In what was the first Grand Final at the MCG since 2019, the AFL wanted to provide a show like no other in their return to the sporting colosseum. In July, Robbie Williams was announced as the headline act for the 2022 AFL Grand Final Entertainment, and from that moment on, the show had spectacle written all over it.
But this has been promised before by international superstars in the past, but some have been atrocious (have a look at some of the worst here). Would Robbie Williams make this false promise as well? Or would he actually be one of the very few to put on a masterclass?
When Robbie rose from the stage and began singing ‘Let Me Entertain You’, I thought that another false promise had been made. Firstly, this should have been one of the final songs of the set, considering the vibe that most Grand Final performances provide. Secondly, Robbie Williams has sounded better than what he did singing ‘Let Me Entertain You’.
As Williams declared that he would be “phenomenal” over the next 20 minutes, I could not have cringed any more than I did in that moment. However, that was about to change. Once his opening song had finished, the set would move higher and higher towards the top echelon of Grand Final performances.
Robbie would proceed with another hit song ‘Rock DJ’, that began to demonstrate the true character of the man himself. While it still wasn’t at the high standard that Williams generally performs at, it was a step better than ‘Let Me Entertain You’.
The crowd seemed lost when Williams sang his new single ‘Lost’, only this time the Brit could read the room, outlining it was mandatory for him to sing the song. Nonetheless, Robbie got the crowd back into it with a powerful rendition of ‘Feel’.
From that moment on, it was all up for the pop star, with his next two songs paying tribute to two of Australia’s biggest icons. ‘Angels’ was dedicated to the late great, and Williams’ close friend Shane Warne, which had the crowd joining in harmoniously. As soon as the chorus hit, there was a concert-like atmosphere.
The biggest surprise on the set-list was a cover of John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’, which Robbie dubbed as the unofficial national anthem of Australia. A video of a young Farnham singing the hit was even displayed on the big screen.
Despite putting together an already impressive performance, the best was saved till last. Delta Goodrem joined Williams on stage to sing ‘Kids’. Although the headline act pleaded for Kylie Minogue to perform the hit with him, Goodrem was a seamless replacement. The finale left everyone (well if not everyone, at least me anyway) uttering the chorus well throughout the night. This version of ‘Kids’ was almost better than the original.
So, how does it fare when compared to other editions of the Grand Final Entertainment? Without the shaky start, it would easily be the best show of all-time, but the start doesn’t make it as convincing as what it should have been.
That being said, the competition is very minimal. A select few performances have been able to capture the energy needed to be a successful Grand Final performer. The Superbowl Halftime Show gives artists the licence to sing any song they like because of the time they are on stage. For example, artists such as Dean Lewis and Ellie Goulding would be able to get away with their love ballads at the Superbowl, but not on AFL Grand Final day.
Robbie Williams was able to get away with ‘Angels’ because of the sentimental value surrounding it, but ‘Feel’ and ‘Lost’ aren’t the songs you want to be playing in the hour leading up to the biggest game of the season.
The ideal pre-game Grand Final Entertainment hypes the crowd up for the epic clash, rather than put them to tears. Powderfinger did this perfectly in 2008, as did The Killers in 2017. Hence, adding this set by Robbie Williams into the mix, the trio is hard to separate. All I will say is good luck to whoever is performing next year, you’ve got some tough competition.