Robbie Williams just wants to be loved

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Robbie Williams
Allianz Stadium, November 16

Robbie Williams is more than the sum of his parts. A bit of a crooner, but no Sinatra. A bit of a dancer, but no Michael Jackson. A bit of a lad, but no Gallagher. Yet put it all together and you get a package that is better than it logically should be.

Robbie Williams delivers a package that is better than it logically should be.Credit: Edwina PIckles

What elevates these otherwise-middling elements is that star persona. Lazily described as a supersized ego, his vulnerability shows it is much more complex than that. Take tonight’s cover of Don’t Look Back in Anger: the humility in doing a song by Oasis, despite their mocking of him and his allegations of their bullying; the swagger in doing it as well as the original; the desperation to give the audience a great sing-along moment. Above all, Robbie’s organising principle is a desire to be loved and he works his socks off to achieve it.

This takes him far beyond the stock-standard expressions of love for Australia and his cheekily disparaging the Kiwi audiences he was flattering last week, and extends to singing his heart out on a cover of Australian anthem You’re the Voice. The rambling, self-mythologising anecdotes that structure and fill what feels like a third of the show are pathetic in both senses of the word and yet are calculated to elicit maximum sympathy.

Rambling personal anecdotes fill what feels like a third of the show.Credit: Edwina Pickles

Utterly self-aware, he peppers his main set with audience favourites Let Me Entertain You, Come Undone and Angels and shamelessly reprises them in an a cappella medley as the literal encore that closes the night. No musical snob indulging deep cuts from late-career irrelevance, Robbie will do anything to win our love.

Pausing to facilitate a marriage proposal from one fan to his girlfriend, dedicating She’s the One to lovely middle-aged Tina in the front row, getting the 50,000-strong audience to record a message to his five-year-old daughter back home – there is no trick too schmaltzy in his frantic pursuit for approval. It’s that persona, you see: like it or not, you walk away from a Robbie Williams show feeling you’ve intimately, personally met him and, for even the most cynical critic, he is impossible not to love.

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