No rain on his parade

British singer Robbie Williams was drenched by heavy rain just as he was about to start his set last Saturday night during the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, but he soldiered on through the 90-minute show.

The downpour did not dampen the mood of the packed, unsheltered crowd at the Padang either. While some whipped out umbrellas or put on ponchos, most braved the rain and sang along to the singer's hit songs, including Angels and Come Undone.

Williams, who came on at 10.30pm, was at his charismatic best, making self-deprecating jokes.

"Can you remember me from the 90s?" the 40-year-old asked cheekily at one point.

Indeed, despite being one of the best-selling British solo artists of all time, he is well aware that his years of churning out global hits are far behind him.

The former member of boyband Take That did not disappoint his fans, however, belting out his best known tunes from his solo career, including songs such as Let Me Entertain You and Millennium, both from 1998, and Rock DJ, from 2000.

He also showed off the breadth of his influences and paid tribute to music icons ranging from Frank Sinatra and Lou Reed to Jay-Z and AC/DC by including their music in his setlist.

His fascination with swing and the Rat Pack came to the fore with his rendition of Sinatra's My Way and New York, New York, and he showed off his love for the blues by covering Elvis Presley's Trouble. He also took on classic R&B with Percy Mayfield's Hit The Road Jack.

He gleefully rocked out by merging Queen's We Will Rock You with Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'N Roll, and sang snippets from Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side and U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For towards the end of Come Undone.

While he mocked Liam Gallagher's sneer on Oasis' Cigarettes & Alcohol, he showed his love for rootsy rock by covering Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary.

There were plenty of nods to modern urban classics too.

Millennium was updated with samples from Jay-Z's 99 Problems ("I haven't asked his permission yet," he joked) and Williams pulled his dry bandmates out into the rain to do an a cappella version of R Kelly's Ignition (Remix).

Indeed, while many of his band members initially stayed under the cover of the big stage, he playfully pulled out a few of them to sing with him on the uncovered runway.

He seemed to relish the wet weather, busting out dance moves on the slippery floor. By the second song, Let Love Be Your Energy, his tuxedo jacket had come off and he went among the audience to shake hands and pose gamely for their weather-resistant GoPro cameras.

Not since the first edition of indie music festival Laneway at Fort Canning in 2011 has a big outdoors show here been hit by such heavy rain.

The lack of current hits notwithstanding, Williams' ability to defy the elements with a crowd-rousing performance showed what a trouper and all-around entertainer he still is.

This article was first published on Sept 22, 2014.
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