AFTER suffering through an embarrassing World Cup opening performance, '90s singer Robbie Williams stared down the barrel of the camera, shrugged and gave the middle finger to millions around the world - proving not even he was keen on what we'd just witnessed.

Throughout the 15 minute opening ceremony, the former Take That star prowled around Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium performing a medley of past hits while wearing a thick silver neck chain and a red and black leopard print suit - the kind you can only buy on a website because it's too ridiculous to sell in stores.

Honestly, it was confronting. It was the kind of statement suit the weird kid in high school wears to semi formal.

Someone’s divorced uncle at a cruise ship casino.
Someone’s divorced uncle at a cruise ship casino.

With slicked-back grey hair, the 44-year-old singer strutted and mildly hip-thrusted his way around the grounds as drunk men in wigs and face paint watched on while holding novelty-sized plastic cups of beer.

As the muffled backing track began to play, Robbie mumbled his way through 1997's Let Me Entertain You. In sad scenes, he murmured the fast paced lyrics, "Shake your arse come over here, now scream!" while the camera literally panned across empty seats in the crowd.

It was probably at this point Robbie began to realise things stank. But he was only one-song deep into his medley and Vladimir Putin was monitoring from an elevated booth so he had no choice but to power through.

He knew he was dying. He needed to save it. And that's when these guys in cardboard costumes jazzed on out.

So not rock and roll.
So not rock and roll.

Nothing says "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll" like elaborately outfitted Russian circus performers. They tumbled around the field while random girls in gold plastic helmets swarmed the stage to swing hula hoops around Robbie.

Persevering, he continued and reached the second song. But it suddenly became worse. The music slowed down and panic set in. The slow, soaring ballad Feel began to play as more dancers circled - this time, they were wearing giant cardboard soccer balls on their heads as they formed a human pyramid.

Super on theme.
Super on theme.

Things sank further when Robbie forgot he'd also included 1997's ballad Angels on the set list. If you're not familiar with the song, here's some context: A 2005 poll determined Angels is the most popular song for British people to play at their funerals. Knowing this, you can imagine Robbie's terror as the opening bars began to play out through the poor-quality speakers and he suddenly realised he needed to suffer through three minutes and 58 seconds of a song that's most popular with dead people.

Surrounded by the elaborately outfitted Russian circus performers and the hula hoopers, he began to dream of his own funeral. Then some chick on a giant papier-mâché bird was carried into the stadium as she warbled harmonies.

Even the giant papier-mâché bird was mortified to be involved.

‘I didn’t agree to this.’
‘I didn’t agree to this.’

There's not really a graceful way to transition from the favourite song of dead people to the 2000 party anthem Rock DJ. So someone just said something in Russian, the papier-mâché bird flew away and Robbie huffed, rolled his eyes and launched into it.

Again, just to refresh your memory: this is the song where, in the film clip, he strips down to black jocks with a tiger on the crotchal pouch and then proceeds to rip the flesh and tissue off his body and throw it at people.

He didn't replicate any of this magic from the film clip which is disappointing because sometimes there's just no reason to go against a tried and true method. Give the people what they want - tiger crotch pouches and flesh hurling.

Instead, the world watched on as a local Moscow dance class wearing red glitter tracksuits surrounded Robbie to cheerlead the final lacklustre moments.

Bring It On 3.
Bring It On 3.

Robbie was done. He regretted everything - even the red and black leopard print suit he bought online. The only reason he agreed to this gig in the first place is because it was in Russia and he didn't think anyone would see it.

As a camera zoomed in on his face in the final moments of the performance, Robbie stared into the lens. He didn't care anymore. So he shrugged, scowled and gave the finger like it was 1998.

Twitter and Facebook: @hellojamesweir


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