Robbie Williams review BST Hyde Park: Bonkers self-aggrandising and charming

Robbie Williams review BST Hyde Park: Bonkers self-aggrandising and charming

You don’t attend a Robbie Williams gig expecting subtlety. The singer launched his Hyde Park performance with a video sequence where he reads a newspaper headline questioning, “Is Robbie Williams the greatest living entertainer?” He then parades backstage, carrying a tiny cardboard cutout of Noel Gallagher and flanked by Danny Dyer as his makeshift bodyguard. This spectacle sets the stage for his grand entrance to the opening chords of “Let Me Entertain You.”

The show is a mix of the bonkers, self-aggrandising, and charming—much like Williams himself. At 50, he’s dressed entirely in white, accessorized with a massive chain necklace emblazoned with the words “f*** off.” He takes the audience on a journey through his 30-plus years in the music industry. “Thank f*** we won,” he exclaims, referring to the England vs. Switzerland match that many in the crowd had been watching on their phones. His best songs often have a terrace chant quality, with big choruses and easy rhymes. During “Strong,” the lyrics are projected on the screen, though no one really needs them.

Since leaving Take That in 1995—an event he recounts as being politely kicked out by Jason Orange after a massive Glastonbury bender—Robbie’s music has become woven into the fabric of everyday life. He’s had almost as many eras as Taylor Swift: the post-boyband rebellion, the early Noughties imperial phase culminating in his Knebworth mega-gig, the easy-listening Big Band album, the ill-fated electro-rap experiments, and his current status as a national treasure and wildcard.

Almost all these periods get a nod during the concert, though the closest he comes to acknowledging “Rudebox” is donning a sparkly tracksuit top. His back catalogue blends laddy bravado with bracing vulnerability, making him easy to root for. He prances around the stage like a court jester and posturing king during the bombastic “Supreme” and the Bond-theme shimmer of “Millennium.” Yet, the more self-reflective, even self-loathing Williams is never far off in songs like the still-lacerating “Come Undone,” his reckoning with addiction and fame.

Twenty years after writing that song, Williams is in a much better place. He’s sober, married, and a father to four young children, who watch him from a VIP platform. He dedicates “Love My Life,” a big, silly grin of a song, to them. He’s “the happiest [he’s] ever been,” allowing him to look back at past struggles with a sense of fun.

That infamous Glastonbury weekend becomes an excuse for a whirlwind tour through the Nineties. After a soaring cover of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” that puts both Gallagher brothers to shame, he brings out Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes for a rendition of “Alright.” Then, in a fever-dream moment, Danny Dyer marches onto the stage with the Coldstream Guards infantry to duet on Blur’s “Parklife,” with Dyer handling the Phil Daniels spoken-word bits.

Between songs, Williams tells meandering stories like a bloke you might meet in the smoking area, engaging in loose cannon banter with audience members. After the swaggering double whammy of “Kids” and “Rock DJ,” he shifts into ballad mode for the encore with “No Regrets” and “She’s the One.” These songs feel like a warm-up for the inevitable “Angels,” now practically a secular hymn. The song prompts phones to light up, arms to go around shoulders, and mascara to become blotchy.

Is Robbie Williams the greatest living entertainer? At this point, it’s hard to argue against it. His performance at BST Hyde Park was a testament to his enduring appeal, blending the bonkers, self-aggrandising, and charming elements that have defined his career. Whether prancing around the stage or reflecting on his past, Williams remains a captivating figure, making it easy to see why he continues to be a beloved entertainer.

Source: The Independent

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