So Robbie Williams and his Take The Crown show roll into town with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect from one Britain’s biggest selling performers. It’s still all about him, from the 20-odd foot relief of his face which stares out from behind the stage to the two 12-foot wire-frame busts which jut out into the crowd like fists on a Rock’em Sock’em robot. It’s hard to tell who enjoys seeing his face more, the 50,000 strong crowd or Williams himself. But he’s back, he’s here and he most definitely wants to entertain.
Suspended along a zip-line and showing his football credentials by referring to the Aviva Stadium as Lansdowne Road, Williams is straight into his stride, his bulk being the only indicator that he is approaching his forties. The set is a collection of gold-standard hits and songs taken from the past three decades (THREE DECADES!) that, to be fair, remain completely forgotten until they are heard again. The rest are from the latter part of his wilderness years – Rudebox era nonstarters. Many casual fans will undoubtedly remember ‘Let Me Entertain You’, ‘Millennium’, ‘Rock DJ’ but for the most part there were a lot of ‘oh, yeah, was that one of his?’ moments which, when you think about it, is a fairly decent reflection of his output since the Take That days. How many of Gary’s, or Mark’s, or the other one’s, or the other other one’s songs can you name? How many can you even remember? Yet Williams has persisted and remained a constant on the pop landscape through thick and thin and has furrowed a trench for himself. And his songs are catchy as hell, which helps. ‘Kids’, for which he is joined by ersatz Robbie-lite Olly Murs, ‘Candy’ and ‘Me And My Monkey’ create singalong moments and even a half-arsed attempt to re-work AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ doesn’t fail to get people’s attention. And as a treat to somebody somewhere, he brings out a couple of young lads to busk their way through Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’… you might remember them from here.
So that was Robbie Williams, a spectacular live show and he himself an unmistakable and undeniable force in pop music. On his first solo stadium tour in seven years he ticks all the boxes: hits, local heroes, bringing people from the crowd on-stage with him and a few displays of unashamed narcissism. Some will call it glorified cabaret, some will call it guilty pleasure but for the most part it is sheer entertainment from a man who has seen fame from every possible angle. The Prince of Pop is dead and the crown is most definitely there for the taking. There can be no better man for the job.
Photo: Paulo Goncalves