Mark Owen at The Olympia June 19th 2013

Exactly two years ago to the day, Take That played the second of two sold out shows in Croke Park. Alongside the other four original members, Mark Owen played to over 160,000 Irish fans. This time round, Owen is back on Irish soil on a solo tour in support of his recently released album, ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’.

Before Owen takes to the Olympia stage, local band Acrobat get the chance to open the show. When a name like Owen’s is involved, there will always been a loyal fanbase awaiting his arrival. This however, didn’t deter Acrobat from giving their all. Officially a three piece, the band enlist a synth player for live shows and it pays off. They have a tight indie rock vibe and their sound is balanced beautifully. Singer and guitarist Mark Thomas uses the Olympia stage well, interacting with the crowd and getting the seated audience clapping along and involved in the set, which includes their debut single Safe Inside, and the soaring Silent Sound. All come across as competent musicians and while it was their first time on the Olympia stage, they seem like they are ready for bigger.

The wait between acts is the worst part about gigs, but the music on the P.A. tonight fills the gap well, with indie tracks scattered between songs from movie soundtracks as the stage is readied with a mat that looks like a British stamp. The sound changes slightly and Gerard McCann’s Cry Little Sister from The Lost Boys soundtrack fills the venue. The volume rises and as the track nears the end vertical strips of LED lights pulse on stage in time with the beat – Mr. Owen immediately gets himself some cool points. As he and his band come to the stage, the predominately female audience let their voices be heard.

Dressed in a white jacket and black trousers, Owen looks at home on his own in the centre of the stage. The set opens with Giveaway and Raven from his current album, and Giveaway seems an unusual choice, starting off quietly before the tempo rises. He is joined onstage by a four piece band of drums, guitar, bass and keys. Actually, in total there are seven keyboards/synths on stage, one of which boasts a QR code for fans to scan. By the end of Raven, Owen has played keys and guitar, showing himself to be way more than the all-singing all-dancing Take That star.

The audience are on their feet and although this maybe a chance to convert some Take That fans to his solo stuff, there are many already mouthing the words. Owen addresses the audience, thanking them for their dedication over the past twenty years. He jokes about how he doesn’t have a big circus or standing man, references to previous Take That tours. As he pours a drink from a teapot, he does show the audience his waving cat, which gets a giggle.

The set continues with Stars, the current single. The sound in the venue is pristine, and Owen’s soundscape is huge, from beautiful bass synth sounds to the punchy sound from what seems like a jazz kick drum. It is a Take That song that sends the audience into overdrive, though; The Flood is given an uptempo intro and the other members aren’t missed as every audience member helps out with the chorus.

Scattered among tracks from his current album, Owen plays 1997’s Clementine, from his debut, ‘Green Man’, and the brilliantly clever Four Minute Warning, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year. Believe in The Boogie from Owen’s third album ‘How The Mighty Fall’ keeps everyone dancing. Yes, he has released four solo albums.

Two Take That tracks finish up the main set as the show really turns into a celebration of Owen’s career. Everyone in the seated venue is on their feet, singing with all their might. As Hold Up The Light builds, the crowd get more hyped. Owen does the clever thing, using tracks on which he has the lead vocal, and ends the main set with the singalong crowd pleaser Shine. These are the songs people want to hear and Owen doesn’t disappoint.

Mark Owen and his band leave the stage to deafening applause, but the crowd aren’t going anywhere, waiting for his return. Mark comes back to the stage with a piano rendition of Rule The World, making the song his own. He finishes the night with End of Everything, an anthemic bittersweet song which builds to reveal a positive crescendo – it’s a perfect choice.

The band leave the stage as Owen is still acknowledging the crowd; he hasn’t stopped smiling and looks like he has really enjoyed himself, which has rubbed off on everyone else. The crowd are clapping as Mark says his last goodbyes, then he too starts clapping with the audience, and the tempo of the handclaps changes slightly to match the beat of Take That’s Up All Night. So, with just handclaps and a full voiced audience for accompaniment, one last chorus is sung.

Tonight’s gig shows how Mark Owen has grown as an artist. It also seems to indicate how much he has contributed to Take That since their reformation. Previously, Gary Barlow was ‘the main man’, but judging by the arrangements, rhythms and songwriting on display tonight, it seems Mark Owen deserves more credit than he has been given – a fantastic night’s entertainment.

Mark Owen Photo Gallery

Photos: Debbie Hickey