Sunday, 6 July 2014

Robbie Williams ‘Swings Both Ways’ Tour: a review from Birmingham

For anyone accompanying a die hard Robbie Williams fan of many years’ standing to the ‘Swings Both Ways’ tour, there will be different thoughts running through the mind. Curiosity, for instance, about a pop megastar deliberately choosing a different musical style for an album and tour that would be in marked contrast to the previous year’s stadium shows. The overriding hope that the true aficionados (such as my wife) would rate the show a success and not think they had been let down. And, of course, a personal wish to have a good time and not feel guilty about having possibly deprived a true follower of a ticket.

Fear not. Every box was ticked. Despite the man himself admitting to feeling below par, few may ever have noticed or suspected a thing otherwise. Two hours’ worth of solid entertainment. Highlights? The faux operatic ‘No One Likes A Fat Pop Star’, with Stoke on Trent’s finest being suspended from a wire in a fat suit, was suitably hilarious. Maybe ‘New York, New York’ in true Sinatra style edged it for me. Not forgetting the duet with his dad, and the reworking of the odd personal classic in swing style. And an interesting new song ‘Sensational’ to close – could this be his answer to ‘We Are The Champions’, with more emphasis on thanking the audience than Freddie’s self congratulation?

But something else stood out. Not for the better. To my wife’s immediate left, on the upper tier seating about two thirds back from the stage, was a middle aged woman whom I will call Nellie for no particular reason (well…). Nellie proved herself to be one of those modern day concert goers obsessed with capturing the experience on smartphone. Great chunks of the show disappeared into the electronic menace as she leaned everywhere for that all elusive perfect view, regardless of the fact that the distance from lens to stage was fixed without scope to zoom, the sound somewhat less than crystal clear, and the future audience questionable when the multi-angle, perfect audio DVD will be out for Christmas. And what about the treasured memories that ought to flow from the £77 ticket price? “What did you think of ‘High Hopes’, Nellie?” “Duh…can’t remember. Did he sing that?”

There was, of course, a time in the analogue era when bootlegging a concert from a big name band would have been a bit of a dare. In the digital era, it’s a bit of a bore, especially to those trying to enjoy the show without the distraction of a perpetually waving arm with a smartphone on the end. Time to pack your trunk, Nellie.

Before I forget, 4/5 out of 5 for the show. Probably exactly what Robbie himself would have given it.

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