Robbie Williams live at BST Hyde Park review: a masterful greatest hits set

 (Dave Hogan/Hogan Media Shutterstock)
(Dave Hogan/Hogan Media Shutterstock)

“Thank f**k England won!” exclaimed Robbie Williams, towards the beginning of his massive Hyde Park gig.

Right up until the moment the singer came on stage, punters were gathered tensely around any screens they could find, cheering our national men’s football team on as their showdown with Switzerland went into penalties.

Clearly just as pleased as the rest of us that England scored all five penalties to go through, Williams sang the chorus of Three Lions over the top of the emotive closer Angels, and also had his backing dancers take their final bows in the England strip.

But before all of that, it began with a truly masterful, willfully ridiculous opening sequence, apparently live streaming onto the big screens from a camera backstage.

The intro video began with Williams lounging around his dressing room in a tiger-emblazoned dressing gown, before marching through backstage flanked by a troupe of dancers, and none other than Danny Dyer and a cardboard cutout of his sometime-antagonist Noel Gallagher.

Moments later, the star emerged from a stage trapdoor to the opening chords of Let Me Entertain You, ready to live up to the song’s title.

Packing in as many hits as possible, Williams treated the show like a musical retelling of his life: as a nod to his past, he invited on his early solo career hero Gaz Coombes to duet on Supergrass’ Alright, and for far less logical (though still genius) reasons, national treasure Danny Dyer came on for a raucous cover of Blur’s Parklife.

 (Dave Hogan/Hogan Media Shutterstock)
(Dave Hogan/Hogan Media Shutterstock)

He was an amusing narrator, “accidentally” showing the huge crowd a still of his own bare bum in Take That’s first music video, and playing up to his former lothario persona while simultaneously shouting out his wife of 18 years, Ayda Field. “Thank you for showing me your breasts,” he politely told one enthusiastic fan down the front. “You’re 18 years too late,” he told two other women in the front row, before serenading them with She’s The One.

Though he played the clown well, Williams was frequently very candid. Between bangers, he spoke honestly of past tensions with Take That, recounting how Gary Barlow singing almost all of the lead vocals knocked his confidence, and explaining the moment that – on a post Glastonbury bender with Oasis – he dramatically quit the band.

Matching the intensely self-loathing and destructive spirit of songs like Come Undone (“I'm not scared of dying/I just don't want to”) Williams didn’t shy away from recounting his darkest times and past struggles with addiction and depression.

This same tension – between Robbie’s showman persona and his more sensitive, vulnerable private self – is everywhere in his music. Quips about beds filled with takeaways “and fantasies of easy lays” could feel throwaway from other artists, but become gut punches when Williams follows them right up with much darker existential musings. “Is this real, 'cause I feel fake?” he agonises on Strong.

The fact that there is so much to lose at the heart of all of Williams’ hits probably explains why all of them have become so timeless. Though the nostalgic element of the show meant that this often felt like some kind of farewell – or otherwise, a show with a point to prove – it’d be a pity if Williams hung up his showman’s hat just yet. Simply put, he’s just really, really good at it.