LONDON: Russell Brand - Rock Star Comedian - has embarked on his Messiah Complex World Tour, and in the spirit of reaching as many disciples as possible, he’ll play 11 months worth of dates all over the US, Canada, the UK, Europe and South Africa.
Russ is currently performing at home, and has made the 3,500 thousand seat art-deco paradise of the Hammersmith Apollo his venue of choice for London audiences.
That familiar electric crowd buzz fills the auditorium as we enter the Apollo stalls and are greeted by a huge billboard of Russell Brand holding pensive stare. I recognise the graphic style - American street artist Shepard Fairey - responsible for the OBEY campaign and Barack Obama’s iconic election poster - has turned his hand to immortalising Russell through art.
Russell’s tour partner, urban poet Mr G, takes to the stage as support to share his own world views and lift the audience to a place where things are about to get pretty political and pretty serious in a pretty funny way.
Messiah Complex takes an obtuse detour from classic comedy circuit material. Russ has always shared his interpretation of what’s right and wrong between the scathing witticisms and sordid courting of women in the audience, but even by those standards this world tour is not his average comedy set.
Watching Russell perform is like watching an eccentric MC, crazed beyond control - walking his way through the audience and back to the stage - long legs flailing along bizarre nonsensical tangents, an unruly mind given voice in vaudevillian English. It’s burlesque pantomime; Russells energy erupting through lanky gestures, a barrage of wit.
Its no coincidence the tour’s named the Messiah Complex World Tour, especially not for fans who have thought of Russell as The Messiah for years*. For starters he looks like Jesus. What's more is the altar upon which truly devoted fans place the Great Man. Pointedly for Russell, the comparison of himself to god-like status is serendipitous in connecting great leaders of our history with the concept of a world filled with empty icons, great orators who have been bastardized via their alignment to consumer ideals, their image destroyed by lofty corporations who pull the wool over our eyes and distract us from what’s really going on.
The self-deprecating yet conversely self-serving narrative of Russell’s life is still there for all to enjoy - like that time he was an unknown heroin addict that stripped naked aloft a police van ‘twixt the throes of an unruly crowd of demonstrators. But the main crux of this show revolves around challenging, ironically, the concept of celebrity and worship in a world that lacks real heroes.
Messiah Complex delivers a real point and a real message, and an important one at that. Russell somehow manages a self-effacing world view that serves to encourage the audience to challenge the ideas mass media and big business feed us. He wants us to choose real heroes, and to think for ourselves. It’s worth a mention he also wants us to explore each others bodies and really let loose in the sexual arena.
I’m inspired. I want to burst forth from the doors of the Apollo and cry ‘Viva la Revolution!’, but I’m stopped in my tracks by a guy selling screen-printed Russell shirts for a fiver. It makes me wonder...would Russell approve of this, or is this in stark contrast to his message, exactly the opposite of the conclusion he was hoping we would come to?
Nah, it’s Russell Brand - great mind matched only by great ego. I buy two.
*maybe that's just me.
They were filming the tour DVD at last night’s show, so you can always catch in on the small screen later.