Russell Brand is at the top of his game. As he walks on stage tonight to a sold out crowd at Manchester’s O2 Apollo theatre he’s met with countless whoops and cat calls from a predominantly female audience. Behind him there are four profile pictures – Gandhi and Che Guevara to the right, Malcolm X and Jesus Christ to the left and in the middle of this cast of the world’s weirdest Come Dine With Me contestants stands Russell himself, framed by a giant propaganda-style photo of his own face. As he slowly eye-fucks the crowd before ripping into tonight’s brilliantly constructed Messiah Complex show, it starts to sink in just how far he’s come from being ‘that funny-haired guy off Big Brother’s Big Mouth’. Like the cultural icons who surround him, he’s transcended into a new dimension of stardom and reverency.
In fact, that’s kind of what his new show is all about. Having soaked up Manchester’s adoration – including strutting into the crowd for a little touchy-feely time (much to the enjoyment of tonight’s audience), there’s a feeling of connection rippling throughout the crowd. A feeling that, despite the Apollo being a fairly airy venue, we’re in a much more informal setting. It’s an aura that gels with Russell’s ‘peace, love and tranquility’ mentality and forms the perfect place to kick off a show that tries to separate the connection we sometimes make with celebrities being infallible deities. We’re all mates here tonight and that’s a good place to start.
Russell’s comedic lecture on celebrity, misconceptions and the messiah complex dissects the lives of the four famous faces joining him on stage. One by one he dishes the dirt on the people society tends to view as purely good and righteous and by using a few well placed hip-thrusts and graphic cock jokes, lets us see the hypocrisy of how, given the right spin, Russell himself can be a little like Gandhi, Che, Malcolm and JC. Brand’s wordy spiel, firing out razor sharp quips, priceless asides and enough hyperbole based gags to give most etymologists a run for their money, while exhausting at times, is hard not to admire. You get the distinct impression that despite his over-the-top antics, there’s more to this guy than most touring stand-ups. Sure – he may be mime-wanking his drug-addled, winter worn cock whilst standing on top of an imaginary police van in a bizarre attempt to convince us he’s kind of like Malcolm X – but in a weird way, you know he’s done his homework and knows exactly what he’s talking about.
He’s not without a sense of humour about himself too, which is humbling and admirable. A sizeable chunk of tonight’s biggest laughs came from the ruthless picking-apart of Brand’s own media appearances (via some brilliant photography) as well as the ridiculous way he’s often portrayed in the (ridiculous) Daily Mail. Brand’s set is perfectly structured and paced and once it’s been delivered, his generosity doesn’t disappear backstage. After making the fatal mistake of ending tonight’s show with the phrase ‘…and now you can take what you want from me,’ he’s swarmed by grinning (and mostly female) fans. Lunging into the crowd, Brand poses for countless photos, dishes out countless hugs and probably falls victim to a fair few gropes. As the lights dim and the venue empties, it’s clear Manchester loves Russell Brand, Messiah Complex and all.
Russell Brand will play Manchester Apollo again tonight.
Words by Simon Bland. (@SiTweetsToo)