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How we reported on Robbie Williams’ 1997 Norwich gig

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 June 2017

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Archant Library.

Former Take That member Robbie Williams performed at the University of East Anglia on October 1 1997. Below are our report and reviews from the time.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

EDP Report: Bad boy cleans up his act: Former Take That star begins his public solo career in Norwich

Former Take That star Robbie Williams was up to his bad boy tricks again last night in Norwich, where he kicked off his first solo tour of the UK.

Robbie appeared in a long frock coat, tearing it off to gyrate in tight hipster trousers for screaming girl fans. Always the cheeky one of the

five boy band which split in 1995, Robbie sprang around the stage at the University of East Anglia making eyes at the front row of hysterical girls.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

He appeared all in grey but got rid of the coat and threw the tinted shades into the crowd before the first number.

The concert marked a restart of 23-year-old Robbie’s career after a six-week stint in a rehabilitation clinic for the singer who has vowed his days of drink and drugs are over.

Last night all he was drinking was water, dripping it down himself, and confessing: “I wish it was a pint.”

Other references to his former habits included his foreword to a new song aptly titled Clean.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Another of his songs Killing Me was another reference to his former torrid times when he took cocaine and developed a voracious drink problem.

This came to a head in the summer of 1995 when he rebelled by filling his Jaguar full of champagne and driving to the Glastonbury pop festival to get drunk.

On his return to rehearsals a week later, his career with Take That was in ruins.

Last October he finally checked himself into a clinic on the advice of Elton John for an intensive therapy course.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Last night it was obvious that going solo had always been his dream, the singer saying more than once: “I’ve waited two years for this, this is all I’ve wanted to do.”

And it was obvious that he was also doing what the 1500 crowd wanted him to.

The singer, who said he used to visit Yarmouth as a boy, got the crowd in a frenzy at every mention and every swing of his hips.

Sarah Sharman, 25, from Norwich, a personnel officer, said: “He is definitely better on his own and I don’t care how bad he is.”

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Sarah Chinery, 29, from Poringland, who works for Norwich Union, said: “I am a former fan of Take That but I like Robbie’s slow numbers.”

Last night’s concert previewed the release on Monday of a solo debut album Life Thru a Lens, and a 16-venue tour of the UK followed by a shorter run in Europe.

EDP Review: The show-off must go on

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

So he is here. After all the excitement, anticipation, and near hysteria, Robbie Williams is on stage at the UEA in the glittering show-biz capital that is Norwich to play his first solo gig.

A lot is riding on this performance and, unfortunately for Robbie’s cynics he really isn’t that bad.

He makes an impressive start, flirting with the crowd and teasing them to pleas of “let me entertain you”.

Robbie and the crowd feed off one another’s energy and his hyperactive enthusiasm is hard to resist. The opening song finishes and you wonder how he will be able to keep it up and the crowd in such a frenzy.

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He doesn’t disappoint as he follows with Lazy Days where the quiet break in the song is filled with the screams of several hundreds.

Robbie’s influences are obvious for all to see with the bulk of his repertoire touched by the trad-rock of Oasis and the Beatles with the occasional glam-rock stamp of T-Rex and David Bowie.

Not everything in the set works, with a few of the songs veering towards meaningful but rather dull. But when it does work, as on recent hits South Of The Border, it works well.

Much of the credit must go to Robbie’s backing band who managed to beef up the songs to provide a more defined rock sound, something our Rob is aspiring to.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

But here comes a surprise. “Here is one you might know,” he says, as the familiar chords to Back For Good begin, and suddenly it’s 1995 again.

However, it turns into a glorious punk-rock version, with Robbie finally laying the ghost of Take That.

Closing with Old Before I Die and Primal Scream’s Rocks Robbie makes his agenda clear. Here is a man who has had the drug and drink hell and now has control of his life. And, as the tour says: “The show-off must go on.”

Katie Durrant

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

Norwich Evening News Review: Fans in a frenzy over Robbie

He hit Norwich for his first ever live solo gig — and they went crazy.

Bad boy Robbie Williams was at the UEA last night and it was all good, clean, screaming fun.

Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library. Robbie Williams performing at the UEA in Norwich on October 1 1997. Photo: Archant Library.

The former Take That star, who has recently tackled his addiction to drugs and alcohol, sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Appearing in a long grey frock coat, he leapt about the stage, tore off the jacket and gyrated to the sound of the crowd’s screaming.

The 23 year-old singer vowed before his fans his days of drink and drugs were over.

Robbie, whose new EP South of the Border has just been released, gave the 1500-strong crowd the performance they were waiting for.

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Much of his material came from his debut album Life Thru a Lens, to be released on Monday.

His sound was strong, performing both the quieter and harder numbers well, and he was given strong support from his excellent backing band.

The man who once sang with the country’s top group stood on stage alone last night — and despite all he has been through, proved he could do it.

Abigail Saltmarsh

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