Robbie Williams at the Aviva: “Ireland! Am I still your son?”
For all the ego he pushes onstage, Robbie treats every show like it’s all about to be taken away from him
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Date Reviewed: June 16th, 2017
“Ireland! Am I still your son?”
For the last 20 years as a solo act, Robbie Williams’ love affair with Ireland has been no secret, and for 50,000 people at his sold out show in the Aviva Stadium, it’s clear that that love hasn’t died down. Not one bit.
Opening with The Heavy Entertainment Show and Let Me Entertain You, wearing the classic combination of boxing silks, a leather kilt and those tiger Y-fronts from the Rock DJ video, he displays the three Robbie moves we’ve come to know and love; pursing his lips as he cups his ear and turns the microphone to crowd, the smug ‘come at me’ face and when he bites his lips to fight back tears mouthing “I fucking love you”.
Due to back trouble, an array of decadent chairs are brought onstage so he can have a rest as amazonian dancers flock to and around him during Party Like a Russian and Monsoon. He later soars over the crowd like Tom Thumb on a giant, semi-inflatable boxing glove, kind of fitting in with the boxing theme of the show, and even he can’t make sense of that part.
He mentions Take That regularly and fondly, singing a chorus of Never Forget, their last song before Robbie departed in 1995 to hang out with Liam Gallagher, and singing The Flood, their 2010 single that saw Robbie return to the group for two whole contractual albums.
Known as “that fat dancer from Take That” when he first went solo, by the time Robbie released his fifth solo single Angels in 1997, which he dedicates to “us” (who else, like?) he was a stadium star. But as he fires through most of his biggest hits, including Kids and Feel, he decides to sing a medley of whatever songs by other artists that just pop into his head.
Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes the Hotstepper, Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, Tina Turner’s Simply The Best… for no rhyme or reason, he sings a line or two from songs by other people when he crucially could have given that time to No Regrets or Millennium. Instead, we get Rudebox - his rap single from 2006 and one of his worst things to happen to modern music.
As images of a fresh-faced Robbie flash by on the screen during Come Undone, The Heavy Entertainment Show Tour maps out the transformation he’s taken over the years, from a young buck to a 43-year-old father of two. In a moment of emotional reflection, he says “It’s been a pleasure growing old with you, Dublin” and, boy, do we feel haggard.
When he sits in his seventh chair change of the night, his father Peter - the ultimate crooner in black tie - joins him for a rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Hammering in his love of the old country, he sings Joe Dolan’s Good Looking Woman and for a few minutes, it feels like 2AM at a family wedding and nobody wants to go home.
Draping the tricolour over his shoulders for Strong, he acts like the prodigal son when, in reality, he’s never really given us the chance to miss him. For all the ego he pushes onstage, Robbie treats every show like it’s all about to be taken away from him and before he launches into My Way (again), No Regrets or Millennium would have gone down a treat here - he promises to keep turning up as long as we keep turning up.
And he’s sure as hell not going anywhere anytime soon.