We take you through the ten best moments of one of the pop shows of the year...
Robbie Williams kicked off his new tour in Dublin tonight. He was looking the best he’s looked for years, and the show was one of his best in ages and ages.
Here are the ten best moments.
1: THE INVASION OF ‘THE PIPER’!
really really like audience participation? Does he think it’s wicked? He loves it loves it
loves it! And so the greatest record of the past 27 years (ie DJ Pied Piper’s
‘Do You Really Like It?’) turns up not once but TWICE! during tonight’s
show in a supercool call-and-response style. Crowd goes mental, obviously.
2: THE HAIRCUT!
How do you respond when a no-hoping indie troupe start making the same kind of music as
you and look as if they’re about to nick all your fans? Easy! You steal their haircut.
Actually hair-for-hair. Who’d ever have thought that Fran Travis
would be a style guru? But there is a long history of hair feuding between the two,
because of course if you cast your mind back a few years Robbie
had a mohican ages before Fran ever did (and they both looked bloody
awful), so maybe tonight’s unveiling of the blonde bit is just Robbie
getting his own back. Who knows? Or, to be quite honest, cares? (Answer: Everyone.)
3: THE ALMOST WEEPING AND WORSHIP OF ‘THE FANS’!
As anybody who has seen the worst video ever made (ie the video for ‘Strong’)
will already know, Robbie
may be laughing on the outside but inside, tears of a clown, always acted the joker at
school because he wanted attention, life was a mess, Kenneth Williams,
blah blah blah. However… When Robbie
finishes one song he announces in a shaky-voiced type way that tonight’s crowd is
“the most beautiful sight I’ve ever fucking seen” and almost bursts into tears,
this isn’t Robbie
being all “ooh look at me I’m unhappy really” – it’s Robbie
being a real person! This is good because Robbie
has been an on-off fool for the past couple of years and now… He isn’t. Towards the end,
he tells journalists in the audience not to write about him, but to write about the
audience, because they’re what tonight’s all about. Unfortunately if we actually did that
we would be sacked, put up against a wall and shot.
4: THE BIT WHERE HE BECOMES ROD STEWART!
When NME.COM went to see Rod Stewart in concert a couple
of years ago (it was good, thanks for asking, though we couldn’t stay until the end
because it was a friend’s birthday) he spent one song kicking footballs around the stage
and into the crowd. Things don’t go quite as well for Robbie
tonight, who attempts with limited success to keep a ball in the air during ‘Strong’
then gives up and kicks it into the crowd, only for it to be thrown back at him! He kicks
it off the stage again – it hits the lighting rig and bounces back at him. Combination of
song and football things: perhaps a reference to the futility and inner turmoil of drunk
old footballer George Best or, perhaps, not. In ‘Strong’,
“Take the pills to numb the pain” has now changed to “Take the
piss to numb the pain”, the full significance of which we may never know.
5: THE MADONNA-BAITING!
comes on stage and announces “Good evening, you bunch of knackers!” which is a
bit like Madonna’s
“Fuck off, motherfuckers!” greeting. But things get a bit more direct when Rob
playing a gig tonight, y’know. Bet they’re not having as much fun as us!” across the
stadium. (He is, should it need pointing out, quite right.) Then – THEN! – he adds, later
on, “I’ve also heard that Madonna
plays guitar”. Before launching into a Liam Gallagher-meets-George
Formby rendition of ‘Material Girl’. Does Robbie
really hate Madonna?
really care? Why not tell us?
6: THE COVER VERSIONS!
Hey, it wouldn’t be a Robbie
show without some comedy cover versions. The ‘Back For Good’ cover is the
same as ever (the “wash it up” ‘ad-lib’ is still there, obviously) but
the stops are pulled out for U2’s
‘Beautiful Day’, World Party’s ‘She’s The One’
(which is kind of cheating but still a cover), Limp
Bizkit’s ‘Rollin” (what would Fred think?
Who cares!) and, inevitably, Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’.
For the Queen song Robbie
has either found a mic stand belonging to a dwarf or got some of his gangster friends to
create a special ‘sawn-off’ mic stand. Either way he looks a bit like Freddie
Mercury, which is sort of the intention, presumably. (He also treats us to a
freestyle version of Wyclef’s new single, ‘Perfect Gentleman’.)
7: THE HIT:ALBUM TRACK RATIO!
Madonna: all show, ‘a little thin on’ (ie almost entirely devoid of)
not actually much of an extravaganza at all compared with previous shows, but just
absolutely stuffed to the point where its bowels are about to explode with hits and tunes.
There are some great moments – the first bit when the screen drops to reveal the stage
with black leather-clad dancers parading around with iconic ‘RW’ flags is
rather nice, as is the storming rendition of ‘No Regrets’ (is this Robbie’s
best tune? Probably) ending with the stage bursting into flames. But with these songs and
tonight’s audience, Robbie
clearly doesn’t see any need for flying around and jumping on mechanical bulls.
8: THE FORGETFULNESS!
Sat on Guy Chambers’ piano, Robbie
manages to forget the words to ‘She’s The One’. Which is quite sweet.
9: THE RUBBISH SINGLE THAT TURNS OUT NOT TO BE RUBBISH!
Think ‘Eternity’ isn’t much cop? Think again! Rolled out in all its live
glory the song becomes really, really ace, and everybody loves it and starts to cry. Even
Comedic aa-side ‘The Road To Mandalay’, not one of Robbie’s
greatest moments, appears in a bigger, spunked up version here tonight, which causes much
in the way of audience pandemonium.
10: THE PROBABLY HIGHLY POSTMODERN CLASH OF POPCULTURAL REFERENCE POINTS!
So he’s doing ‘Millennium’, right, and you think “Hang on. There’s Robbie
with a James Bond sample, dressed as Fred Durst,” –
‘cos he’s about to do the ‘Rollin” cover – “with a bassist out of Destiny’s
Child and dancers doing ‘Charlie’s Angels’ poses. Has he
really thought this through?” And he probably hasn’t. But not to worry because it is,
to be frank, quite wonderful.
So anyway, quite a good show.