Around half a million fans applied for tickets to see their idol perform at the tiny venue, but only a lucky 2,500 actually secured tickets to one of Robbie William’s most intimate solo concerts in years.
His first solo concert since October 2010, Leeds O2 Academy was the first of four special ‘fan only’ gigs to promote his upcoming album Take The Crown, the second of which being Glasgow’s Barrowland, followed by Dublin’s O2 Arena and finally Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion.
The concerts however could not have been scheduled at a more inconvenient time: Robbie’s wife, Ayda Field, was expecting the couple’s first child slap bang in the middle of the string of shows, and she instructed her mega-star husband to cancel his live gigs if she goes into labour.
However, not wanting to let his fans down Robbie said before the mini tour: “I’ve had a bit of a falling out with the wife. I’ve got gigs this week. The baby could come at any minute. The wife has said ‘If I go into labour and you’ve got a gig, say, in Leeds or Dublin, you’ve got to cancel it and come home’. “Do you think my audience will go ‘Oh, it’s okay, his wife’s pregnant – that’s fine’. They won’t will they? The show must go on, surely?”
Fortunately baby girl Theodora “Teddy” Rose Williams made her appearance on Tuesday 18th September, well clear of any of her proud fathers musical commitments.
Back to the concert! There was a party atmosphere outside the O2 Academy as the fans waited. As well as the show there were also people amassed in the adjacent Millennium Square to watch the England vs. Ukraine match on the giant screen, and to top the mix off it was also fresher’s week at Leeds University. The combination of excitements was tangible.
The band entered the stage (sans My Williams) and opened with a slowed down rendition of Phoenix From The Flames before revving the atmosphere up by tearing into Let Me Entertain You, at which stage Robbie strutted on stage, as confident and cock-sure of himself as ever.
From that point on Robbie had the audience eating from the palm of his hand, performing some of his biggest hits as well as a few older, more obscure and unexpected songs. One minuet the hits such as Old Before I Die and Hot Fudge had everyone bouncing to the beat, and the next everyone was swaying gently along to ballads She’s The One and Feel.
Before debuting the first on his new songs, Robbie set himself the challenge of doing 50 pres s up’s on stage. This was in response to the fact the Olly Murs, JLS and Usher had all done press up’s during their performances at the recent iTunes festival. Never one to back down on a spot of one-upmanship Robbie hit the deck (much to the delight of all the female fans in the house) before launching into his bouncy new single Candy (which was co-written with Take That band mate Gary Barlow).
The show was brought to a close with the anthemic Angels. Originally penned as Robbie’s last ditch attempt at being a solo artist, Angels was his make or break record. Against all the odds the song became Robbie’s best selling single, and secured his position in the hearts of a generation. As such it seems only fit that Angles is the song to close such a spectacular yet intimate gig.
However just when everyone thought it was over Robbie proceeded to sing one more song: Losers. A track from Take The Crown, Losers is a stripped down and moving acoustic duet which he sang with a backing singer. Despite his bravado and infectious stage presence this final song proved that Robbie still has the ability to move the room to tears with a simple yet unknown song.
As the satisfied audience filed from the O2 academy after two hours of live entertainment, the resounding feeling was that they had all witnessed something special tonight and that Robbie Williams is definitely still the one.
Robbie Williams setlist
Phoenix From the Flames
Let Me Entertain You
Let Love Be Your Energy
Old Before I Die
Rock DJ / Rudebox / Freedom
The Road to Mandalay
She’s The One
Life Thru a Lens
Robbie Williams Candy Tour Dates
11/09/2012 – O2 Academy, Leeds, UK
12/09/2012 – Barrowland, Glasgow, UK
14/09/2012 – The O2, Dublin, Ireland
16/09/2012 – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, UK