Robbie Williams Kicks Off Vegas Residency: ‘I Came Out Of The Womb With Jazz Hands’

Erik Kabik

Robbie Williams debuts his Las Vegas residency at the Wynn Encore.

Robbie Williams says Las Vegas used to be considered the showman’s last stand.

In the English pop star’s case, he’s hoping the Wynn Encore residency he started March 6 will allow him to finally break in the United States. Williams is something of a superstar in his native UK, where he has had 11 No. 1 songs, but he gets nary a mention in the States.

Robbie Williams
– Robbie Williams
With Wynn Las Vegas GM of entertainment operations Rick Gray and AEG Presents Las Vegas senior VP of booking Bobby Reynolds.

“Seventy percent of the tickets were bought in America,” Williams said during a press conference. “I know there are a lot of ex-pats here. I wasn’t sure what to do about the setlist because I wasn’t sure if anybody knew my songs. I’ll do a few a cappella versions of my hits and if they know the songs, I’ll play a few more.”

With five costume changes, Williams tipped his proverbial hat to the Rat Pack during his nearly two-hour show. He kicked off the show with his “Live in Las Vegas” and “Let Me Entertain You,” then continued with a collection of swing and Rat Pack songs. 

“I’m a student of the Rat Pack albums, their shows, their way of life, the glamor,” Williams said during the press conference. “There’s something so tangible and so alive today. I’m in a great dressing room – probably the best. All over the shelves are pictures of the Rat Pack. It feels so inspirational picking up on the energy before I go out on the stage.”

Erik Kabik

Robbie Williams debuts his Las Vegas residency at the Wynn Encore.

The concert did Las Vegas proud, with dancing showgirls, a band member covering “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow, who also has a residency in Vegas, and serenading an audience member on a red velvet couch for “Somethin’ Stupid.” It was all campy fun, and that’s what fans have come to expect from Williams.

His patented self-deprecating cheeky humor was a hit with the fans, too. He poked fun of his previous habits and controversial moves during the show. 

“Rule number one is love your audience,” he said. “Not individually, like I tried to do in the ’90s.”

The residency is a partnership between the Wynn and AEG. Rick Gray, Wynn’s general manager of entertainment operations, had been trying to get Williams since 2007.

“I was on a Virgin flight coming back from England when I saw this video by a performer who knocked me out – this guy named Robbie Williams,” Gray said. “He was performing swing songs at the Royal Albert Hall and I was blown away. When I got back to the states, I said, ‘We have to hire Robbie Williams.’”

Gray was turned down. Years later, AEG approached Gray about bringing in Williams. 

“‘Rick, I have this performer, he’s a major, major star. He’s known all over the world,’” Gray recalled being told. “I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s Robbie Williams. I couldn’t get him and 12 years later, my dream is realized.”

Overseas, Williams plays in front of crowds of 80,000 or more. The room at the Wynn holds 1,500. The residency, which has sporadic dates throughout the year, sold out quickly, and the Wynn and AEG scrambled to roll out more shows.

According to Pollstar Boxoffice reports submitted over the last 36 months, Williams grosses an average of $2.71 million dollars and sells an average of 27,731 tickets. That includes two nights at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena where Williams 23,345 tickets and grossed $3.06 million. 

Gray said the sellouts “shocked” him. “I know the popularity in Europe, but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be that popular in the States,” he explained. “It was great to see the minute we put them on sale, the tickets went like crazy without any marketing. What we’re hoping is to get that local market and people in Los Angeles and really create a buzz around him. He’s a talent. He deserves it.”

Erik Kabik

Robbie Williams debuts his Las Vegas residency at the Wynn Encore.

The new Weight Watchers ambassador, Williams said during the show that he would like to establish a permanent residency in Vegas to be closer to his wife and children, who reside in the Los Angeles area and were in the audience.

“I’m in the town that is the epicenter of entertainment,” Williams said during the presser. “I’m a student of the greats who have performed here. I’m a student of entertainment, more than a rock ‘n’ roll singer or rapper. I came out of the womb with jazz hands, which was a shock for my mom. 

“Now I’m in my natural, spiritual home, and with everything that’s happened in my career, all the great stuff you’re talking about, it’s wonderful to be 45 and really excited about a project.”

Williams added he’s an original talent and he proved that during his show. 

“I’m an entertainer,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people doing what I do, talking to the audience, telling jokes, pandering to the audience, et cetera. People see something in me that they enjoy and they want to come and see me again. Hopefully the ticket sales aren’t an anomaly and we can grow from there.”

Williams even became emotional during the opening night concert. 

“How fuckin’ great is this?” he said. “I can’t remember a time when a gig meant this much to me. There’s a magic here, right?”

Robbie Williams “Live In Las Vegas” at the Wynn Encore runs March 6-16 and June 19-July 6.