While Capitol Records has left Robbie Williams’s latest album, Swing When You’re Winning, in the import bins at your local record shop, they have mysteriously (and dutifully) decided to bring its accompanying concert, Live at the Albert, to NTSC DVD. The show, digitally recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 10th of last year, finds Britain’s superstar faithfully performing American standards like “The Lady Is A Tramp” and “One For My Baby.” Yet Williams does everything with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Giant blinking letters bear the letters R and W; even the towel he wipes his brow with and the chokers of his Vegas-style dancers are embroidered with his initials. Williams, however, is clearly living out a childhood dream and, with the night’s sole original tune, “I Will Talk & Hollywood Will Listen,” he seems less cocky than earnest: “I wouldn’t be so alone if they knew my name in every home.” Further referencing his lack of success in America while introducing Jon Lovitz—who duets with Williams on “Well Did You Evah”—he quipped: “I’ve been spending a lot of time in America and fuck knows why. I do no business there!” Williams impressively digs his chops into “Mr. Bojangles” while a moving virtual duet with Frank Sinatra and the closing number, “My Way,” brought a tear to his eye and the audience to their feet. Now if only America had such taste.
Capitol’s Live at the Albert DVD couldn’t possibly look better. The show was expertly shot and the transfer is crisp and clean. The show’s lighting and bright primary colors come across beautifully, as does the entirety of Willliams’s vocal range and every section of the full-piece orchestra thanks to the disc’s dynamic 5.1 surround mix. While some of the docu features’ subjects were poorly recorded, the music is captured wonderfully throughout the entire disc. Both the show and the disc’s extra features (with the exception of "The Day Job") are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
For a live DVD, Live at the Albert comes jam-packed with extra features, including Unseen Backstage and Aftershow Footage (inconveniently tucked away on the Scene Selection page) and "Well Swung," a mini-documentary of the making of Swing When You’re Winning. The documentary, composed of footage from the actual recording sessions at Capitol Studios, is most notable for Williams’s utter humility during the recording process. The disc also includes "Somethin’ Stupid," a cheeky and often racy video featuring Nicole Kidman. An in-depth making-of featurette of the two-and-a-half-minute clip puts many DVD behind-the-scenes features to shame. "The Day Job" sufficiently encapsulates Williams’s solo pop career, mixing behind-the-scenes footage, live performances and lengthy snippets of videos like "Millenium" and "Kids," the singer’s duet with Kylie Minogue.
Live at the Albert is a must-have for Williams fans and it might just recruit a few more. "The Day Job" montage could catch the eye of pop’s younger crowd while Williams’s onstage charisma could attract an older audience. Though Americans have yet to catch on to Williams, this DVD might just do the trick. But...probably not.