All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 144 – Robbie Williams, Friday, June 23, 2017, London Stadium

My final gig of June 2017 was my first Robbie Williams gig in nearly 20 years.

‘See, that was just Robbie, it was everything outlandish and hilarious and camp and clever and touching that it Robbie.’

So begins my diary entry for this gig. As with my first time seeing him nearly 20 years previously, there were no other words to describe a Robbie Williams live experience than to refer to the man himself. He is the archetypal entertainer, a pure unique force of showmanship, completely unrivalled in the pop landscape of my generation.

But why did it take me so long to see Robbie for a third time after the two triumphant shows I witnessed in October 1997? A few factors came into play. My interest in his music post-1997 dwindled until he released the stunning “Escapology” album of 2003, but in that year packed with gigs, an extra trek to see him from miles away at Knebworth Park lacked appeal. And soon thereafter I was in my 30s and not really paying attention to gigs very much at all any more.

So, as with many of my youthful faves, it took my 40-something musical midlife crisis to get me back into a crowd where I could holler along with them once more. Here in 2017, it was finally time to revisit my former favourite member of Take That, not long after I’d seen the remaining three members of that band at the O2. And some comparisons were in order between Robbie and his former colleagues. From my diary:

‘Just as “Wonderland” was a completely apt title for TT’s magical pop dreamscape, last night was very very definitely “The Heavy Entertainment Show”. From the opening singalong of “God Bless Our Robbie” to the ending blast of “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life” which had us dancing and singing as we weaved our way out of the stadium, we were pounded and pummeled to our very cores with pure Entertainment.’

As soon as Robbie took the stage, everything was heightened and intensified by his unmatchable energy and unquenchable thirst to make the crowd scream.

‘Even slightly plodding tunes like “Monsoon” or “Strong” became arm-waving anthems. Even lightweight bops like “Rudebox” or “Rock DJ” were epic and storming. The true classics like “Love My Life” and “Feel” were on another level entirely. And “Angels”, dedicated to all of those killed in the recent tragedies, was so full of joy and sorrow and hope and nostalgia, it was the single most moving moment of my new gigging life. It was very hard not to become a weeping wreck right then.’

I came to this gig slightly weary from my trek to Bristol the day before to see the Manics, and so didn’t arrive as early as I might have liked.

‘Oh I did wish I’d been closer, I didn’t arrive ‘til about ten minutes before Robbie came on stage and I had a decent view about half way back, tho’ I had to change position a few times due to chatting wankers, seriously, who the hell pays £80 to have live Robbie as a backdrop for their inane conversation? But I do wish I could see him close up. As it was, I mostly just saw him on the giant Robbie-shaped screen, which was fine, really. He was in excellent voice, entirely recovered from the hoarseness that plagued him at the “One Love” show.

Best of all for an old TT girl like me were his renditions of some of his former bands pop classics.

‘And there was a mini TT greatest hits element as well, and it was wonderful to hear Rob’s solo version of “The Flood”, and to finally hear him do his bits in “Never Forget” and “Hey Jude”, as well as snippets of “Everything Changes” and “Back For Good”.’

All of which made me once again feel the intense pangs of regret at missing Robbie’s 2011 return to Take That:

‘Oh Bob, please rejoin TT and tour soon, I must atone for my sins of ignoring “Progress”.’

This, of course, has not happened bar the lockdown meerkat-crossover special that was streamed in May 2020. I still live in hope that I might get the chance witness Robbie live back in the fold with Mark, Howard and Gary before my gigging career is over. But whether or not that comes to pass, one thing is for certain: I definitely need to add a few more solo Robbie gigs to my tally as well.

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