Review by Lauren Sherritt
It’s been six years since Robbie Williams last graced Brisbane’s stages, but the wait was well worth it for fans of the talented pop superstar.
On the back of the 2013 album Swings Both Ways, for the past few months Robbie Williams has been smashing out a world tour of the same name and September has seen Australia’s turn to get in on the swinging action. With shows already played in Perth and Sydney, Brisbane audiences were thrilled to pack out two shows this week at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Williams embraced swing with his 2001 album Swing When You’re Winning and has since proven himself a master of the art. While he’s made his name and fortune in stadium rock pop, William’s voice is suited just as well, and some would argue better, to the flashy yet soulful tunes of swing. Able to belt out a chorus just as well as he can draw an audience in with a quiet, emotion-filled verse, William’s performance in the Swings Both Ways was astounding at every turn.
The set list included everything from William’s standard swing covers, Putting on the Ritz and Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me, to ritzed-up versions of his pop songs, Supreme and Let Me Entertain You. Highlights came in the form of more surprising covers, That’s Amore featuring as the background to a farcical and hilarious audience member wedding, and a barbershop quarter style cover of R Kelly’s Ignition (Remix) providing plenty of entertainment.
It is William’s ability to entertain, made up of his cheeky charm and earnest enthusiasm, which earns him the adoration of fans and the respect of critics. His exceptional vocal and movement skills are alone worth seeing, but the energy that William’s brings to each performance and instils in every number is without comparison and is the driving force behind the longevity and versatility of his career. While there’s a touch of maturity to the Swings Both Ways show which may come from the slightly quieter, family life that William’s has stepped into since his last visit to Australia, there is also room for William’s signature crass humour, playing off against his penchant for high emotion. Contrasting numbers No One Likes a Fat Popstar, which sees William’s floating above the audience in a fat suit, chortling through his satirical lyrics, and old swing favourite Mr. Bojangles, featuring just Williams alone and seated on stage while a spotlighted tap dancer wows the audience, show the range of William’s talent and his desire to entertain on every level.
The production of Swings Both Ways beyond Robbie Williams must be mentioned. A tiered stage is revealed from behind plush velvet curtains, housing a phenomenal big band, and a small crew of dancers perform at a top level, matching William’s intensity and energy. There are confetti canons, projected big screen movies and song lyrics, moving sets and flashing lights, all that you would expect from a night of top entertainment and more. And yet Williams still manages to make moments feel intimate, to make the audience feel special that they, amongst thousands of others, had attended this event with him, and beyond all the showiness and ritz that is the reason people love Robbie Williams.
When all is said and done, Robbie Williams is an amazing performer. The Swings Both Ways show is a testament to his creativity and dedication to his craft, and marks the return of a king of entertainment, all at once a classy, brassy, incredible affair.
Robbie Williams – http://robbiewilliams.com/
Location: Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Date: September 22, 2014
Photos: KristaBella Photography