It had to happen. After nearly 3 years of taking Cally to see some of the planets noisiest metal bands such as Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and Slipknot, the tides were turned this week when it was my turn to be taken to see one of her Idols instead. I’ve been going to concerts since the mid eighties and although pop music was never really my thing, I held the view that it would be a missed opportunity if I was unable to see some of the big names of the time, so therefore my musical CV has got Michael Jackson and Madonna on it as well as their support acts Kim Wilde and Level 42. My rationale for this was that I felt that if in the future I ever had children and they asked me the question ” Dad, did you ever see..” then it would be a really cool thing to be able to say yes. I remember Madonna giving a good show but Jacko was awful and until I saw Guns n Roses a few years ago, it had been the only gig I’d ever left before the end. In case your wondering, I left the GnR gig because of Axl Rose’s utter contempt for his fans and his notorious poor timekeeping as they could only be bothered to start the show about 45 minutes before the last tube home. He is an utter tosser. Anyway, having given up the chance to see Queen at Wembley, as I considered them not ‘rock’ enough, I decided to check out some other big names in order to not miss out on them, so as well as the aforementioned icons, I also saw the stranglers and Duran Duran. But then rock/metal took a hold of me in a big way and therefore that was the last pop band I ever saw and ever expected to see. The thing is, when you align yourself to one type of music, particularly metal, you do so knowing that like fire and ice or Millwall and West ham, the two are exact opposites and the fans of both will spend eternity misunderstanding and mistrusting each other. So even though the pop arena is hardly my natural habitat, last Friday we made our way to London to see Robbie Williams at Wembley stadium, the same venue that I saw Jacko and Madge in all those years ago. Despite feeling more than a little out of place as well as being certain of a healthy amount piss taking from my more metal mates, Robbie Williams is one of this countries most versatile performers and I felt that adding his details to my music CV would not prove to be a copybook blot in anyway.
So with it only having been 3 weeks since the first day of download and the epic 4 seasons in one day where I managed to get soaked, sunburnt and hypothermic all in the space of 12 hours, I found myself standing in the middle of Wembley stadium on one of the hottest days of the year, clutching what seems to have been the most expensive large coke and hot dog combo ever assembled. In one fail swoop I managed to contribute massively to paying off some of this stadiums huge debts simply by buying a snack. One of the other cultural differences between then and now is that THEN there was a field full of 100,000 people, mostly men,who hadn’t washed since……. Well, hadn’t washed, and NOW I’m the only male within eyeshot and the other attendees smell of soap and perfume. After an hour or so of patiently standing and waiting for something to happen on stage the video screens burst into life advertising the new album from support act Olly Murs causing some confusion amongst the ladies who thought this was the signal for his show to start and therefore a hundred middle aged women eased themselves up off the floor grabbed their handbags and shuffled politely forward only to discover that it was only an advert and sat back down again to continue their various conversations. But they didn’t have to wait too long. A DJ from capital radio appeared and started playing some songs and didn’t waste a single opportunity to regale us with his peerless crowd involvement routine of shouting either ” Hello Wembley”, ” How are you Wembley” or simply just “Wembley” at the end of each song, which after about half an hour even he looked totally bored by the whole thing and thankfully buggered off,but not before telling us that Olly would be here is just 5 minutes.
And 20 minutes later he was. Arriving on stage with all the energy of a small puppy on a diet of red bull and blue smarties, he began his routine with the crowd enjoying every moment and if I’m really honest he wasn’t that bad. Naturally I didn’t really know any of his songs but they all sounded ok, albeit a little samey but to be fair he is a genuinely good performer who can hold a note, engage a crowd and keep them engrossed in the show. I did however feel like a bit of a hypocrite given my well documented views of the x-factor and their contestants, but I was reminded later on in the evening of the time when I saw his first audition and thought even then that he could well go on to win it. I did also feel a bit gutted that my very presence here was contributing to Simon Cowells ever increasing fortune but the guy is genuinely good value for his money. Olly Murs that is! He’s given time to perform a good set that’s delivered in an unrushed fashion and even has time to play a medley of classics during the middle of his set. If there was to be a stand out song, for me it was ‘Dear Darlin’ which is a good song, radio friendly and performed well and it seems to me that judging by the crowd reaction this is one of their favourites too. In summary, he seems like a nice guy who’s making the most of his time in the limelight and I hope he builds himself a good career but for me he’s just a bit to cutesy and squeaky clean. It’s almost as though he could benefit from appearing to be a bit more vulnerable….. human almost. It never did Robbie any harm.
And talking of Robbie, it wasn’t long after Olly Murs had finished that we finally got to see the main man himself. Arriving onstage on a zip wire secured from the top of the stage to the bottom is one way of making an entrance but then again what else would you expect from a guy who is almost certainly going to go into the pop history books as one of our top showmen. For two hours we saw him give a wholehearted and masterful performance, keeping the crowd entertained with his music as well as his sense of humour. For example he managed to persuade a guy to stop walking out to get an early train during the encore and he managed to poke a bit of fun at radio 1 for presumably ignoring his songs in favour of other artists. But my favourite jibe was aimed at Noel Gallagher who once famously said that Robbie was nothing more than just the “fat dancer in take that”. Robbie responded during the show by asking him “where are you” right now?. While the whole Blur/Oasis britpop thing was going on,Robbie was already forming a solo career having left take that, and long after the world had got bored of blur, and watched Oasis implode, here he is still selling out stadiums, both on his own and with his old band mates. And although the press like to portray the relationship between the various members of take that as “strained” the stage had more than one reference to his boy band past emblazoned on it and why not. It’s not as if Paul McCartney hasn’t made a few quid out of the Beatles in the last 40 years.
The stage show got more impressive as the night went on culminating in a firework display shooting out of the top of the stage into the now dark sky. This was all timed to coincide with the end of the show and the final song of the night which is probably the one that will define his career more than any other. Introducing ‘Angels’ Robbie told us that we should think of someone that had recently left us and dedicate this song to them and I’m sure they did because looking around us there were certainly a few teary eyes to be seen. And then as the song came to an end the band departed leaving him all on his own to finish it unaccompanied which he did with everyone else joining in before he bid us all goodnight and was gone. So my first pop concert in a couple of decades was over and I can’t lie there were bits of it I liked and hated. I liked the fact that the queue for the gents was so short it didn’t actually exist and I hated most of the people I found myself standing next to. One bellend got a firm shove after the millionth time of dancing so close that I thought he was trying to mate with me and one woman displayed her true class when she vomited into a beer cup and insisted on shouting ” get your dick out” at the end of Robbies first 5 songs. But them aside I had a good time. I won’t be rushing back soon for another pop experience but I’m glad I went because when all is said and done I respect Robbie Williams for what he has achieved and for the show he put on and if it’s going to be the last pop gig I go to, it wasn’t a bad way to bow out.