“Thank you Robbie”, a full Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam chants. Singer Rob de Nijs (79) lets it happen in his wheelchair – affected but also visibly tired. His swan song in perhaps the greatest hall he ever sang in had come to an end. Done, he gestured briefly, almost as an apology. Although he still has a loaded final chord: ‘Not for the last time’, as moving as it is confrontational about letting go of ideals and the time that is slowly running out.
Singer Rob Nijs was sober about it: at some point it had to be over. The beautiful teenage idol, the sultry troubadour, the polished leather heartthrob, the honest chansonnier, the singer who reinvented himself many times and recorded some seven hundred songs – he didn’t have to be it all anymore. “Better stop if my voice still sounds nice and I still like it,” he said in an interview with NRC†
The farewell album It’s been nice was his first timed closing in 2020 after almost sixty years of music. A grand farewell concert was inevitable – De Nijs once more in the warm embrace of his most loyal fans. But when the corona crisis presented itself and data had to be moved, it became even more exciting. Especially when the frail singer, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, also caught the virus himself.
Also read this interview with Rob de Nijs: ‘There has always been something strange around me’
This concert by the singer, who had already been rewarded with an ovation on arrival, was therefore already a loaded event. But De Nijs was careful: nowhere would it be larmoyant. The facts spoke for themselves. How the frail performer was repeatedly driven off the stage by his wife to catch his breath after a few songs. His trembling hands on the microphone stand. How gently and benevolently the band and the audience wore it, how elegant guest artists such as Trijntje Oosterhuis, Claudia de Breij, Danny Vera and Waylon sang almost half of his songs. Bløf singer Paskal Jakobsen: “Rob taught me how to sing in Dutch.”
De Nijs’ voice had to gain in strength in his first interpretations – ‘I set you free’, ‘Rhythm of the rain’, ‘Eternally Young’. As the concert progressed, his sound became fuller, deep as ever. To feel a song, he couldn’t do it any other way. For example, the melancholy visual ‘Picture of the past’ (“Yes!” sounded in the hall) became a highlight and the duet ‘Zonder Jou’ with Paskal Jakobsen was also touching, including a courteous kiss on the forehead. De Nijs: “It’s a strange feeling that I sing every song for the last time.”
But it was also the little things that mattered to me this farewell. Between sentences like “but not really” in ‘Eternally young’. The “sorry” if he has to break off ‘against his better judgment’ in an instant cold moment. “It was going so well until it stopped.” The snaps of the fingers in the jazzy performance ‘Worth the effort’.
Uptempo hit work broke through the melancholic mood. With ‘De Pieper’ in a dub version, everyone rose from their seats, effortlessly switching over in these times dubious sentences such as how Rosalie ‘will not be young anymore’. And Sanne Wallis de Vries, tormenting with love – “You’re such a hype, Rob” – was an icebreaker with a comical interlude.
Rob de Nijs could sing the most beautiful, profound songs, but audiences would lynch him if he didn’t sing the party numbers on his honors list ‘Malle Babbe’ or ‘Jan Klaassen de trompetter’. It was precisely those songs that moved him. A fist raised and eyes still moist, as the polonaise erupts. “For you.”