Concert review: Robbie Williams and Groove Armada’s F1 sets bring back the heady days of the 1990s and early 2000s

British singer Robbie Williams returned as the headlining music act on the third and final night of the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Robbie Williams and Groove Armada

Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

Padang Stage, Marina Bay Street Circuit
Sept 17

If the first two nights of the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix concerts had contemporary stars such as Hong Kong-born idol? Jackson Wang and American rapper-singer Post Malone at its flagship Padang stage, the third and final day focused on hit music from past decades.

Two British acts held court at the largest of the concert stages in the Marina Bay Street Circuit – dance music duo Groove Armada and pop singer Robbie Williams.

The latter’s set, which kicked off after Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz emerged champion of the Singapore Grand Prix, capped off the buzz and excitement that took place away from the tracks over the weekend.

These ranged from entertainment from Grammy-winning music acts like Kings Of Leon and Culture Club to cuisine from Michelin-starred chefs such as Dani Garcia, Yannick Alleno and Clare Smyth at the hospitality areas.

Groove Armada, comprising DJ-producers Andy Cato?and Tom Findlay, came on a little before 6pm, while the scorching sun was still out.

The heat and humidity were uncomfortable, but it did not stop the crowd from streaming into the Padang from other parts of the sprawling F1 venue.

As the sun set, the audience became more animated as the duo dropped banger after banger in a feel-good DJ set marked by frequent build-ups and beat drops.

British dance music duo Groove Armada’s DJ set on the third and final day of the Singapore Grand Prix 2023 featured hits like their signature song Superstylin’ (2001). ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
Fans at the Singapore Grand Prix 2023 danced along to Groove Armada’s sundown set at the Padang. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

The choice of songs went as far back as the 1970s (Chic’s disco classic Everybody Dance) and 1980s (The Human League’s synthpop anthem Don’t You Want Me).

The most rapturous audience reaction, though, was reserved for Groove Armada’s best-known hit, Superstylin’ (2001), a dancehall/house music hybrid that still sounds fresh after all these years.

Williams took the stage much later that night at 10.25pm, playing a massively entertaining set that took the 65,000-strong audience back to the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a return to the Singapore Grand Prix for the singer who also headlined the Padang stage in 2014.

Supremely confident – with his trademark smirk etched on his face and a live band and six backing dancers – the singer styled his performance as a journey through his three decades in show business.

Hence, there were many anecdotes, including stories about his early days with popular boy band Take That. He also related how his rule-breaking tendencies led to him quitting the group in 1995.

“They didn’t like me. They thought I was annoying, they thought I was lazy,” said the singer, who was dressed in a glittery top and shiny pants.

A story about his headline-grabbing partying with rock stars Oasis at Glastonbury in the same year segued into a cover of the band’s Don’t Look Back In Anger (1995). The crowd sang along as enthusiastically as they did to William’s songs, which led the singer to quip: “I might have to take that out of the set. That went down too well.”

He also sang Take That’s biggest hits, including Back For Good (1995), but the bulk of the set list comprised his string of solo hits – ranging from the mood-setting upbeat track Let Me Entertain You (1998) to a bouncy rendition of Rock DJ (2000).

Robbie Williams’ closing set capped off three days of concerts at the Singapore Grand Prix 2023. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Perhaps the most significant thing about his set was his rapport with his audience. This was a performer who thrived on adoration from fans, and there was plenty of interaction with those closest to the stage.

These included a man in the front row who was repeatedly picked on by the star, playfully of course, for not being able to sing along to the lyrics.

It was not all bombast and bluster, however, as the singer also peppered the show with plenty of introspection. A lengthy monologue about his constant struggles with mental health, and his evolution from carefree young lad to contented husband to father of four, prefaced his final tune of the night, Angels.

It was already midnight when the song ended but, ever the exhibitionist, Williams seemed reluctant to leave the stage. And he did so only after egging on the crowd to sing, a cappella, some of the songs that he had already performed.

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