Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:48 UK

Robbie beats comeback gig nerves

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Robbie Williams at the BBC Electric Proms
Robbie Williams mixed new material with old favourites at the concert

Robbie Williams put comeback nerves behind him at his first full concert for three years in London.

All eyes were on the star after an unsteady appearance on X Factor, revelations about stage fright and his relatively disappointing last album.

But he put on a typically confident show at the Roundhouse, where the crowd treated him as a returning hero.

"It's a bit nerve-wracking - first gig for three years," he told fans. "Thank you for making me feel comfortable."

The concert was intimate by his standards, playing to 3,000 people to kick off the BBC's Electric Proms.

He is more used to playing stadiums, but has said stage fright has so far deterred him from announcing a full tour.

A widely criticised appearance on ITV's X Factor increased the pressure on his full comeback.

He put his shaky performance on the ITV1 show down to fear, likening himself to a "deer in the headlights".

At first, it looked like those nerves might get the better of him at the Roundhouse too.

During his first two songs, the new tracks Bodies and Morning Sun, he seemed stiff and unsure, running through his stage moves without conviction.

But the third track, Come Undone, was the first old tune of the night and the first where the fans could sing along in full voice.

As the crowd bellowed the words back at him, the confidence appeared to flow back.

Robbie Williams' adoring fans

Leaving the venue, he is likely to have felt relief that he hit his stride, while his fragile ego got a boost from the unswerving adulation of his loyal crowd.

After the show, fans were convinced that Williams was back to his best.

"A long time waited and he didn't disappoint," said Kirsty Stirling, 35, from Gosport, Hampshire, who has seen the star live 35 times.

"He looked like he absolutely loved it, so if he was nervous he hid it really well."

Hayley Willerton, 28, from Peterborough, said: "The venue was great and his performance was amazing after mixed reviews from X Factor.

"We were really impressed with how he came across. He looked like he was really enjoying it - I don't think there was any sign of nerves. He looked really confident and back to what he used to be."

Paula Danylevich, 45, travelled from Toronto, Canada for the show. "I think he's absolutely proved himself and I think sometimes people are a little too critical of him," she said. "He is an absolute entertainer."

Robbie Williams and Trevor Horn
Robbie Williams was joined on stage by producer Trevor Horn (left)

The 15-track set included seven songs from his new album Reality Killed the Video Star, with the slinky and soulful George Michael-influenced Starstruck standing out on the night.

Reality Killed the Video Star is likely to get a warmer reception than 2006's Rudebox, his lowest-selling solo album to date.

And he is likely to remain a huge live attraction, if he chooses to go back on tour.

He has no current plans to do so, but that may change after dipping his toe back into the water here.

And in case he does not hit the road, his team attempted to make sure this show was seen by as many people as possible.

As well as going out on TV, radio and online in the UK, it was beamed live to more than 250 cinemas in 23 countries across Europe, from Latvia to Luxembourg.

At the Roundhouse he was watched by a string of celebrity fans, ranging from actor Sir Ian McKellen to Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.

Robbie Williams fans
Fans at The Roundhouse enjoyed the intimate show

In the front row of the balcony, Ant and Dec were singing along to Angels with singer Will Young, Dragons' Den's Peter Jones and Gavin and Stacey's James Corden.

Introducing the bitter No Regrets, written after his split from Take That, Williams revealed that he had repaired his friendship with his former bandmates and even got a tattoo of the Take That logo.

He then proudly changed the last line of the song from "I guess the love we once had is officially dead" to "officially alive".

The singer also paid tribute to Take That's Gary Barlow, who suffered a family bereavement last week.

"I'm sending my love to you," said Williams. "I know it's been a tough week."

Williams was joined on stage by 38 musicians, including Seal and Frankie Goes To Hollywood producer Trevor Horn, who has produced the new album.

His choice to cover Video Killed the Radio Star by Horn's former band The Buggles provided a fittingly feel-good finale.

Set list:

  • Bodies
  • Morning Sun
  • Come Undone
  • Blasphemy
  • Starstruck
  • Feel
  • I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen
  • Supreme
  • Deceptacon
  • No Regrets
  • Won't Do That
  • You Know Me
  • Angels
  • Millennium
  • Video Killed the Radio Star

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