Robbie Williams - Live at Knebworth - 10th anniversary edition DVD
Still a bit of a knob but still, to his credit, a bit of a conundrum, the thinking office girl’s Norman Wisdom marks his return to UK stadiums with this, a ten year anniversary re-package of his first foray into megastar billing. Taking over the vast fields of Knebworth House for three nights, 375,000 tickets shifted with ease was the final nail in the coffin of those (snooty observers, ex-band mates) who’d had Gary Barlow, ‘the talented one’, down as the only conceivable option for post-Take That solo success. The votes were in and Robbie Williams had won by a landslide. Here’s the proof.
Smartly presented – there are cameras everywhere - this is a concert film that aims for a real warts-and-all level of detail. From the sweat on ya man's brow to wide shots that confirm the staggering scale (you genuinely can't see back of the field from the stage), it’s a solid rendering of a genuinely mammoth undertaking. Get a real sense of stomach-churning anticipation as a POV shot puts you in the jaws of 125,000 fit-to-burst fans as the band walk out. But, ahem, ignore the fact that his arrival on stage for this, the Escapology tour, hanging upside down from a rope Houdini style is fudged for video: one moment our Rob’s 30 feet in the air and bound tightly, the next he's stage-front and into opener 'Let Me Entertain You'. Hmm. Some edit, that.
Because it's 2003, the set-list is largely from the 'Mega Robbie' years, that run of two or three albums that cemented his commercial whitewash over those ex-band mates. (His one remaining pal at that juncture, Mark Owen, turns up for a bit of a train-wreck run through 'Back for Good' – seriously, fast forward.) You get the biggies (‘Strong’, a closing mass sing-along of the career-saving 'Angels'), the dross (a syrupy take on 'Mr Bojangles') and a little unexpected treasure. 'Supreme' and 'No Regrets' are still hugely likeable, spacey re-toolings of his pop-rock template. ‘Me and My Monkey' and an uproarious 'Hands Across the Water' are a jolting reminder that the albums often had hidden depth.
Little details catch the eye. That's Tessa Niles and Katie Kissoon, rock b-vox royalty, lending support to their leader's committed but often shaky growl. That's Chris Sharrock (ex-Icicle Works, now Beady Eye) on drums and that's super-smooth Yolanda Charles on bass. The man himself seems genuinely startled, unsure of the ludicrous vastness of the setting. “I’m nothing without you,” he says, during one of several extended thank you’s. You warm to him. Not least because behind all of that “honorary Shaun Connery” hyper-aware, irritating-as-fuck punnery, he nails the odd gem. When he sings “I didn’t lose my mind, it was mine to give away”, you wish he needed just a little less love, didn’t need mass approval quite as much as he still clearly does and dared stretch himself more often than he has. Ah well. Robbie Williams. Alright. Never, despite everything, been too much of a twat. Always good value. Still a bit of a knob, obviously. But at least he’s our knob.