Robbie Williams

Live at Knebworth

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From most accounts, Robbie Williams' appearance at Knebworth over three August nights in 2003 wasn't just the largest concert in British music history (reportedly 375,000 attended over the course of the weekend), but a display of Williams' mastery of an audience and a confirmation that, American listeners aside, he's one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Live at Knebworth followed just two months later, a 72-minute collection from his two-hour live extravaganza. While the audio document isn't nearly as exciting as the live experience that made fans gush, the disc does transmit the massive amounts of energy at a Robbie Williams concert. Opening with his anthem "Let Me Entertain You" (as he always does), Williams keeps the crowd hanging on his every note, changing lyrics to fit the venue, indulging in his usual blend of faux arrogance and self-deprecation, and coaxing the audience on during every song. ("Show me love, Knebworth!") However, what could have been an excellent look at Britain's foremost pop entertainer in action is marred by its focus on material from his dreadful fifth album, Escapology. After a splendid beginning (including a brief flirtation with Queen's "We Will Rock You"), Williams performs four consecutive songs from Escapology: "Monsoon," "Come Undone," "Me and My Monkey" (which drags on for over seven minutes), and "Hot Fudge." The compilers found room to fit in two of his biggest songs ("Angels," "Kids"), but apparently didn't think superior hits like "Rock DJ," "Millennium," or "No Regrets" (all of which he performed at the show) needed to appear on this disc. A solid live album with the exception of the gaping hole in its midsection, Live at Knebworth is a missed opportunity, one that Chrysalis will hopefully rectify within a few years.

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