Robbie Williams: former Take That scamp, post-imperial phase pop star, a man who was once addicted to Minstrels. Just imagine if this stadium and arena-filling superstar was booked to play a 3,000-capacity venue in a downtrodden part of east London. That’s what happened last night [November 7] when he arrived at The Troxy, a plush Art Deco building in Limehouse, to celebrate winning a Brit Icon Award. It’s sort of a lifetime achievement gong, and has in previous years gone to David Bowie and Elton John. So he’s keeping good company and, oh yes, he deserves it. Like us, Robbie was determined to – in the words of his recent single 'Party Like A Russian' – "'ave it like an oligarch". Here are five moments your mum will want to know about ASAP.
He covered Lorde
Your mum doesn’t know who Lorde is but this will change once you play her ‘Royals’ and ask her to imagine Robbie belting it out at The Troxy. He did just one verse and chorus, perhaps acknowledging the recent announcement of Lorde’s new album, and he did sound a bit like Puddles The Sad Clown With The Golden Voice, but it was enjoyable all the same. Also: ‘Royals’ is about being nobody from nowhere special, and Robbie was once just a bloke from Stoke. Yet, contradicting the song (“We’ll never be royals”), he somehow – against the odds – became pop royalty.
He brought his old man onstage
Robbie grew up estranged from his dad, Pete, and if you didn’t have a lump in your throat when the 60-something came onstage to perform ‘Better Man’ with his son (now a father himself), you are as cold as an oligarch’s gold bullion-filled bank vault.
As well as Take That
You’ve probably heard about this by now – but, yes, Robbie surprised us and brought on the remaining members of Take That for old times’ sake. Gary, Mark and Howard (no Jason, sadly) did ‘Want You Back’ and ‘The Flood’ and the audience almost shit themselves. Earlier in the day, NME attended a press conference in which Robbie claimed there’d be no reunion in the next year. “A reunion at some point, definitely,” he told a room full of journalists, “but we couldn’t get out diaries to work in the next 12 months.” What a massive fib!
Unfortunately he played some swing
Maybe your mum likes Robbie’s swing stuff. She is wrong about this. It was quite a rowdy crowd (you should have seen them pogoing to the punked-up, frantic final chorus of ‘Back For Good’) and jagerbombs sloshed all over the joint as they swayed to his version of ‘New York, New York’. One woman diligently filmed the proceedings on a ye olde digital camera like it was 2005. A group of middle-aged blokes in suits wrapped their arms around each other and bellowed the words into one another’s faces. Seen the ‘New York, New York’ scene in Gremlins 2? Yeah, it was like that.
Robbie is not afraid to play ‘Angels’
Or ‘Let Me Entertain You’. Robbie Williams is not a man afraid to trade on former glories – and nor would you be, if you’d sold more than 77 million records and won a record-breaking 18 Brit Awards. The fact that the old stuff sat comfortably alongside newer material such as ‘Candy’ underlined his impressive longevity. All in all, last night’s show was one of the uncoolest things to happen in east London this decade. It was also, most definitely, one of the most fun.