By GORDON SMART
GARY BARLOW’s daughter burst into tears and cried for almost two hours when he got back from touring Europe this week.
It had been just ten days since he had seen five-year-old Emily but she was overcome with emotion when he walked in.
And the TAKE THAT star says her reaction made him realise how tough it is for Our Boys fighting abroad.
Gary, 36, says: “We’ve done 28 dates in Europe and being away from home for a long time is tough. You miss your family a lot.
Yacht a great group ... Gordon with Take That
Luckily my wife Dawn is on tour with us but you do miss the kids like mad. My daughter is too young to understand.
“Christmas is just around the corner, it’s not easy for the lads fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. It makes you realise how lucky we are.”
My interview with Take That is a world away from the front line.
The boys have invited me on board a £1.7million Sunseeker yacht on a cruise down the Thames to the O2, where their UK dates kick off.
Now, I’ve never been one for boybands - or manbands, for that matter - but Take That are an exception to the rule.
They wear brilliant clobber, make Marks & Spencer threads look cool and can breakdance in their late 30s.
I’m 27 - and the most impressive thing I can do is break wind. As for Gary, he can write No1 singles without breaking sweat.
Despite having led a life of luxury for most of their adult lives, the lads are still beaming at the chance to travel on a plush boat on the Thames.
The trip has them in reflective mood as the sun sets on the London skyline.
JASON ORANGE, 37, opens up about how he has invested his fortune in ethical projects.
He says: “I have always been quite wise with my money. I never splashed out on Aston Martins or a Ferrari or anything like that.
“I’ve got my money in a Manchester investment firm who only get involved with ethical projects.
“I want my money to go into wind power and renewable energy. Everything has to be Fair Trade or operate an ethical practice. It means a lot to me.
“When I was younger it was all about trying to double and treble my money but this time round it’s more important to me that the money is making a difference at the same time.”
I had always thought Jason was the most aloof of the lads and a bit difficult to work out.
But he was on great form and even put me straight when I overstepped the mark with the laddish banter.
Later, on stage after the lapdancing routine, he apologised to the girls in the crowd in case any of it had come across as chauvinistic.
Lads dance ... the boys on stage
It might go some way to explain why he has probably been the busiest between the sheets in the band over the years.
He adds: “I still feel too young to get married. I really want to and I would love to have kids. At the moment I like life the way it is and I don’t want to do it just because I feel I have to while I’m young.”
You can see the boys in action at their O2 gig by clicking on the link below.
There is nothing diva-like about these boys either.
Down-to-earth characters who would be great to go for a pint with - or a fruit juice for four-years-sober Jason.
The owners of the swanky boat have insisted that shoes are banned inside it to preserve the thick pile carpet - and there’s not a single complaint from the lads. I can report that they all have good socks on as well - which I don’t.
Jason adds: “I’m not as into shopping as the other lads. They are like girls. On tour they’ve been coming back to the hotel with bags and bags of new clothes.
“I’m a northern lad - all I need is a good jacket and I’m happy.”
Working for Bizarre over the last few years, I have been trampled in the stampede of women in the office when Take That tickets are up for grabs.
I saw them live at the Brits last year and was staggered by the crowd’s reaction.
When they came on stage to perform Patience a tsunami of women in full hormone overdrive flooded forward to get a closer look. Take That were brilliant. The roar was deafening before, during and after.
In August I ended up beside Gary, MARK and their wives on a flight to LA for the premiere of the movie Stardust. They were perfect gentlemen and won me over in minutes.
Even after a 12-hour flight they were full of banter at US customs with fans asking for pictures - despite their bleary eyes.
Today, as the boat pulls up to dock at the O2, Mark Owen seems genuinely stunned to see their faces flashing up on huge screens outside the venue.
He shouts to Gary to have a look and has a real giggle when the whole band pops up.
Mark, 35, says: “It’s great to be home. It was getting to the point where we were on autopilot, but being back has given us all a lift.
“London is a brilliant place. My house is only just around the corner from the hotel and coming to the gig like this every night is a bit special.”
That’s if they let the little fella back on the boat - while I am speaking to him he accidentally snaps a bracket off the interior and we agree it will be our secret.
Meanwhile, the good news for Take That fans is that Gary has absolutely no intention of retiring.
He says: “I am a workaholic. I can’t imagine ever stopping writing songs.
“I’ve only written one song for someone else this year - Katherine Jenkins - which has done really well. I’ll do more of that in the future but we are all writing for Take That.
“People keep emailing me asking if I have another Patience tucked away. Believe me, if I did, it would be tucked away for our next album.”
I wouldn’t have admitted it ten years ago, but I might even buy that album.