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by Jackie Freeman
Robbie Williams, a pop sensation who sells out arena tours in minutes, dives into unknown territory across the ocean. In the UK and Europe, the superstar can be recognised as simply "Robbie", no further explanation needed. In North America a common response to Robbie Williams has been "Robbie who?"
Born on 14th February 1974 in Stoke-on-Trent, Williams grew up in a life of show business. His father, Peter Conway, was in the entertainment industry so Rob frequently watched him performing. Robbie started off his career in the music business with teen pop million-selling boy band, Take That. He left in 1995, and after much hard work and dedication turned into a solo success.
Now he's doing his best to eliminate the numbers of unfortunate people who have yet to feel The Robbie Experience. In March 1999 Robbie appeared for the first time live on Canadian TV. It was a twenty-minute interview with Much Music's VJ Sook Yin. Robbie showed his usual sense of humour... and his nervousness caused by talking in front of a crowd who would hardly know him.
"I just finished doing a tour in Britain where like 15,000 people each are going, 'We know who you are. We've seen you in magazines and television and we bought your record.' And I'm going to come out to a place where everybody is going, 'Not so sure about you. Who are you exactly and what do you do? Go on, entertain us'. So I'm a bit nervous about it." he said.
Soon after, Robbie gave his first concert in North America. He performed at Snow Job '99, a festival put on by Canada's Much Music where he sung live in front of thousands on the snowy ski mountains in Jasper, Alberta. His single, "Millennium", was played on Much Music prior to the appearance, his first North American release and the only song that the majority of the people at the festival knew.
The show was broadcast across Canada and replayed frequently, increasing the number of eyes and ears set upon the new phenomenon from Britain. The same week saw the release of "The Ego Has Landed", a combination of his two European albums, "Life Thru a Lens" and "I've Been Expecting You". The special album, filled with catchy tunes which have been hits in Europe, managed to reach Top 10 in Canada.
Following his first Canadian visit, Robbie returned to his home in the UK expecting to continue his European tour. Due to illness he could not go on with this tour so it had to be rescheduled. A disappointment to many fans!
May proved to be Robbie's month in North America. The first leg of his club tour started in Toronto, Ontario, at The Opera House, a concert which sold out on the first day. The show had barely started before people had to be pulled out of the audience so they would not get crushed. The response to Williams from the audience was so amazing that you would never have guessed that Robbie Williams was still not a common name in Canadian music talk.
The crowd waited anxiously for Robbie to finally come out. When the Star Wars theme came on, the band members began playing "Let Me Entertain You", Robbie ran onto the stage and the fans went mad. To find out just how well the audience knew Rob's music, he stopped singing during "Angels", while the band continued, to see if the people could take it away. Even though the song had not yet been released as a single in North America, the audience had no problems singing along to every word without help from the artist.
As promotion continued for "The Ego Has Landed", released in the USA in May 1999, Robbie appeared on shows such as David Letterman, Connan O'Brian and Craig Kilborn to name a few. It was his performance on David Letterman that gave him the chance to be seen all over North America. He was also asked to perform on the 1999 MTV Movie awards and was one of the only three live performers, the other two being Will Smith and Kid Rock.
"Millennium" soared to the top of the charts in North America, and though it did not get to No. 1, it made it high enough to be put on many compilations albums and to help him become well-known. In continuing his attempt to 'break the States', the next single to be released is "Angels", the track which set his career alight in the UK and Europe.
After the release of "Angels", another North American tour has been planned. Unconfirmed information says it might be possible to see Williams on Saturday Night Live.
On one side of the ocean, Robbie sells out clubs of a couple thousand, and on the other side of the ocean he sells out castles of 80,000 people. Let's hope "Angels" has the same impact on North America as it did for the rest of the world.