Tribute act Tony Lewis on the life of Robbie

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Tribute act Tony Lewis on the life of Robbie

Robbie Williams tribute act Tony Lewis tells us about living the dream and meeting the man who made it all possible.

By (Adam Zacharias)

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Published: Mon 27 Jan 2014, 11:52 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 6:11 PM

FOR MORE THAN a decade, Manchester native Tony Lewis has been living the life of Riley – or, more accurately, the life of Robbie – touring globally as a tribute act for one of England’s biggest pop stars.

Tony visits Dubai this Thursday to perform as Robbie Williams at the Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai, where he will belt out a succession of the singer’s biggest hits. Expect everything from singalong anthem Angels to the tongue-in-cheek Rock DJ to the bombastic Let Me Entertain You. We chatted with Tony about quitting his day job for a life of showbiz.

Your resemblance to Robbie Williams is uncanny. When did someone first tell you that you looked like him?

It was actually my grandmother, who had seen Robbie on a chat show when he was in (boy band) Take That. I was about 14 and at the time, and I thought it was a bit lame to look like a boy band member – I just wanted to be a footballer. It took a couple of years for me to realise there were a few perks to looking like a pop star!

What was your career before going full-time as a tribute act?

Before singing, I was a plumber and air conditioning engineer. It was a real contrast going from building sites to the stage, but I loved it. For the first year I tried to do both, and I had a great boss who supported me, but in December 2002 I had to make a choice as the Robbie gig had become so popular. Twelve years on and I know I made the right decision!

How did you learn to imitate Robbie’s voice?

‘Being’ Robbie is far more than just imitating his voice. I had a few singing lessons, which put me in good stead, but the onstage persona, mannerisms and attitude all came naturally. I was already a huge fan, and it was as though I’d subconsciously taken those attributes onboard while watching him.

What was it like appearing on BBC1 TV tribute talent show The One and Only back in 2008?

The One and Only seems so long ago now. It was a great experience, but TV isn’t the glitz and glamour people think it is. There was lots of waiting around, long rehearsals and egos. I enjoyed watching the other tributes though and I do still speak to the winner Katy (who performed as Dusty Springfield) quite a bit.

Have you had any tattoos done to match Robbie’s various inkings?

I’m a big tattoo fan and have quite a lot of ink. Some are originals and some are based on Robbie’s with my own personal twist.

What aspects of Robbie do you see in yourself, and how do you differ from one another?

Robbie is a guy who likes a laugh, football and being with his mates. I’m exactly the same – and in the last few years we’ve both got married and become fathers to our beautiful little girls, so the similarities have grown even more!

Have you ever teamed up with a Take That tribute band – and did you follow in Robbie’s footsteps and butt heads with the Gary Barlow tribute?

I do work with a Take That tribute called Rule The World who are great. Oddly enough, the ‘Gary’ and I did have a few disagreements at first, but now we’re good mates. It’s nice to be able to perform with other people, especially when you’re used to being a solo act. But as with anything, there are pros and cons.

What’s your favourite Robbie Williams song?

My favourite Robbie song is Come Undone for its pure, raw emotion. I’ll only ever perform it with my live band though as I never feel that the backing track does it justice. It’s also from my favourite album, Escapology, which I never get tired of listening to.

What did you chat with Robbie about when you met him in 2005?

We mainly spoke about football and out partners: my two favourite things! My friend (TV presenter) Vernon Kay was interviewing him for Channel 4, so he invited me along. At first it was a bit surreal, but it was a really amazing moment in my life.

Other than meeting Robbie, what has been your favourite memory of your time as a tribute artist?

Probably the places I’ve been able to go to – Dubai is easily one of my favourites. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I’m not dreaming. Also, I met my wife on The One and Only so that’s definitely a highlight, especially since she’s provided me with our six-month-old daughter, Marni-Mai.

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