Is this The Heavy Entertainment Show Tour or Robbie’s Greatest Hits Tour?

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Michael Flynn Photography

Robbie Williams – Spark Arena   February 14, 2018

Robbie Williams did not fail to entertain the crowd with his top hits during a show on Valentine’s Day at the Spark Arena in Auckland. It was great to reminisce about days gone by and sing along to songs that form the soundtrack of many lives. But, is Robbie clinging too tightly to his old songs instead of showing the world his new bag of tricks?    

An hour and a half before the main event and Spark Arena was already three quarters full. Quite a few Auckland residents have evidently decided that this was the place to be for a memorable Valentine’s Night out (present company included.)

Tami Neilson and her band of sharp dressed men in suits kicked off the night with a pleasing selection of rockabilly and bluesy songs. Dressed in a gold sequined dress with matching silver slippers, Neilson was pleased to be the ‘garlic bread with cheese’ before the main course of the evening. Switching easily from harmonica to guitar, Neilson showed why she earned herself a coveted place in New Zealand music.

Neilson’s powerful voice easily filled every corner and crevice of the arena. Good old fashion rock and roll usually gets the crowd going but interestingly enough, I only saw small pockets of the audience bopping to the music. In addition to old time favourites like Walk (Back to Your Arms), Woo Hoo, Holy Moses and So Far Away, the audience was treated to two new songs from Neilson’s upcoming album. I gathered that the first new song was about a devil in a dress whilst the second was the soon-to-be released first single, Stay Out of My Business.

In the end, Neilson won the crowd over and there was much cheering and whistling during the last few songs of her opening set. Even Brian May himself came over to watch Nielson sing and gave her a big hug when she walked off the stage.

The main event started when Lose Yourself by Eminem played over the speakers. This was followed by the tongue-in-cheek God Bless Our Robbie. The band fired up with gusto, the gorgeous dancers posed in their skimpy boxing themed outfits and Robbie walked on stage to introduce The Heavy Entertainment Show in a personalised red boxing gown. Off goes the gown and Robbie faced the masses in a black tee, matching black kilt with a red star. Needless to say, the crowd went wild and that was even before Robbie lifted his kilt a few times to wiggle his behind. Yes, this was the Robbie everyone was expecting to see.

Popular tracks Let Me Entertain You and Monsoon immediately followed the opening song. The massive screen behind the stage showed live footage with eye-catching effects that ranged from 80s MTV styled motifs to futuristic animation. A full band, including a 3-piece brass section, created a huge sound worthy of a huge personality. The dancers fanned in and around Robbie during highlights of each song to enhance the visual qualities of the show. But, it was Robbie’s well-known naughty but nice charm that riveted everyone’s attention. That boyish grin, that ever present mischievous glint in his eye, one cannot help but like this self-proclaimed King of Song and well-hung bastard.

Robbie showed he could still swing both ways with Minnie the Moocher before paying tribute to his all-time hero and idol, George Michael, with a version of Freedom. The dancers now turned models in wide brimmed hats and black hot pants with a tiger face on their collective crotches may have just started a new fashion trend.

Dedicated to his own children and all the mummies and daddies in the crowd, Robbie sang Love My Life. This would be the second and last song from his album, The Heavy Entertainment Show, in the concert.

A walk down memory lane ensued when Robbie started belting out songs from the 80s and 90s challenging the audience to sing along with him. There was a strange kind of unity amongst everyone who screamed and shouted lyrics to Livin’ On A Prayer, Rehab, Simply the Best, Don’t You Want Me and much more. In the midst of all this, Robbie had a mic drop moment when an eager member of the audience flashed her breasts at him.

A series of well-known crowd favourites followed including Come Undone and Millennium. It was precisely at this moment when I started to feel that we were being taken on a ride through Robbie’s back catalogue of hits instead of hearing his new ones. The hit parade continued with Robbie serenading a 19-year-old teen who recently lost her mother with Somethin’ Stupid and an attempt to recall his shortly lived rap career with Rudebox.

Thankfully, at this point in the show, Robbie delivered a pleasant (and much needed) surprise in the form of his father, Peter Williams, singing the Neil Diamond classic, Sweet Caroline. Seeing Robbie and his dad, seated comfortably and singing on a sofa, melted quite a few hearts. It was back to the hit parade after that.

During the encore, Robbie gave the audience a bonus track with Win Some Lose Some from his album I’ve Been Expecting You. This single was a hit song only in New Zealand in 2000. After a rendition of My Way, accompanied only by a piano, Robbie left the stage, hand held high while the audience proudly sang the words to Angels at the top of their voice. The love for this bad boy of pop is steadfast and real.

So, is this The Heavy Entertainment Show Tour or Robbie’s Greatest Hits Tour?

I was personally disappointed that only two songs from The Heavy Entertainment Show album were performed during the concert especially when his eleventh album featured some progressive material by Robbie. Why was Party Like a Russian left out in Auckland? I believe that Mixed Signals, written by Brandon Flowers from The Killers, would have fitted nicely with the show. David’s Song and Hotel Crazy would have shown the audience a newer and more audacious Robbie.

Alas, it might well just be an attempt to meet the expectations of a paying audience who needed a healthy dose of popular Robbie songs. If this was the aim, Robbie and his entourage of talent far surpassed the expectations for a romantic night out. Couples, of all ages, walked out of the arena hand-in-hand with bright satisfied smiles. Yes Robbie, you may still be ‘scum’ but remain unwaveringly a ‘son’ to many in New Zealand.

Watch out Dunedin! This is one Robbie Williams show that you don’t want to miss on 17th February, 2018. Be part of music history when The Heavy Entertainment Show rolls into your town.

Reuben Raj

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Set list

  1. The Heavy Entertainment Show
  2. Let Me Entertain You
  3. Monsoon
  4. Minnie the Moocher
  5. Freedom
  6. Love My Life
  7. Come Undone / Never Forget
  8. Millennium
  9. Somethin’ Stupid
  10. Rudebox / Kids
  11. Sweet Caroline
  12. Feel
  13. Rock DJ

Encore

  1. Better Man
  2. She’s the One
  3. Angels
  4. Win Some, Lose Some
  5. My Way

Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. He also manages the social media feeds for The 13th Floor.

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