The plan is obvious as mud. Robbie Williams is making his biopic Higher Man in Melbourne and he’s placing on two concert events to movie a recreation of the 1998 Brit awards. So please put on 90s garments – or don’t, nobody will thoughts. You would possibly be within the movie, however the first rows can be full of extras. And the live performance isn’t just a live performance; it’s An Night with Robbie Williams, which suggests we’ll additionally get a Richard Wilkins interview with him, plus the promise of “a visitor look from a spokesperson from the set”. The Guardian is obtainable free tickets, on the situation we promise to not write something. I purchase one as an alternative, as a result of we’ve so many questions: why is among the UK’s most profitable musicians making his film in Melbourne? Is it true that Williams will be played by a CGI monkey? Bohemian Rhapsody, this isn’t; I think Higher Man can be nearer to the out-and-out weirdness of Aline, which noticed an adult actor play Celine Dion as a baby.
Not less than the style guidelines are clear. On Sunday evening, the second of the 2 exhibits, a sea of flannel flows in the direction of Rod Laver Area; there are extra mullets right here than the Saints’ altering room. It’s simple to identify who received’t make the ultimate edit: the fan in her “Williams ’03” jersey as an illustration; identical for the blokes puffing away on vapes, or those that received’t put down their iPhones.
However even Williams is an incongruity right here: a craggy 48-year-old recreating a efficiency from when he was 22. He doesn’t appear to have a greater grip on what is going on: he tells a narrative concerning the earlier evening, when he got here out and seen how younger the group was. “I used to be like, ‘Have a look at me in Melbourne, being a teenager’s factor!’ It’s like I’m fucking TikTok. Then I realised, they’re all actors.” Then later, to somebody on the entrance in the midst of a music: “Are you an actor? No? Properly are you able to act such as you’re having a superb time, for fuck’s sake?”
A night with Robbie Williams seems to be chaotic in the absolute best means. Williams is 40 minutes late; two buddies subsequent to me have a combat, cry and make up all within the time it takes for him to return out. A couple of individual is double fisting Canadian Membership. However as quickly as he arrives, the bored, drunk vitality within the room instantly dissipates: how are you going to not be swept away by a person who comes out to his personal identify being sung to O Fortuna?
“I’m Robbie fucking Williams!” he bellows, as means of introduction. “That is my band, that is my arse, and tonight, Melbourne is ours!”
We’re there to movie a recreation of Williams’ performance with Tom Jones at the 1998 Brits – his first look on the awards after Take That break up. Williams doesn’t bear in mind it: “I don’t know what you’ll be able to bear in mind after doing three grams of coke and drunk a bottle of sambuca. I’ve seen it on telly.” Jones isn’t there as a result of “he’s too fucking costly” – so as an alternative we get “Australia’s premier Tom Jones impersonator”, who comes out to sing Land of a 1,000 Dances with Williams. We do the scene twice, everybody hooting and cheering with gusto. It’s bewildering. It’s nice enjoyable. And holding the evening collectively is our mad ringmaster, who flashes his nipples and gallops across the stage and, sometimes, forgets why we’re all there: he sings the opening lyrics of Angel, then remembers he was supposed to inform everybody to sing alongside to allow them to movie it and has to do it once more.
Maybe unsurprisingly, Higher Man can be for “the over 18s”, Williams tells Wilkins – “as a result of it’s my life, it’s what I acquired as much as. It’s not anodyne, it’s not vanilla, it isn’t PH7. It’s warts and all. It’s the medicine, the ups, the downs, the ladies, the intercourse.”
Whereas the British press grew to become preoccupied together with his curiosity in UFOs and sniffy about his transfer to LA, Australia has all the time cherished Robbie unconditionally, I think due to a nationwide perception that he’d be good enjoyable at a barbecue. So nobody at Rod Laver minds the stop-start nature of the night, or leaves when our “spokesperson from the set” comes out: the movie’s director Michael Gracey, who made The Biggest Showman. All of us need Robbie’s mad monkey movie to be good. “You’ve been trojans,” Williams says. “I’m so grateful, Melbourne.”
On the stroll house, I watch the 1998 Brits efficiency. The gang was good, I feel, however possibly we have been higher tonight. And Robbie, so stunning and manic then, might be higher now too: much less wild-eyed and extra settled, and simply so glad to be there on stage, beaming down on the wall of faces smiling again at him.