Review: Russell Brand @ Newcastle City Hall
Whether you love or hate him, there’s no denying that Russell Brand can put a smile of your face. Tonight’s audience ranged from women dressed as if they’re meeting a date, to hipster types who see Brand as a kind of political figure in skinny jeans (even a few who dress like him), and the rest who are just here for a good laugh.
It seems rather egotistical for Brand to call his tour Messiah Complex (although he does explain it’s taken from a condition where people think they’re actually Jesus). Perhaps a foreshadowing of his own life? He goes into detail of why he compares himself to his idols; Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Gandhi, and Jesus. A pretty strange set of heroes for a comedian – yet Brand oddly explains why he’s like them, in a way, by using embarrassing tales of his own life.
The heavy theme of the show confuses some audience members as to whether they’re watching stand-up, or an informal history of politics lecture. Not something the people of Newcastle expect from the man who’s starred in major Hollywood comedies, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, and was once married to one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
Of course we all know some of the most powerful comedy has been based on the world of politics, and Brand clearly has a great interest in public affairs (most recently he appeared on Paxman to talk about voting). This is not a show full of belly laughs, like you might expect from arena-filling stars. Despite this, most of the audience are left howling at the anecdotal stories he’s plucked from the news, about himself.
A highlight is his scrutinising of *cough* “certain national paper”, who implied he’d been encouraging Justin Bieber to take drugs, based on a joke he made in an interview with Rolling Stone. He briefly looks at the local press, and realises there is nothing to ridicule. Brand’s connection with the Newcastle audience is particularly impressive for an internationally famous star – he repeatedly mimics the Geordie accent and mentions parts of “toon” as if he’d lived in the area for years.
Like a lot of comedians, he involved members of the audience – to the extent the first part is almost a double act between him and a passionate (male) fan. This continues when the show finishes, as fans rush to the bottom of the stage for autographs and selfies with Brand, who ends the show striking a ‘crucifix’ pose. He’s never been afraid of controversy.
In all, many laughs to be had, but not the same kind of laughs you would get with other comics. It’s worth noting Brand is performing at the smaller-scale City Hall rather than the Arena. Which begs the question, is he funny enough to fill an arena? Or is it a case that his style isn’t broad enough to fill an arena? Ultimately it’s very clever and funny, but given his extensive back catalogue, there’s a lot of scope for it to be much funnier.