solo career, judging by The X factorand musical theater hits with shows like Find Neverland, girls and The groupBarlow has had an incredible run in the industry – although, as he shares this intimate production, there have been plenty of hurdles along the way.
Following its premiere at Brindley in Runcorn, Cheshire, near Barlow’s home town of Frodsham, in February 2022, A different step toured the UK. This fall it will travel to the Duke of York’s Theater in London’s West End, where Barlow will share his story and treat the audience to some tunes. So get ready for a million love songs, the flood of memories, and have some patience until Barlow is back for good!
To put you in the mood for A different stagehere’s our brilliant guide to Gary Barlow and Take That.
The beginnings of Gary Barlow
Barlow was born in Frodsham in 1971 and showed musical promise from an early age. He got his first keyboard at the age of 10, emulating his heroes like Depeche Mode and Elton John. At the age of 15, he entered a BBC Christmas song contest and reached the semi-finals, which prompted him to perform both covers and his own work on the club circuit of the North.
Gary Barlow and take that
But it was with a band, rather than solo, that Barlow became a household name. Manchester-based Nigel Martin-Smith wanted to create a UK version of New Kids on the Block and was impressed with Barlow’s songwriting. In 1989 he teamed up with Barlow along with Mark Owen, Robbie Williams, Howard Donald and Jason Orange, originally calling the band Kick It.
Take That was not immediately successful, but did break through with their cover of “It Only Takes a Minute” in 1992, peaking at number seven on the UK Singles Chart. Barlow’s ballad “A Million Love Songs” also reached No. 7, and a cover of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic” did even better, reaching No. 3.
Their 1993 album Everything Changes cemented Take That’s success. Six singles from the album became hits, including their first number “Pray”, as well as “Relight My Fire”, “Babe”, “Why Can’t I Wake Up with You”, “Love Ain’t Here Anymore”. “, and the title track. The band have developed a passionate fanbase in the UK, Europe and Asia, performing regularly on shows like the BRIT Awards and top pops, known for their energetic breakdancing moves as well as their singing. These were all featured on their spectacular 1995 world tour.
Take That’s third album, Nobody Else, reached number one in 1995, and Barlow’s ballads became mega hits – especially ‘Back for Good’, which went to number one in many countries. However, at the height of their notoriety, the group breaks up: Robbie Williams decides to leave. Barlow and the other three members initially continued without him, scoring another big hit with “Never Forget”, but disbanded in 1996.
Luckily for Take That fans, the quartet reunited in 2005 and began a new era, with touring and the Beautiful World album – which spawned hits like ‘Patience’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Rule the World”. The follow-up album The Circus was also a huge success.
Then came the stunning return of Robbie Williams. In 2010, he collaborated with Barlow on the single “Shame” and then officially returned to Take That for the number one album Progress. Lead single “The Flood” was another chart success, and the Progress Tour broke records by selling over 1.1 million tickets in a single day.
The band’s line-up then fluctuated again, becoming a trio – Barlow, Donald and Owen – in 2014. Further albums and tours followed, along with an ITV special. An evening with Take That. A 2019 tour celebrated the band’s 30th anniversary. As of this writing, Take That is still a force in the music industry, and Barlow has confirmed that they are working on a new album.
Gary Barlow’s Solo Career
Barlow has always had ambitions as a solo artist too. In 1996, he released his first two solo singles from his album Open Road, “Forever Love” and “Love Won’t Wait”. Both reached number one, as did the album. He struggled with his second album, Twelve Months, Eleven Days, but came back in style as a duet with ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog on his 2013 album A.
Barlow then took on the arduous task of writing a single for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, in collaboration with none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Sing” went on to become one of the best-selling singles of 2012 and was performed triumphantly at the Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace. Barlow then embarked on the first of several incredibly successful solo tours and albums, most recently a Christmas album in 2021.
Gary Barlow on The X Factor
In 2011, Gary Barlow was announced as a judge on a talent show The X Factor replacing the departure of Simon Cowell. He joined Louis Walsh, Tulisa and Kelly Rowland on the panel. During his first stint, Barlow coached the “Boys” category and helped Marcus Collins reach the final, where he finished second.
Barlow returned for a second season in 2012, when Nicole Scherzinger took over from Rowland on the panel. This time, Barlow managed the “Over 28” category. Four of his acts reached the final and Christopher Maloney lasted until the grand final. In 2013, Barlow was back for a third year, when Sharon Osbourne replaced Tulisa. Barlow took care of the “Groups” category and Rough Copy qualified for the semi-finals.
Gary Barlow and musical theater
Barlow’s first foray into musical theater was the musical Peter Pan Finding Neverland – based on the 2004 film starring Johnny Depp as JM Barrie. Barlow wrote the songs with Eliot Kennedy and James Graham was brought in to provide a new book.
This version of the show debuted at the American Repertory Theater in 2014, directed by Diane Paulus and starring Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly. Matthew Morrison later took over from Jordan and Kelsey Grammer joined the company for the Broadway production in 2015. The musical toured the US in 2015 and a UK transfer has long been rumored . Read a Finding Neverland review on New York Theater Guide.
Next, Barlow collaborated with his hometown friend Tim Firth on a musical named Girls – later changed to Girls Calendar. Based on the real-life story of intrepid WI members who took off their outfits for a charity calendar, immortalized in the 2003 film, the musical premiered at the Grand Theater in Leeds in 2015. Girls Calendar London theater review.
Take That also inspired the 2017 jukebox musical The group, about a group of women who were all huge Take That fans as teenagers and reunite 25 years later to fulfill their dream of seeing them perform. The band premiered at Manchester Opera House and continued to tour, before heading to the West End in 2018, where they performed at the Theater Royal Haymarket. Read a The group London theater review.
Gary Barlow and A different stage
Expect all this and more from Barlow’s one-man show A different stepwhich recaps his turbulent professional life and also dives into his personal life – including tragedies like the terrible loss of his daughter Poppy.
Plus, Barlow takes to the piano to perform some of those incredible hits, as well as the songs that most inspired him as an artist. It’s a telling tale of one of Britain’s greatest songwriters of all time, who ruled the world without ever losing his endearing humility and down-to-earth humour. Pray – or plan – your journey now!
Photo credit: Gary Barlow (Top Photo by Tomo Brejc, second photo courtesy of vagueonthehow on Flickr, The Band photo courtesy of the production)