Live Reviews

Robbie Williams – XXV Tour, World Resorts Arena, Birmingham: Live Review

Robbie might be older, but he still attracts a full arena! Kelvin Brown reviews as one of the greatest entertainers of the last three decades tours his XXV album.

Yes, it’s been 25 years since Robbie Williams left the boy band Take That and embarked on his solo career. A career that he did not know back then or peruse to overtake Elvis Presley’s record and become the solo artist with the most No. 1 albums in UK chart history this year. 14 No.1 Albums in the UK to be exact.

The launch of Take That was 32 years ago…yes…I had to count back to when Robbie was recruited at the age of 17 then made their first promotional video. Robbie said, “this is a video we were all proud of but one that no one should ever see”.

With some open, candid, funny and revealing moments scattered with anecdotes about his 25 years at the top, he stops in the middle of a Take That track, Everything Changes, as if a memory recall flashed into his mind. He recalled how he tore off the manacles of Take That while at his first and only appearance at Glastonbury in 1995.              

“I set off with a boot full of champagne and a pocket full of cocaine, ready to get insane and I went to Glastonbury to begin what I didn’t know was to be the start of my new life,” he quips of his now-notorious weekend partying with the Gallagher brothers of Oasis. 

From Take That songs, The Flood, to Rock DJ, to Kylie Minogue’s duet Kids; this night is essentially a personalised tour of his career, from boyband heartthrob through the cocaine years to his current station as a family man whose kids think he’s lost his looks.

The set is peppered with anecdotes about going on holiday with Geri Horner (Spice Girl) when he was first getting sober and doing cocaine with Oasis at Glastonbury before hammering out a cover of Don’t Look Back in Anger so resonant it should legitimately annoy the Gallagher brothers into burying the hatchet.

His European and Australasia tour coincides with his new No. 1 album XXV which explores the 25 years of his solo career. All hits and fan favourites were re-recorded and orchestrated.

To counter, there’s plenty of the man that gave us the album Rudebox (which he graciously does not play). He points into the crowd, grabs his crotch, bends over and roars “this is my bum, this is my arse” followed by comments about ageing.

Within the first five minutes, he’s down among the crowd screaming “come on you fuckers”. For a sweeping encore of No Regrets and She’s the One. He dons a customised wrestling robe and holds his arms outstretched while the band blows the songs up to operatic proportions.

Now approaching 50, Williams doesn’t just write songs about living fast and being young. He performs with the joy of what can come after. His message for anyone who’s followed his journey from the start, and I suspect, himself: “Turns out there is a happy ending.”

A night of nostalgic entertainment for everyone, a night that brought back memories for me. Back in 1993, I was in a band performing at the iconic London Electric Ballroom, Camden only to be overshadowed by screaming fans outside the venue. They were all looking up to a hotel room window across the road with Take That hanging out of the window waving and blowing kisses at fans.

Well, what can I say, am I now writing about that then-17-year-old hanging out of that hotel window as a nostalgic fan? Well yeah!

Before things close with Angels, he looks back to his own legendary gig at Knebworth 2003: “When I asked you to grow old with me at Knebworth you did, didn’t you?”

Oh – And a shout-out to my girlfriend’s sister too, she was on stage performing as one of his dancers and will be touring with him…go girl!

Watch Robbie performing Lost, live in Munich, earlier this year.

Robbie Williams: Website / Twitter / Facebook

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