Robbie Williams, Roundhouse, London
Thursday 22 October 2009
Securing Robbie Williams's first concert in three years for the opening night of the Electric Proms season undoubtedly represents a coup for the BBC, and also a feather in the cap of the Roundhouse – particularly since his performance, the opening salvo of the promotional campaign for his Reality Killed the Video Star album, was on such a huge scale.
Producer Trevor Horn had assembled a massive backing orchestra for this showcase gig, with Robbie's own touring band joined by substantial string and horn sections, several keyboard players, a phalanx of guitarists, two drummers, sundry percussionists, a quintet of backing vocalists, and that most indispensable of modern pop instrumentalists, a harpist. Clearly, Horn and Williams are unconvinced by the principle of "less is more". To paraphrase Spinal Tap, you could ask how much more there could be, and get the answer "none more more". If they were gambling by focusing primarily on new material, they were ready to batter the audience into submission, if necessary.
Previously, there has been a distinct tendency for Robbie Williams's shows to become simply an opportunity to bathe in the star's oceanic self-regard, a worry that surfaced briefly as he sauntered down the stage's central staircase like an arrogant princeling, encouraging the crowd's acclaim with tiny hand movements. But as the show progressed, his more chummy, blokeish side prevailed in self-deprecating chat about his greying hair and his rapprochement with Take That, a sly impression of The George Michael Dance, and his perfectly timed delivery of an actually quite decent joke: introducing "Feel", he remarks with sombre sincerity that it was his aunt's favourite song. "I'm sure she's looking down on us now," he says, pausing briefly to gaze heavenwards before adding, "She's not dead – just really condescending!"
Musically, the new material ranges from the terse, twitchy orchestral-techno of "Bodies" to the chamber-pop of "Blasphemy" – the last song Williams wrote with Guy Chambers, he explains. The obvious "I Am the Walrus" influence on the string arrangement of "Morning Sun" is further accentuated by a bout of brazen "goo-goo-g'joob"-ing, immediately followed by quotes from "A Walk on the Wild Side" in a crowd-pleasing singalong of "Come Undone".
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Britain First 'acting like Ukip henchmen' by invading meeting of activists in revenge for pub protest against Nigel Farage
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Zayn Malik releases first solo song 'I Won't Mind' in 'Zaughty' collaboration with Naughty Boy
Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
Poldark review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans