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Monday, 30 October, 2000, 18:21 GMT
Robbie: Wins when he's singing
Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams played to a 15,000 crowd at the MEN
"King of pop" Robbie Williams played Manchester for what was almost a home gig. BBC News Online's Sophie Brown went to see him perform.

His native Stoke is not an automatic stop-off on a megastar's grand tour, so Manchester Evening News (MEN) Arena constituted a home gig for Robbie Williams.

The current "king of pop" was certainly given a welcome fit for a prodigal son from the 15,000 spectators.

And this was just one of the five sell-out performances at the venue.

Although only 26, Robbie is a bit of a veteran on the pop scene and his fans are a smorgasbord of the British record-buying public.

Robbie Williams
Robbie: Modesty isn't a word he is familiar with

His brand of singalong pop charms everyone - young and old, male and female were all represented in the audience.

The cheerful and enthusiastic crowd needed no hyping up but Robbie was not taking any chances.

A Big Brother-esque voice counted down to his entrance as the strains of epic opera boomed around the arena.

Let Me Entertain You was his opener - possibly predictable but an apt launching-pad for the show.

Pyrotechnic fireworks sprayed the arena, but Robbie's own stage presence ensured he was not about to be overshadowed.

Strutting back and forth across the stage, he belted out numbers from all three of his chart-topping albums.

The tour is a vehicle for his latest album, Sing When You're Winning, but the old favourites weren't forgotten.

Some songs have become akin to karaoke classics. During Strong, Robbie had the chance to show off his soccer juggling skills while the audience did the singing for him.

She's The One was another welcome blast from the past, while Angels and Millennium made for a rousing encore.

But a rapturous welcome also greeted the opening bars of his latest hits, Kids and Rock DJ.

Megastar

In good old rock'n'roll tradition, Robbie has been through the mill of drink, drugs and womanising heartache.

Perhaps the memory of some of his well-documented troubles were behind his fairly straight rendition of My Way.

But then again, maybe he felt if you are going to do a cover, why not cover one of the 20th century's most famous songs.

Gone are the comparisons with Take That and Gary whatshisname - the Robster is now a megastar in his own stratosphere.

He doesn't need extravagant sets to produce a spectacular show - his presence, talent and ego do the job perfectly adequately.

Always the cheeky chappy, Robbie could never be called mature, but musically at least, he has definitely grown up a bit.

Tongue-in-cheek

Other than the explosive beginning and end to the show, the emphasis was firmly on the songs.

But Robbie isn't one to take himself or his work too seriously and his tongue, as usual, was firmly in cheek throughout.

Despite smoking several cigarettes during his performance, he still had enough puff left for some energetic dancing and banter with the audience.

The consummate performer, Robbie knows how to keep an audience firmly in the palm of his hand - and in Manchester there were 15,000 happily ensconced there.

As silver shreds of paper fell from the roof, Robbie took his final bow and left the stage to the Star Wars theme.

And the audience were left in no doubt that this particular star is still in the ascendancy.

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See also:

26 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Ross rapped by watchdog
20 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Robbie turns critic
02 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Robbie 'copied' folk song
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