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  • Writer's pictureMartin van Zeelandt / TCD

Robbie Williams - XXV Live @ The O2 - London (2022)

Last Sunday me and my wife went to the O2 Stadium in London. If you know us, you know we normally like to stay indoors, but we were on a mission. A mission that started for the wife many decades ago, but we'll come to that in a minute. The mission itself? To go to a Robbie Williams gig. A sold-out gig, I must add. And now, a few days later, I am still recovering after seeing RW live for the very first time. I went in ill prepared, and came out a different person. The wife came out a happier person. And obviously her bank account lost a few pennies because of the ticket prices, but was it worth it in the end? Was it the show she was waiting for, for so many years?

Before we start talking about the actual gig, let's go back in time slightly, if that's OK? My wife has been a huge fan of Robbie Williams since he first emerged onto the music scene as part of Take That, many years ago. She was young, a teenager, and the band became a huge part of her teenage years. She grew up with them, she bought all their albums/singles, and even to this day she knows each song and every lyric used in each song. As teenagers did back in the day, she had posters on her bedroom wall, magazines everywhere.. a typical teenage girl bedroom. And she even shed a tear when RW decided to go solo, and the band struggled with the loss of their friend. Take That and RW were with her throughout her teenage years, so she always felt 'close' to them. Their music touched her soul and has given her good, blissful memories of her younger self. She's a fan since day one, and as upsetting as she was when Robbie left, she still followed them both, and when Robbie became hugely successful as a solo artist, she remained a follower, a fan. A fan with a mission: to see him perform. Preferably with Take That, but their relationship wasn't as great as it is nowadays, and there was no chance in hell them reuniting. But she had to see either Take That, or Robbie.

Robbie started to become this worldly superstar, and his songs dominated the charts all over the world. From the UK to Australia, from the Netherlands to anywhere else, he was there. And his music was different. From happy to sad. From his emotional songs to the extremely uplifting stuff, he showed the world he was capable of getting rid of his boy band persona, and became this rockstar. Yes, there were some hurdles he had to overcome, but he was also ready to cause some controversy. Remember when his 'Rock DJ' video came out, and people were warned pre release? Kids had to close their eyes, or go to bed. It was shocking. It was different. He was throwing bits of his 'body' all around the room, to girls on roller skates. He was showing the world who Robbie was, and that he couldn't give a shit. He was a fucking rock star, and if he wanted to throw his legs and arms to the camera, so be it.

But let's not forget: he also made timeless classics. Classics that are played at funerals and weddings. No, I'm not talking about 'Rudebox', a bit of a weird album in my honest opinion. Nah, I'm talking about 'Feel', 'She's The One', and 'Angels'. You cannot attend a funeral or a wedding without hearing these songs. Robbie was versatile, and he showed everyone that he was an excellent solo artist. Yes, he did work with other artists, for example Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Pet Shop Boys, and some bloke called Gary Barlow... But it was mainly his solo work that reached the world and the stratosphere, and made him into this all time superstar.

He has released many albums over the years, starting back in 1997 up to the present year, 2022. His first album was called 'Life Thru A Lens' and his last is called 'XXV', to celebrate 25 years as RW, the solo artist. Hence why his latest concert was called that. He's been Robbie, the entertainer, for 25 years. He's been the mega superstar for that long. The one my wife was dying to see. And when the tickets were announced for his London gigs, she jumped online, and bought 2 tickets. One for her, one for myself. And I wasn't as excited as she was...

And that's not because I dislike Robbie Williams. On the contrary, I do find him a fascinating character, but I never loved boy bands or was ever a follower/a fan of anyone. I was a fan of 2Unlimited during the 90s, but I got hugely disappointed when they broke up, as I've only signed up to their fanclub the week before and lost 100 guilders (equal to 50 euros). So I swore to never be a fan of anyone. A fan of specific music styles, but never one individual. And growing up, RW was always there, on the radio or TV. And I can appreciate his music, but wouldn't go out of my way to listen to his songs specifically. My wife can lister to all his albums in a row, and I couldn't. It would drive me mad. So, in short, I do like his music, I went to the concert as a person who appreciates his music.

The day emerged, and we both made it to the 02 Stadium. When we got there, it was nice and 'quiet'. The queues for the merchandise stand were acceptable, and me being the nice chap, I bought her a hoodie and a t-shirt. Not for myself, as I'm just a bloke who went to the gig. But for the wife, the memorabilia would be with her the rest of her life.

We then decided to go to the H entry. Walking passed the restaurants, there was a nice buzz, a nice atmosphere. People weren't in your face, people weren't making a racket. They were nice and relaxed. Quick vape before entering, and when walking to the security, it became clear that this stadium was well prepared for this concert. They've done this before, and it all went smooth. We didn't even need to queue: the security bloke checked the wife's bag, and that was it. Oh yeah, they also scanned our tickets. But we went up the escalators, and once we reached the level we should be on, we went straight to our seats, and planted our arses on it. A bit too early though, the arena was still half empty. But we had time. And we had a drink (which was quite expensive, in my honest opinion).

Waiting for the opening act, we had a pleasant time. I was impressed with the O2. I've been around it before, to see a Star Wars exhibition, but never been 'in' it. It was impressive, and I really liked the atmosphere. The stadium filled up nice and slowly, no manic teenagers screaming for mercy, for the main man. And quicky it became apparent that there was a sea of grey hairs everywhere! Me and the wife are in our thirties, but the average age looked to be roughly 40, or 40+.

And then the lights went out. Lufthaus entered the arena. And they gave the crowd a short set. A set filled with dance tunes. Songs they did on their own, or with Robbie Williams. And I actually felt comfortable: I am a dance music lover, so when I heard the bass resonate throughout the stadium, I felt at home. And the songs were really cool! Not many appreciated that kind of music though, only a handful of visitors danced. But you cannot please everyone, right? They did a marvellous job of getting me hyped up for the main man, and even the wife liked their music. It was a good opening set. Maybe too hard for the crowd, but not for us.

Lufthaus started a bit earlier, and then, once they finished, there was roughly 30 to 40 minutes of nothing. Waiting, in anticipation for the main act.

But then, at a certain stage, I spotted Robbie behind the stage. I saw someone wearing something very shiny, and it could only have been him. Or his dancers/singers, but I was adamant that it was him. The arena had the lights turned off, and everyone started screaming for RW. Including myself, the 'ordinary' bloke. He jumped onto the stage with force. He came on, and you immediately knew it. He was there, and got the 02 jumping up and down! The entertainer had arrived...

I am not going to discuss all the songs he did, because I simply can't remember them all. But he did the big hits, like 'Let Me Entertain You', 'Angels', 'Kids' and more. But as 'normal' as I was at the beginning of the set, I slowly turned into a huge fan of his voice, and the entertainer. He turned me. I became an admirer of the entertainer Robbie, and the way he sung, and the way he talked to the crowd. Talking about his first years as part of Take That, and showing a video of one of their earlier songs, and having a massive ass showing (not his btw).

He took you on a journey throughout his 25 years as Robbie Williams, the solo artist, and also as part of Take That. And fuck it, he even sung an Oasis song, and got the crowd singing along. But that wasn't hard: we were already singing every song he did.

And his voice was superb. He practised a lot, and it was showing. He is a bit older now, but aren't we all? He sat down during certain bits of certain songs, and let us do the hard work, but his presence was felt throughout the area. We were intoxicated by the entertainer, and he made sure that everyone present would feel the warmth of his music, and the character he created 25 years ago.

The set was splendid, and went by in a blink of an eye. Before we knew it, the last song emerged, which was dedicated to his mum, mum Williams (don't know her name, I'm not that much of a fan). He finished the song, and the crowd were still amazed of what happened. Including my wife, Hayley. She just couldn't believe what she witnessed. Since she was 4 years old, she followed him and his career, and now, after so many years, she was in the same location as the legend. She had a smile from ear to ear, and it made him into this God-like figure, in her eyes. He already couldn't do anything wrong, as his songs touched her soul since day one, but now his voice resonated throughout her body, and she immediately called it the best concert she's ever been to.

A short interaction after the show ended, and then it was up to 20,000 people to leave. I was expecting madness and chaos, and as mad as it seemed, getting into the tube station, it wasn't as bad as I thought. We got on the tube, making our way home to North London, and we were still in shock of what happened.

A cab journey home from the station, we entered our house, knowing what we just witnessed. But we couldn't dwell on it too long, as it was a freaking Sunday night/Monday early morning, and we had to work in a few hours. So we went to bed, and woke up with a smile on our faces.

I had to give it a few days to recover, and look back at what just happened. Now, Wednesday, fresh and awake, I can look back, and conclude only one thing: it's been the best concert I've ever been to! And that's not an exaggeration! It was top notch from the start, including the supporting act, Lufthaus. RW's voice was on top, the songs were all solid, and the way he presented himself and the band and the dancers, everything was working well! And the end result was a wicked show, with confetti (that's just the deal breaker! can't have a concert without confetti!).

All jokes aside, it was a tremendous set. The songs are all time classics, and timeless, and the XXV concert was proof that Robbie Williams is a pure entertainer. An entertainer for the masses, and one that will remain in the public domain for the rest of his life. He belongs to the greatest entertainers that has ever walked this Earth. Every single second was superb, and even though my camera couldn't capture it properly, I managed to take a few videos and pictures. The video quality was shite, so no need to share them via here. But the pictures are below, if you are interested!

All in all, it was a wicked night. Not just for him having the perfect opening night, in one of the greatest cities on Earth (London), but for seeing my wife happy. Robbie, without you knowing, you've made my wife extremely happy with your show and your music. That teenage spark was ignited again, and she felt 'young' again. That girl with pictures of yourself on her wall. Her bedroom floor covered with magazines and CDs. You made the night special for her, and for that, I thank you. You made my wife a happy one, and you know what they say: happy wife, happy life.

This was a one-off for me. Can't see him dancing like he did when he's 75. One day he'll decide to stop touring, and before we feel gutted, we did see him, and we witnessed a legendary night happening. No, it wasn't as big as his previous concerts, like Knebworth, but still fucking impressive. 20,000 people enjoyed themselves, and even though your clothes looked rather peculiar, it was part of the show. It had to be that suit, that kind of flashy. It's Robbie Williams, for crying out loud.

I can only give it 5 out of 5. Knowing what I know now, I am glad I went with the wife. I only met her 14 years ago, so never knew how she was when she was a wee little lass, but during the concert I saw her innocence, her teenage self, come alive. She showed me a side to herself I never seen before, or witnessed (because I wasn't around when she was a proper teenager), but because of you, RW, I've seen it, and I'm glad.

A brilliant night. I'm guessing that no tickets are available anymore for his other shows all around the world, but if you can get tickets, I urge you to do so. A night you won't forget!

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