Robbie Williams might seem like an unlikely candidate for a Las Vegas residency. After all, it has been nearly two decades since his biggest U.S. chart success: the dramatic ballad “Angels” peaking at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100. Williams is actually the perfect musician to make a splash in Vegas, however, since after first rising to stardom as a member of ’90s boys band Take That, he went solo and has evolved into a rakish pop chameleon who has dabbled in (to name a few genres) jazz, soul, rock and electro.
Although he has spent lots of time in LA in recent decades, Williams has remained a prolific chart-topping superstar in the U.K. A few weeks ago, he even released Under the Radar Vol. 3, his third compilation of fan-geared obscurities, B-sides and demos. But as he prepares to launch his residency, here’s a brief guide to some of Williams’ (many) career highlights.
Angels” (Life Thru a Lens, 1997) Perhaps Williams’ most iconic song, this soaring, string- and piano-drenched ballad offers expressions of comfort, in the form of lyrics praising (literal and figurative) guardian angels.
“Millennium” (I’ve Been Expecting You, 1998) Along with “Angels,” this “You Only Live Once”-sampling ’90s alt-rock gem made U.S. chart inroads.
“Kids” (Sing When You’re Winning, 2000) This duet with Kylie Minogue, is a pogoing soul-rocker with sinewy rhythms and clashing guitars.
“Rock DJ” (Sing When You’re Winning, 2000) This jaunty, funky ode to the power of dancefloor commanders samples A Tribe Called Quest and Barry White.
“Feel” (Escapology, 2002) This global smash pairs urgent trip-hop beats and plaintive piano with cautionary lyrics suffused with spiritual and romantic confusion: “I sit and talk to God/And he just laughs at my plans.”
“Eternity” (non-album single, 2000) Some of Williams’ ballads can hew toward the treacly, but this lovely, piano-driven meditation—said to be written for the Spice Girls’ Geri Halliwell—strikes a perfectly sentimental note.
“She’s Madonna” (Rudebox, 2006) A collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, this song about ditching a partner for (who else?) Madonna ends up nothing short of cheeky electro-pop brilliance.
“Rudebox” (Rudebox, 2006) Williams imitates Beck at his most electro-funky on this throwback synth-rock/hip-hop hybrid.
“Bodies” (Reality Killed the Video Star, 2009) This deceptively simple high-gloss pop hit boasts precise instrumentation—orchestral stabs, a burnt-rubber bassline and celebratory horns—and lyrics comingling religious imagery with physical idealization: “God save me rejection/From my reflection/I want perfection.”
“Candy” (Take the Crown, 2012) Horns, saxes and strings drive this tropical-breezy U.K. No. 1 hit, an over-the-top narrative about a woman living her best (wild) life.
“Something Beautiful” (Escapology, 2002) Williams is a warm and inviting soul singer, which is evident on this organ-freckled song that doles out emotional solace for those who feel alone.
“Somethin’ Stupid” (Swing When You’re Winning, 2001) Taking a page from Bryan Ferry’s playbook, Williams crafted an album of swing standards that included this lovelorn, Spanish guitar-inflected Nicole Kidman duet.
“Starstruck” (Reality Killed the Video Star, 2009) A low-lit nod to Jamiroquai’s cosmic ’90s dance jams, “Starstruck” finds Williams assuming a sleek croon as he explores facets of fame.
“Bruce Lee” (The Heavy Entertainment Show, 2016) Between the overdriven guitars, rippling vocal falsetto and blaring horns, the stomping “Bruce Lee” provides a more-than-credible ELO impression.
“Gold” (Under the Radar Vol. 3, 2019) That this song was released via a rarities collection shows Williams’ musical depth; it’s a cross between Bowie’s debonair rock surges and Simple Minds’ mid-’80s cathartic soul-pop.
ROBBIE WILLIAMS March 6, 8-9, 13, 15-16, 8 p.m., $60-$250. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.