Comedy review: Russell Brand, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

4.00

The comedian is on his Messiah Complex world tour

Should we ask what is Russell Brand rather than who is Russell Brand? The louche Essex dandy is, after all, a force of nature whose musings on sexuality, karma and the human condition are often so florally postulated that each seems like an astral projection rather than an opinion.

With his own messianic status (foisted upon him or self-perpetuated) never far away, Brand tonight reintroduces to us Ghandi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Jesus, using them as four pillars upon which to build an understanding of why we have filled godless lives with consumerism and celebrity rather than admire sacrifice and endeavour. In short - no more heroes anymore, and certainly no more martyrs.

"Of course I am aware of the hypocrisy," swoons an Isadora Duncan-like Brand - all scarf, beads and half arabesques - admitting he isn't complaining about being about being stuck in a "tumble dryer of tits and money", but that he was worried about "the cultural consequences" of celebrity nonetheless.

Naturally, Brand's image is used for textbook examples, including the Daily Mail's take on comments he made about pop stars and heroin. However, Messiah Complex, paradoxically, does not rely totally in the self-reflexive and where it does it's refreshingly self-deprecating - for example, he essentially describes his acting career as, "playing versions of myself - sometimes with a hat on."

The parallel theme of corrupting a message through a projected image (Guevara being a choice example of appropriation) allows Brand to tread some familiar territory on the subject of advertising, but with some conviction and insight. Riffing on Gillette's now infamous strap line "The best a man can get", Brand concludes: "If a product has a commercial, you don't need it."

Inevitably Brand brings everything back to him and, more accurately, the source of his power: his loins. The pyrotechnics, however, really come at the start of the gig where our 'messiah' (and very naughty boy) wades into the audience and flirts and charms his way, literally, through the rows of male and female fans. "I like you, can I come down your aisle?" he says to one lady. "Look at some of the decisions you have made with your hair," he says to another.

Both a tour de force and a tour de farce - tonight Russell Brand is clown, philosopher, critic, pundit, lover, cad - all things to all men and, of course, to all women - as if that was ever in doubt.

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