Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mark: Our Words 

Fame’s a funny old business. No less an authority than North and South bemoaned the fact that “you pick us up to knock us down” in their 1997 ‘hit’, Tarantino’s New Star, although given the fact that they barely made the charts lukewarm, let alone set them on fire, they’re probably not the best people to be pontificating on the nature of success. Still, for the ex-Take That members who aren’t Robbie Williams, it’s probably something that they’ll give more consideration to than others, as for them Take That and Party is now nothing more than an ironic thought that crosses their mind as they pick up their weekly dole money. Howard now spends his time playing noisy jungle music in nightclubs, refusing to play any of his former band’s back catalogue, no matter how much you pester him. Uhh, apparently. Jason claims to be an actor, and is currently focused on researching the role of a man who spends all day sitting around the house in his pyjamas, watching daytime telly and eating toast, desperately hoping that the phone will ring with a job offer. Gary, of course, is devoting his time to learning the mysterious art of voodoo and spends a large part of his day sticking pins into a doll covered in strange markings and tattoos, but whither Mark Owen? He’s always been lurking in the background, releasing albums every now and then, winning Celebrity Big Brother, but all the while failing to actually make any real impact on the general public’s consensus. To find out what he’s been up to and, we admit, with the prospect for schadenfreude weighing heavy on our mind, last night we went to see him do a gig at the tiny, 400 capacity Venue in Edinburgh, and it wasn’t even a sell-out.

It was little surprise to find out that while Mark - who appears to be roughly 2 foot tall and would probably have notorious short-arse Avril Lavigne towering over him - may have moved on musically since his Take That days, his fanbase has stayed pretty consistent. Other than on stage, there was barely anyone in the room who was in possession of a Y chromosome and, on his arrival, the screaming hit such a high vocal register that every dog in a radius of 2 miles from the venue was found cowering in the corner, desperately wanting the pain to stop. After a quick “Good Evening” and a brief pause to allow the screams to subside, Mark launched into his first song of the night, although ‘launch’ is probably the wrong word to use as he started off with a couple of slow-tempo tracks which were, quite frankly, a bit pish and unlikely to excite anyone who’s ever heard any sort of music before in their life. Satisfied, as we were, with our prejudices and safe in the knowledge that he wasn’t much cop after all, it came as a major shock when he upped the tempo and was actually pretty damned excellent, giving good indie pop and getting even our cynical and jaded foot a-tapping. It’s nothing ground-breaking and it won’t change the world, hell it’s barely even giving the map a cursory glance in the hope of locating New England, but it is a damned sight better than you’d expect the solo material from a nineties boy band member to be.

Performance wise Mark kept it low-key, pretty much sticking to holding the mic-stand, closing his eyes and doing the old facial emoting that pop-stars are taught at ballad school. He didn’t even fly over the audience, suspended from wires which was, let’s face it, a disappointment. When he did step back to do a bit of dancing he succeeded mainly in proving that without the help of a professional choreographer, he has all the grace of an arrhythmic gorilla or, indeed, us, but it didn’t seem to matter that much as he was clearly enjoying himself, chatting away to the audience and generally looking like he was having fun just playing music to people who wanted to hear it, something which the true indie hierarchy frowns upon. (Arf!).

We came to bury Mark, but ultimately we have to praise him. Unfortunately he’s unlikely ever to escape the ‘ghetto’ of being an ex-Take That member and appeal to a wider audience, no matter what sort of music he makes. Still, he seems happy enough making music for himself, and if anyone else likes it, well that’s just a bonus, thus making him the indiest man in the world. If that’s the case, then when someone like Kelly Jones can start getting positive coverage in the NME, perhaps Mark’s hour is just around the corner.