UK pop star Robbie Williams took the stage for his long-awaited show in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on Thursday night, dressed in gold, with a slinky scarf wrapped around his neck, and counted down, calling, “Tel Aviv, clap your hands!”
“My name is Robbie f*cking Williams, yalla balagan!” he shouted, touting a Hebrew expression that loosely means “let’s do this” or “let’s go.”
“Tonight will be therapy for me,” said Williams, 49, who throughout the hour-and-a-half performance made repeated references to his advancing years, bemoaning middle age and looking back on his past as a teenage star in the hugely popular boy band Take That.
At one point, Williams stopped to take a breath, jokingly blaming his pause on long COVID. “It’s not my age, you f*ckers, let’s go!” he exclaimed.
Otherwise, Williams was as energetic as ever, chatty, warm and friendly, even with a crowd of tens of thousands.
He bantered with the audience, asking for words in Hebrew and then shouting them out.
“I love you, Tel Aviv!” yelled out Williams, who repeatedly mentioned how happy he was to be back in Israel, after a gap of eight years since his last show.
“As an outsider coming in, you have something incredibly f*cking special here,” said Williams. “I went for a walk the other night. I noticed a peace here, there is a peace here that I don’t feel in London, that I don’t feel in Los Angeles…
“Considering as a people you have so much going on, there is a calm, and a sincerity… Just by this walk, I felt you, I know who you are, I know how you are, and you mean an awful lot to me. It’s always really special coming out.”
Williams also mentioned his Jewish wife and kids, to enthusiastic applause from the audience. He married American-Turkish actress Ayda Field in 2010 and the couple have four children together.
— Michael Dickson (@michaeldickson) June 1, 2023
“My wife is Jewish so my kids are Jewish. I like to keep some of the traditions going in the family, just out of respect to you guys and their history,” he said, revealing a tattoo on his wrist with the word “simcha” (happiness in Hebrew).
“I’m very grateful for you being there over the years… and very grateful just for you as a people, God bless you,” Williams said.
Williams had repeatedly expressed his excitement about being in Israel this week, and spontaneously performed with a Tel Aviv busker at the city’s beach promenade Wednesday night, singing the hit song “Angels” from his 1997 debut solo album.
Robbie Williams surprises a street musician in Israel who was playing his song called Angels ????????????
— Adam Albilya – אדם אלביליה (@AdamAlbilya) May 31, 2023
Williams launched his Tel Aviv show with “Hey Wow Yeah Yeah,” heading into the 1997 single “Let Me Entertain You,” followed by “Land of a 1000 Dances,” “Monsoon,” “Strong,” “Come Undone,” “Millennium,” “Do What You Like,” “Could It Be Magic,” a cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “The Flood,” “Love My Life,” “Candy,” “Supreme,” and “Feel.”
Throughout the show, Williams called on fans in the audience, including a woman named Shiri, whom he mistakenly called ‘Shigi’ in his struggle with the Hebrew ‘r’ sound.
In between songs, Williams asked the audience to name Hebrew words related to the show.
“What’s the Hebrew word for sex?” he asked. Responding to shouts from the audience, he replied: “I’ve come all this way and it’s the same word?”
Upon hearing the Hebrew word for drugs, Williams joked: “Samim, I like samim.”
Williams also reminisced about his earlier singing career. “Anybody here from the 90s?” he called out. Israeli pop star Dana International, the 1998 Eurovision winner, and US boy band NSYNC also got a mention.
Indie rock singer Noga Erez joined Williams later for the duet “Kids,” which Williams composed with Australian pop star Kylie Minogue. The performance with Erez fulfilled a wish he’d expressed on social media last year, and the two singers embraced while walking up and down the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you should be proud to have one of the world’s best artists come from your country,” Williams said. “She’s my new friend, I love her to death, Noga Erez!”
The concert drew to a close with “Rock DJ,” and “No Regrets.” For an encore, Williams sang the hits “She’s The One” and “Angels.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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