Robbie Williams, Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Wednesday 02 July 2003
On a balmy evening in Edinburgh's Murrayfield Stadium, giant video screens slid back to the sound of an operatic chorus revealing Robbie Williams, suspended above the stage by his feet. The crowd roared as he was lowered and extracted himself, before launching into a rousing and heartfelt "Let Me Entertain You".
Williams may have been hamstrung so far in his attempts to crack the US market, but at this, his first UK date in two years, he was back on his feet and back among the faithful. After the reported indifference of his US audiences, it must have been a relief for the singer to gaze out at the "Robbie" flags, and the naked breasts of female fans, unable to remain fully clothed in his presence.
Clad in a black shirt and trousers, with a wide white tie, Williams seemed nervous at first, and there was more than a hint of defensiveness in his proclamation, "I'm not just a celebrity. I sing and everything. I go on tour and I sell out stadiums."
But as the evening wore on he relaxed, his mood becoming ever more antic as he joked with the crowd, plucked a small girl out of the throng for a cuddle and did fleeting impersonations of Justin Timberlake and Ronan Keating.
His friend Max Beesley - erstwhile stalwart of TV costume dramas - accompanied him on the piano for a reflective interlude featuring "Mr Bojangles", "One For My Baby" and "She's The One".
Then the tempo was up again, and in between romping through "Supreme", "No Regrets", "Rock DJ", "Feel" and "Millennium" he told the crowd, "This is the biggest touring show in the world this year... I've got a point to prove. I was really, really nervous, but there isn't anybody doing it like me in the world right now."
Having changed into a red T-shirt and camouflage-patterned kilt, he also took the opportunity to flash his bum.
This persona, a strange mixture of naughty, needy little boy and arrogance might be an acquired taste - but this was certainly the night to acquire it. You would have had to have a heart of stone not to get carried along with both the crowd's and Robbie's enthusiasm for the "little lad", as he at one point referred to himself, at the heart of it all.
The paraphernalia of the big stadium show was all there, from the 11-ton video wall, to the full band with brass section and the six dancers, in outfits so skimpy they looked to have been made out of individual cheese strings. But in the end, this was a surprisingly intimate event. "Get out your hymn books," he told the crowd before the final encore which was, of course, "Angels". The religious reference was no doubt deliberate and not misplaced. This was a night of mutual worship, an act of communion.
Williams's overwhelming neediness might have seemed sad, had it not found its perfect correlation in the adoration of a delirious audience. And when he bowed down to the crowd and said, "I so need your love", he meant that, too.
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