I suppose if you're Robbie Williams, you'd be lucky to get a gig anywhere these days, but what a surprise to discover him headlining a gig in Tblisi. Not any old gig, either - one paid for the government.
Maroon Five and Jose Carreras are also taking part in the - let's call them "celebrations", shall we?
And that's not all:
In addition to the Government-organised activities, Check in Georgia will also include events and activities hosted by private companies. Furthermore, agricultural and product displays including wine and cheese festivals will offer the best of local production to visitors.It's a wonder they could keep Alex James away from it all.
So, Robbie Williams getting a payday from the Georgian government. That's alright, isn't it?
I mean, the Georgian government isn't terrible. They even endorsed a queer pride event last year, as Amnesty reports:
The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) proceeded peacefully in Tbilisi in a discreet location on 17 MayWell, that's lovely. Although... why was it discreet?
The authorities had refused to guarantee the event’s safety unless it was held at a specific location without any prior public announcement.Perhaps not entirely in keeping with the spirit of the day.
Now, you could say that it's not Williams beef. Why should he decide where to play based on attitudes to queer people?
But his Georgian government paymasters are problematic in other ways, too:
On 15 March, approximately 50 supporters of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition forcibly entered the local offices of [opposition party] UNM and an affiliated group in Zugdidi, armed with wooden sticks, throwing stones and smashing windows. Nine people were reported injured, including one of the police officers who tried to intervene but were outnumbered by the attackers.But Maroon 5 and Robbie Williams, almost certainly, wouldn't find themselves on the hard end of this dodgy justice.
Concerns over freedom of expression were voiced by local NGOs and political commentators who believed that a lawsuit by a former shareholder of Rustavi 2 against its current owners was prompted by the government to deprive the opposition of its main mouthpiece. On 21 October, the director of Rustavi 2 reported having been blackmailed, claiming that the security services threatened to release intimate footage of him unless he resigned. The Tbilisi City Court found in favour of the former shareholder, and Rustavi 2 managers were forcibly replaced with pro-government caretakers on 5 November, against the Constitutional Court ruling that an appeal had to be heard first.
On 17 September, the Constitutional Court ruled to release Gigi Ugulava, an opposition activist and former Mayor of the capital, Tbilisi. It deemed his pre-trial detention since 2013 – on charges of misappropriation of public funds and money laundering – illegal as it exceeded the nine-month legal limit. The Court’s judges came under heavy criticism from senior government officials for this decision and were threatened with violence by some pro-government groups. On 18 September, Gigi Ugulava was sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment on account of these charges, and rearrested the same day.
To be fair to Williams, it's possible he didn't entirely feel thrilled at his new bosses. The English language Agenda.ge tried to talk up his enthusiasm:
The British singer shared his thoughts about his Tbilisi performance to his social media followers on Twitter on Thursday:Under this, they reproduce this tweet to illustrate Williams' sharing:
So the best example Agenda could find of Williams' thoughts was a photo of him looking like a middle aged man waiting for his wife to emerge from a BHS restaurant toilet and a slew of hashtags that read like a particularly weak contestant on Catchphrase trying to work out what Mr Chips is telling them.