“Allow me to reintroduce myself,” Robbie Williams says after his second song of the night. “I’m Robbie fucking Williams, and this evening, courtesy of Apple Music, your ass is mine!” It’s a moment of typical Robbie bravado, but one he more than earns over the next 90 minutes with a relentlessly entertaining greatest hits set. As he tells us later on, with typical Robbie cheekiness, London’s Roundhouse is a tiny venue compared to the stadiums he normally plays, but this doesn’t mean he scales down his showmanship. During ‘Rock DJ’ he briefly unzips his trousers to reveal that he’s wearing the infamous tiger pants from the song’s iconic video; a few tunes later, before he performs that fun, punky cover of ‘Back For Good’ he’s been doing for years, he deadpans: “Ladies and gentlemen, Take That! Oh… they’re not here.” And when Robbie asks the crowd if they fancy joining him for a bit of karaoke, he obliges them by covering Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in full, an extra-cheesy move he somehow pulls off.
Yet his set has emotional moments, too. He brings out his dad Pete to sing ‘Better Man’ with him, and dedicates penultimate song ‘Angels’ to his late manager, David Enthoven, who died of cancer in August. Enthoven “saved my life several times”, Robbie tells us emotionally. “I wouldn’t be stood here if it wasn’t for him.” He also debuts a couple of new songs from his upcoming album ‘Heavy Entertainment’, which was announced, with typical Robbie fanfare, in an X Factor ad break shortly before tonight’s gig. When Robbie says a super-catchy new tune called ‘Motherfucker’ was written for his one-year-old son, Charlie, it’s hard not to think, “Who else would do something like that?”
But tonight’s gig isn’t just a reminder of how many Robbie Williams songs several generations of Brits grew up or got older with: the crowd knows every word to classic Robbie bangers like ‘Millennium’, ‘Strong’, ‘Old Before I Die’, ‘Feel’ and ‘Let Me Entertain You’. It’s also conclusive proof that’s there’s no other pop star quite like funny, ego-fuelled, eternally crowd-pleasing Robbie Williams.