The Times, 11th March 1996

Fairfield Halls, Croydon

ROBBIE Williams's departure from Take That last summer can be seen, with a touch of 20-20 hindsight, as the first wheel to come off a vehicle that would soon veer out of control. But in another lucrative corner of the youth market, Eternal's engine trouble that same season has righted itself entirely.

Their future was apparently threatened when Louise Nurding amicably flew the coop, but the group has pared to a three-piece without missing a beat. Eternal's second album, Power of a Woman, is becoming as hit-laden as its million selling predecessor, Always & Forever. Louise, meanwhile, is now two hits into her solo career.

With nine Top 15 singles since their launch in 1993, Eternal's act now has sophistication and sureness, plus an opulent set and ten-piece band. Sometimes berated for making bland, no-risk discs, Eternal move on stage � as they make their recordings � with a professionalism that would be more readily applauded in a visiting soul act. Indeed, in the current hit Good Thing they have a workout soulful enough to take on the American R'n'B market on its own terms.

At home, they remain wholesome fare for a live audience that starts at around the age of seven and joins in every chorus of what has become a polished package of hits. Easther Bennett continues to steer their vocal course, but as on the last tour Vernie Bennett takes an assured solo and Kéllé Bryan contributes an alluring version of Janet Jackson's Black Cat.

The trio's turn as three of her brothers, in a Jackson Five medley complete with Afro wigs and check trousers, is an unnecessary cabaret touch. But in a business in which "eternal" popularity usually means something that just about makes it around the calendar, Croydon's soul sisters are building something more durable.