22.08.2023 / Zürich Openair

Robbie Williams

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Zürich Openair
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The September 2022 release of the album XXV marks the fact – remarkable, improbable, indisputable – that it is now over twenty-five years since Robbie Williams tumbled out of the boy band Take That into a solo career that no one, not even him, could yet quite imagine. What has happened since then…well, part of the story can be told through the swagger of sales and statistics: over 85 million albums sold around the world; thirteen UK number one albums (the most for any solo artist, equalled only by Elvis Presley); fourteen number one singles; the most concert tickets sold in a day (1.6 million on November 19, 2005); the record-breaking three nights at Knebworth to 375,000 people in 2003; the parallel grand successes of his swing albums and of a reconvened Take That (upon release in 2010, the Progress album became the fastest selling album of the twenty-first century, and the subsequent tour was the biggest-selling British tour ever); an unprecedented and unmatched 18 Brit awards; the Christmas album, the X-Factor judging, the Royal Shakespeare Company musical The Boy In The Dress, Soccer Aid, numerous collaborations in music, art, radio, books, fashion, TV and film, and on and on and on…

But that’s only a small part of the whole wild journey, one on which XXV offers a fresh and illuminating perspective. Here are songs from across these twenty-five years – the oldest, “Angels”, emerging from only his second writing session with Guy Chambers at Chambers’ North London flat; the newest, “Lost”, emerging unexpectedly out of the ether one evening in Wiltshire last November. Aside from the most recent of them, these are songs that are now being revisited. Or, as Robbie might more precisely phrase it, “re-worked, re-imagined, and re-loved.”

And, after the triumphant Homecoming show in Stoke in June 2022, he has a bundle of pent-up energy brimming over, ready to play all the shows un-played and sing all the songs un-sung in the pandemic years, beginning with the XXV tour in October. “This is my lot for life,” he says, “and I've got no plans to stop it anytime soon. I love my job, what I've been given and the opportunities that I have to create. And I’m still very ambitious”

Presumably it would make sense were there, in another twenty-five years, an album - or whatever equivalent the future allows - called L. “I hope there'll be a record called L,” Robbie concurs. “If I'm still knocking about, I think I could make it to then. But whatever I do from now till L is out, it has to be interesting and fun and different.” As ever, there is a glint in his eye. “I already have a few thoughts up my sleeve,’ he promises, “how to make that happen.”

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