It’s been quite the week for Vale Park to say the very least. Hot off the back of Port Vale’s Wembley win, the stadium was absolutely bursting with energy to mark another historical moment for Burslem – Robbie Williams’ homecoming gig.
Many ticket holders had been waiting since 2020 for this event, with campers pitching up since Wednesday on Hamil Road to ensure the best spot at the barrier. A pandemic may have postponed the charity concert, but good things come to those who wait, and this was a night worth waiting for.
Waiting in line, queues snaked from the top to the bottom of the Hamil and there was a real sense of community among the fans as 20,000 people made their way onto the pitch and into the stands.
The gig was in aid of three fantastic charities close to Robbie’s heart, including Burslem-based The Hubb Foundation supporting local families in school holidays, the Donna Louise children’s hospice, and UNICEF children’s humanitarian fund, and fans dug deep to donate in exchange for programmes, t-shirts and Robbie branded merch.
Following sets from Signal 1’s Elliot and Matilda and German DJ’s Lufthaus, Robbie swaggered onto the stage to Let Me Entertain You – and entertain he certainly did.
Though the former Take That star needs no introduction, Robbie called out to the crowd: “My name is Robert f***ing Williams, from Greenbank f***ing Road. This is my band, this is my arse and tonight, this is my f***ing house.”
The monumental gig saw no expense spared with giant glitterball Robbie heads, sequin adorned dancers and a band that made an attempt to embarrass the Rock DJ with a rendition of the YMCA.
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Robbie took fans on a storytelling experience, sharing anecdotes about growing up in Tunstall and partying at Shelley’s nightclub in Longton before the rise of Take That, to being booted out of the band for befriending the Gallagher brothers at Glasto.
He performed a cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger that rivalled the energy seen the same weekend at Knebworth, before pulling out all the hits from Bodies and Millenium to Kids and Feels.
Ever the showman, Robbie kept the 21,500 strong throng of fans dancing, singing and squealing for nearly two hours, with the sound carrying for miles down to Leek, Biddulph and even Alsager.
Robbie reminded fans he’s very much still Stoke’s son, being sure to name drop his favourite pubs, the streets he grew up on and the school he went to, picking up his exam results the same day he found out he’d got into Take That. I wonder if Jan ever did find out what his grades were? Though following his story, it’s certain dad Pete Conway now knows, as he tweeted photos from the stalls.
The dad-of-four celebrated his family post-drugs with I Love My Life, speaking candidly about the 90s, opening up about some of his darkest hours and the songs that emerged from them. This wasn’t just a huge concert, but an honest and extraordinary glimpse into the life of the little boy who grew up on Greenbank Road, and the paths his life has taken ever since he shot to stardom.
Robbie left the stage around 10.15pm to whoops and cheers and football chants as the crowd demanded an encore. And not one to do things by half, the popstar – who has three Middleport streets named after his songs – proudly marched back onto the stage holding the League Two playoff final trophy revealing Port Vale’s new shirt. There’s kit announcements, and then there’s Port Vale kit announcements.
But the show didn’t end there, continuing with Glad All Over and Better Man, with She’s The One prompting a sea of iPhone torches before finishing with Angels, which locals will tell you was inspired by the Angel of Victory statue in Burslem.
Robbie Williams’ Homecoming charity concert at Vale Park is an event that will go down in Stoke-on-Trent’s history books. The energy and the magnitude of the show was unforgettable, and it was awe-inspiring to see just how far Robert Peter Williams has come.