Robbie Williams @ Knebworth 2003

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Wayne Hoyle | 02 August 2003

On paper, the relevance and appeal of The Darkness, with their unashamedly overblown histrionics that echo the poodle-rock-nightmares of the late eighties, would be virtually non-existent but on this blistering sunstroke of a day, as openers of the world's most packed gig (ever!) they R.O.C.K! We never intend to enjoy them but it's impossible not to as Justin Hawkins' rampant on-stage energy and screeching falsetto prove to be just too contagious - "Give me a D! Give me an Arkness!". Ignore the music weeklies' "Aren't-we-sooo-ironic"-sponsored hype and don't bother buying the album. Just see them live and make your own mind up.

Kelly Osbourne's appearance is like watching a live version of the TV show - with songs. Sure enough, she doesn't disappoint and half way through the set, pauses to carefully read a hand painted derogatory banner before spitting, "Are you guys for real? The only thing I suck is your mum's cock! You've made a costume so that Robbie'll notice you and he probably thinks you're a c**t anyway!" whilst flailing her arms and legs in a 'Whoah, I'm gonna fall over any minute' faux-rock chick movement. The pot-bellied, Anglo-American ball of foul-mouthed filth screams though what little material she has available, including 'Shut Up', 'Papa Don't Preach' and a heart-warming tribute to mummy (present with other family members) but the songs come a definite second place to the Tourette's outbursts in crowd-wooing stakes.

And so Ash add this to their current series of strange places to play (before they appear at the most un-rock n' roll venue in the world, London's posh Somerset House). Tim Wheeler and the gang provide a suitable interval for the hordes of teenage girls to make their first ever acquaintance with a portaloo to a not unpleasant soundtrack of greatest hits. We can't find much fault with numbers like 'Girl from Mars', 'Envy', 'Goldfinger', 'Shining Light' and 'Kung-Fu' but they do feel strangely out-of-place in the context of this gig.

The last time we saw Moby, he whacked a security guard round the head with a keyboard. He doesn't quite have the same impact today but he whizzes from bongos to centre stage as if his little life depends on it. We've got a lot of time for the chrome-domed Christian and the fact that he chucks in a hyper-mental version of all time classic, 'Go', almost immediately, endears us to him even more. A surprise inclusion is his version of the '007 Theme' that appears to have been prompted by Robbie's arrival at the site in a personalized chopper. A special mention must also go to Moby's 'Lordy' lady whose outstanding voice and presence bring a touch of pure class to the proceedings.

Recent press reports would have us believe that Robbie Williams spends his time forlornly moping around his LA pad after failing to impress a musically inept US audience. Don't be fooled. He's just been trying to work out how he can replicate the supremely confident, charismatic stage persona without illegal mood enhancers. He needn't have bothered as the sheer head-fuck of staring out at a sea of 125,000 adoring faces must seriously kick into touch any chemical buzz.

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