For a moment it seems to go wrong in the Ziggo Dome filled with love and melancholy, during the farewell concert of Rob de Nijs. In the seventh song of the evening, the beautiful Against all knowledge, the old singer chokes. He coughs, falls silent, gasps for air. The band continues to play routinely, pick it up again Rob, but no, it won’t work, ‘stop for a moment’, he stammers – and then suddenly it is silent in the enormous Amsterdam sound box.
Scare the hearts, but it will be okay. ‘Shall we try it again?’ says De Nijs. Then follows a beautiful rendition of the words of Lennaert and Astrid Nijgh: sung fragile, old age burr on the vocal cords, short breath, but that is precisely why it is unforgettable. Rob de Nijs rises, one more time, although he remains seated in his wheelchair. It’s a majestic moment.
What follows is The Pieper, about the girl Rosalie who is fed a little drunk and will not be a child tomorrow morning. That text is no longer possible, but he can still go tonight. The Pieper functions here as the exuberant song of relief: it will be all right. Rob de Nijs, the Netherlands’ first real pop star, is going to sing his farewell to him.
That farewell comes two years later than planned. He is 79. Three years ago he fell from a stage in Naaldwijk, whereupon he announced in September 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His last round was to be in 2020, but was pushed to this June evening in 2022 by corona.
At eight o’clock wife Henriëtte pushes the wheelchair onto the stage and the old, trembling left hand wraps itself around the microphone stand. The band shakes up the evening with I’ll set you free (1977) and then the song that made him the ‘Dutch Cliff Richard’ in one fell swoop in 1963: Rhythm of the rain†
Standing is no longer possible, even in the wheelchair, with some help from his wonderful, subservient Pur Sang Band and a procession of friends and admirers who take care of a few songs. May take, as they say almost without exception.
waylon mag It was summer do, Paskal Jakobsen (Bløf) LAT and Trijntje Oosterhuis Open end, not the only song of the evening about parting and mortality. Rob de Nijs is not a man who fools himself in that area.
As an announcement of forever young he shouts the song title, adding ‘but not really’. “The worst is yet to come, the best has been,” he sings. It doesn’t even sound sentimental, more like a statement, sung fragile but captivatingly sober. “You have to stop when everyone still likes it a bit,” he says an hour later. “And so we do now.”
It can also just be a party. When Danny Vera appears on the scene, it happens almost automatically, especially when he plays the tailor-made Garth Brooks rendition. The thunder rolls plays and sings. Claudia de Breij pays tribute to the rocking Rob of the eighties with Sunday and Hold me tight (cause I’m falling)†
In love with Rob
And then Sanne Wallis de Vries has yet to come, an eruption of joy in a sexy glitter dress. she sings I want you and tells that she fell in love with Rob in the TV series Hamelin (1972-1976) and that on the ‘ripe Rob’ actually still is. “Even that wheelchair rocks, doesn’t it?”
De Nijs can also throw a party himself. There is scared heart (1996), his one and only number one hit. The Ziggo Dome is dancing, Rob is beaming. He’s looking at us, we’re looking at him, the most beautiful 79-year-old ever, at least tonight. Then the excitement creeps in again. The duet with Paskal Jakobsen, Without youis a sparkling highlight, just like the kiss that the Bløf singer presses on De Nijs’ forehead.
In Malle Babba you also see the realization in De Nijs himself that it is almost over, that he is now also singing this classic song for his fans for the last time. Tears glisten in the pale blue eyes. ‘Nice piece, silly girl, nice animal with pleasure,’ the closing chorus with wet cheeks. Once again Rob de Nijs picks himself up, for everything that breathes, the song that is unfortunately completely current again due to the war in Ukraine. ‘Peace is far, farther than ever/The weapons never rest so close to home.’
The Pur Sang Band comes together around the wheelchair. Youngest son Julius (10) brings flowers. ‘Did you like it?’, we lip read. And hard, we think the answer: yes, Rob, it was exactly what we hoped.