LIVE REVIEW: Robbie Williams

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Robbie Williams at Rod Laver Arena Sunday 25th February
Media passes provided by Event Organisers
Words by Matilda Elgood

Finally celebrating his 2016 album, The Heavy Entertainment Show, Robbie Williams performed his second night at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena with special guests The Bamboos. The stage was a big, elaborate structure promising a big, elaborate show. Before Williams took the stage an announcer called through the speakers, instructing us to stand for the ‘The National Anthem of Robbie’. An egotistical display of Williams’ quirky obsession with himself was well underway.

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Female dancers entered the stage in lavish boxing outfits, signalling the show’s official start. Williams finally graced the stage draped in a bedazzled boxing gown. The Heavy Entertainment Show wasn’t just a name, it was a promise for the night ahead. The dancers scattered across stage with their complex choreography in time with the large live band. Williams was stepping into character as he passed each dancer travelling down the stage, very obviously taking a long sleazy look at them. Clearly this was an effort to keep up appearances as Britain’s resident playboy. After touring this album since mid last year, these costumes couldn’t still be surprising to the 44 year old singer.

‘The Heavy Entertainment Show wasn’t just a name, it was a promise for the night ahead’

Williams title track from last album, Let Me Entertain You, quickly followed, taking us chronologically through his discography. This was my time to shine. I had been notified before the night that an audience member would be chosen to go on stage. Naturally, I crafted a sign reading, ‘AY BBY, I’LL ENTERTAIN YOU’. Alas, I didn’t stand out among the screaming middle aged women.

Attempting to cater for an older crowd, Williams formulated a setlist full of covers. The singer has previously said in interviews that he prefers a setlist that crowds are familiar with, opposed to losing their interest with too many new songs. With a live band in tow, Williams made the covers his own, including ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and ‘Freedom 90’. ‘Sweet Caroline’ was the climax of the covers, during which Williams introduced his father to come out and perform. The song finished as a duet between father and son sitting in a mock family living room.

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Williams often took a moment to exclaim ‘I’m Robbie f**cking Williams’, tapping into the reputation he’s built throughout his career. Momentarily stepping away from that persona, Williams dedicated ‘I Love My Life’ to his two young children. It was refreshing to see a sense of authenticity, lifting the curtain to his life as a dad. Williams was then strapped into a hydraulic arm, which soared him across the arena. Perhaps this was a subtle metaphor for the natural high fatherhood has brought him in his 18 years of sobriety. The emotional tracks continued with ‘Feel’ and ‘Angels’, two of his biggest hits. The arena transformed into a sea of modern lighters (mobile phone torches), evoking passion without the visual aids of high energy dances and flashy costumes.

‘Williams often took a moment to exclaim “I’m Robbie f**cking Williams”‘

‘Rock DJ’, another Robbie Williams classic, roared across the crowd. It began with an explicit reference to ‘Can I Kick It’ by A Tribe Called Quest, which ‘Rock DJ’ borrows samples from, before breaking into the familiar baseline of the Williams original. Performing the song with a band and back-up singers gave the track fuller, funkier layers that just can’t be achieve on the recorded version. After returning from a forecasted ‘encore’ Williams paid a personal homage to Australia as he announced he would play the Australian anthem. A simultaneous arena-wide sigh was almost audible when the pipe intro played to Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’. The audience roared with excitement.

IMG-0470Williams’ eccentric and debaucherous attitude is part of what makes him such an interesting and exciting artist. However, at times Williams’ playboy antics missed the mark. Maybe it’s because I’m not exactly his target demographic. Or maybe it’s because his target demographic is embarrassingly backwards. When Williams did welcomed an audience member on stage he comically wondered out loud if the #MeToo movement was big in Australia. This thoughtless comment shouldn’t have been laughed off so easily.

Another crude moment was during ‘Kids’, the collaboration with Australian treasure, Kylie Minogue. One vocalists sang ‘I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, when my drips were dry’ in the absence of Minogue. This was accompanied by an evocative dance move which closely resembled the act of oral sex on Williams. My jaw dropped so low that the stranger next to me reached over and covered my eyes.

‘My jaw dropped so low that the stranger next to me reached over and covered my eyes’

They say don’t meet you heroes. Perhaps you shouldn’t see them live at the ripe age of 44, still acting like a 24 year old sexual deviant stuck in a sexist, 80s frame of mind either.