Robbie Williams jokes he could play Knebworth again if he “sold tickets as cheaply” as Liam Gallagher

The star spoke to NME at a launch event for new album ‘XXV’, which sees him reimagine his best-known songs with the Metropole Orkest

Robbie Williams has responded to Liam Gallagher’s epic return to Knebworth Park.

Oasis famously played the iconic venue in 1996, performing to 250,000 people across two nights. Robbie, meanwhile, played to 375,000 fans across three nights in 2003. Given that Noel Gallagher once branded him “the fat dancer from Take That”, Williams sent the guitarist a pair of tap dancing shoes with a note that read: “Dear Mr. N Gallagher. You said [onstage] that two nights at Knebworth is history. Well, I guess three is just greedy. Yours, Rob.”

Last weekend, Liam Gallagher returned to Knebworth as a solo artist, playing to 160,000 people across two nights. Asked yesterday (June 6) if he wished to return to the site himself, Williams told NME: “To go and do three again? I dunno. I listened to [Liam’s] last album [‘C’mon You Know’] and there’s some amazing songs on there. Like proper, proper – you know, how music should be. Or how this middle-aged fella thinks music should be.

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“I don’t know if you revisit [Knebworth], though. Do you revisit it? I’m sure we’d do OK if we sold tickets as cheaply [as Liam].” Tickets for Liam Gallagher’s Knebworth shows were priced at £65. Williams swiftly clarified, “Can I just apologise for saying the “cheaply” thing – if you write that, can you say I apologise; I was being bitchy,” before adding: “[Knebworth] is not something that’s on my radar. Glastonbury, on the other hand – I’d like to do that.”

Williams was speaking at the Dover Street Arts Club in central London ahead of the launch of his new album ‘XXV’, which marks 25 years of his career as a solo artist and is due for release on September 9 via Columba Records. He left the boyband Take That to go solo in 1995. The new album features orchestral versions of his most famous songs – from ‘Feel’ to ‘Strong’ – recorded with the Netherlands’ Metropole Orkest, while the deluxe version includes four new original songs. The orchestral version of ‘Angels’ was released today. Both versions of the album feature new song ‘Lost’, a Gallagher-style ballad that sees Robbie sing, “I lost my place in life / I lost my point of view”.

Williams explained of ‘Lost’: “It’s the same sort of song that ‘Feel’ was when that came out back in the day. I’ve got big hopes for it… Looking back [at the song], I’m like, ‘What is that [about]? It’s probably about me getting drunk off my head when I was 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. I think that’s what it was – what that does to your mental health. I notice that I’ve not been that successful since I’ve been happy, so I’ve returned to depression for this song.”

This comes after Williams played a massive homecoming show at Stoke-on-Trent’s Vale Park stadium to 20,000 people. “I didn’t know how I was gonna feel,” he reflected, “because I’ve been away [from Stoke] for 30 years. Who am I? What person am I now? To me, and these people – what does this city mean to me?” Although he felt anxious about the show, which was delayed for “two or three years” by the pandemic, he revealed: “I just felt blessed… It was the most relaxed I’ve ever been onstage.”

The show was notable for Robbie’s cover of the Oasis anthem ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. When NME asked about the cover, he responded:I just thought I’d better do something different for the gig. And then the idea to do [Take That’s] ‘Do What You Like’ came up… I was like, ‘Oh, OK – so there could be a running theme for a little bit of the gig: ‘This is what happened when I left Stoke-on-Trent. So I sang [the Take That song] ‘Could it be Magic’, which didn’t go down brilliantly… which is why I just stopped it halfway through, like, ‘That’s enough of that – we’ve covered that base’.

As the Vale Park gig featured a ‘90s-themed section, Williams said he “sang an Oasis song, a reference to his well-known attendance at Glastonbury in 1995, when he was photographed hanging out with Oasis after being “fired” from Take That. He added: “Look, I’m a big Oasis fan. Massive. You know, that’s a bit of me – and that was me. Those heady days… it’s why nostalgia still sort of pays. I’m that guy, still, but sober – a 22-year-old inside my head, and a massive fan of Oasis. No matter what’s been said or what’s been done, I’ve always dug the band.”

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Back in April, Noel Gallagher, appearing on The Matt Morgan Podcast, said he felt that one of Williams’ best-loved songs, 1997‘s ‘Angels’, is “Oasis by numbers”, though did admit he “thought, ‘I wish I’d written that’”. Pressed on the quote, Williams laughed and told NME: “Well, that’s as complimentary as it’s ever gonna get. That is high praise indeed, so I’ll take that.”

Meanwhile, it was revealed last year that a Robbie Williams biopic, Better Man, is in the works with The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey at the helm. Williams will play himself in some scenes. “I can tell you this,” Williams said at the ‘XXV’ launch event. “I went to Melbourne to film my bits and it was absolutely incredible. And weird… [like] a glitch in the Matrix. I’m in a make-up room and the guy that’s playing my dad’s there, the woman that’s playing my mum’s there and the lady that’s playing my grandma’s there.”

Liam Gallagher and Robbie Williams at Glastonbury in 1996. Credit: Getty

Referring to his former Take That band members, he added: “Howard Donald’s wig is there; Jason Orange’s chin is there. And you’ve just got your whole life surrounding you and all of a sudden you walk out of the make-up room and you’re playing a scene from your life and it’s as mad as you think it is. It’s your birthday party. [You think], ‘I don’t know if I deserve this – but it’s happening, so I’m going along for the ride.’

“It has every chance of being a success – but, you know, there’s a million miles between here and it being a success. But I’m very confident that it won’t be wank.”

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