Pop superstar Robbie Williams surprised an Israeli street singer by joining him for a duet of his hit song ‘Angels’ in Tel Aviv.
Robbie Williams surprises an Israeli busker playing his song Angels in Tel Aviv pic.twitter.com/WeQ89JRkqR— The Jewish Chronicle (@JewishChron) May 31, 2023
Williams, 49, arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for his Thursday night show at HaYarkon Park, his first in Israel in nearly a decade. He told reporters that he is “incredibly excited” to be headlining in Israel this week, which he sees as “a special place”.
Speaking at a press conference at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel yesterday, Williams said: “I was incredibly excited to get here, and much like last time, incredibly excited to be here and experience what Israel actually is and what the people actually are.”
He added that he can usually infer a lot about a place just by the entrance and the airport, including customs officials and security, and even the people that drive the buses between plane and terminal.
“You get a feel and, you know, big smiles. Welcoming. Kindness,” he said. “There’s a lot of gratitude in peoples’ eyes just from that little bit.”
The former Take That singer noted that he had a “great” time the last time he performed in the country in 2015, and that he “couldn’t believe” it had been so long.
“So, eight years ago, that’s mental. I woke up in a really good mood today and I woke up excited, and I woke up excited about being here and about the prospect of what this show can be. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“You know, I think the thing is about coming to a place like Israel, there’s such a massive build-up in one’s mind about what it is and what it isn’t and it’s a special place that deserves a special thing to happen, probably more than any other gigs I do in any other places.”
This week’s festival was to be a two-day event with Williams headlining on Thursday and singer Sam Smith as the main act on Wednesday, until the latter pulled out of the festival due to reported “technical and logistical” problems. The festival was then reduced to the one event on Thursday evening.
Before Williams’s 2015 performance in Israel, former Pink Floyd frontman and vocal BDS supporter Roger Waters wrote an open letter to him accusing him of providing “tacit support” to “Netanyahu and the Israeli regime” by performing in the country. Waters has previously accused the likes of Neil Young, Cindi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones of the same.
Although he didn't address Waters directly, Williams told the audience while on stage then, "I've been here for two days and when I go back home and they ask me how Israel was, I'll tell them it was f*****g amazing."
Appearing to reference the backlash some musical artists attract after announcing tour dates in Israel, Williams said on Tuesday he was “afraid to be part of a narrative”.
He explained: “I’m afraid to be used for nefarious purposes. It annoys me because you can’t say anything, because there are two sides with two narratives. And my answer is I’m here, I’m here to perform for the people. That’s my answer, in body, in soul, in spirit, I’m right in front of you, and I’m very happy to be here.”
Williams has four Jewish children with Turkish-American Jewish actress Ayda Field, whom he married in 2010.
During an appearance on Andrew Gold’s On The Edge podcast last December, Williams disclosed that his family celebrates Jewish holidays, and went “big” on Chanukah last year in a show of solidarity “against Kanye West”.
Robbie Williams and his Jewish wife, Ayda Field, attend Chopard ART Evening in Cannes, France, May 23, 2023 (Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Chopard)
Williams also admitted to enjoying Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life, a reality series that follows a woman’s experience leaving a strictly Orthodox lifestyle and says he “feels more Jewish" than Christian despite being raised Catholic.
Williams arrived in Israel on the back of the successful release last year of his 14th album, XXV, which made him the artist with the second most albums to hit No 1 in the UK, behind only the Beatles.