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Electric Proms 2009 / Robbie Williams

October 31, 2009

Robbie Williams performs at BBC Electric Proms 2009

I missed the live broadcast of Robbie Williams’ Electric Proms gig. I heard about it though. People were raving about it to me whilst I was at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival last weekend.

I must watch it, I thought. So I watched it online switching from the full screen version on my laptop to follow the set list (and avoid Scott Mills’ face – his appearance in both Attitude Magazine and Gay Times this month means the cutesy Radio 1 DJ may be in danger of jumping the shark if he’s not careful).

It was nice to see Williams back. It was nice too to hear songs given a thorough orchestration by producer Trevor Horn. The strings sounded iffy in places but the sound of a timpani underpinning some dramatic moments in various tracks made for a nice effect combined with the interestingly satisfying interior of The Roundhouse packed full of screaming girls. (I tried to overlook the appearance of James Corden and Dec from Ant and Dec fame.)

But there is a fly in the ointment I thought. I’m sure there’s a few places where Robbie’s not necessarily delivering 100% on the intonation front. There are moments, I’m sure of it, when the cheeky chappy whose swagger can be just a bit too much at times just can’t reach those top notes. Maybe it’s me being overcritical, I thought. Maybe I should give the boy I was once obsessed with (didn’t you see the Rock DJ video?) a second chance.

BBC HD re-ran the concert last night. Me and The Significant Other watched it this afternoon.

I can confirm that I wasn’t wrong. There are many times when Robbie illustrates to what extent he needs to work on his live performance. I was surprised to see him reading from his autocue, amazed to observe he had the obligatory ear-piece in just one ear. And yet at various points it was clear the massive orchestra behind him and the track played into his ear wasn’t helping. I grimaced a number of times. I’m sorry Mr Williams but I did. You need to work on this.

What’s infinitely more frustrating is the reviews from the mainstream press about the concert (Independent, Times Online, The Guardian). Not one other person picks up on the intonation troubles Williams suffered. It’s as though there’s a different quality threshold rehabilitated popstars must reach in order to get four out of five stars. It’s as though we’re happy to overlook that. It’s as though they were all given a free ticket, access to the VIP area and plenty of booze for the night. That does so make my blood boil.

Why is this important? Possibly because Williams has a story and, as a result, a place in our hearts. He did great stuff and we want him to do great stuff again. Perhaps we want him to acquire that much-desired ‘national treasure’ status. I do. He fits the bill. You’ve just got to turn in a consistently high standard of performance Robbie. I’m stickler for perfection.

>> Watch the live performance of Robbie Williams’ concert at the BBC Electric Proms


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