For Robbie Williams fans, this is a must. For the rest: all but those who have unreasonably set their souls against Robbie - like ardent devotees of hunting - will also find this record of three performances at Knebworth highly affecting. It captures the electric atmosphere of the concerts as well as Robbie's charismatic interaction with the crowd - all against a projected backdrop of Robbie as fallen angel (with a still desirable body) in eternally consuming flames.
The show is technically riveting, but Robbie himself is getting a little jowly and the flesh on his arms jiggles - perhaps he ought to have spent an hour or so at the gym before the concert. Still, I'm happy to have this as a permanent addition to my collection, and I foresee myself watching it again from time to time.
He warms up the crowd with a set embracing Let Me Entertain You, Let Love Be Your Energy, We Will Rock You and Hands Across The Water. It is a highly seductive selection, and there are nice splices of close-ups of Robbie displaying his full facial range - who needs a monkey?
He is the consummate entertainer, whether winding up the crowd (dividing them in two and getting them to compete in shouting louder) or sweating profusely and starting to strip (already by Let Love Be Your Energy).
In the earlier parts of the DVD the pans of the audience focus almost exclusively on females ("These are my girls" - Monkey); later on you see more males. I guess the audience is not too far off 50-50. The boys become more obvious during Strong. This cannot be accidental; no - it is the consequence of the careful management of our emotions by Robbie's PR advisers. So what? If we know it's happening, it cannot harm us.
He is a superstar, a complete showman, a charismatic performer who plays to his strengths. But he also gives us moments (probably dismissed out of hand by the anti-Robbie lobby) of genuinely human, almost humble, interaction with his audience and with individuals in it. When everyone joins in on the line, "Such a whore," in Come Undone he instantly reacts with, "Thank you."
After all the razzmatazz of this Knebworth set of performances, as riveting as they are, what remains for posterity is above all the voice and the songs. This DVD will enhance one's appreciation of Robbie's music-making; but what we will continue to listen to in our cars will lack the stunning visuals - and it will still be as complete and satisfying.
The second disc contains a good miscellany of additional stuff - the documentary Moments Of Mass Distraction, a UNICEF film, fan diaries, an interactive game etc. These are brilliant for fans, and perhaps for getting close to the essence of Robbie, but are not wildly interesting otherwise.