Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, Hackney Empire, London

Julian Hall
Monday 04 October 2010 00:00
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They were once "two idiots dancing toward a canyon" and tonight Russell Brand, who coined that phrase on his last live tour, and Jonathan Ross were reunited publicly for the first time since Sachsgate.

Before Ross appeared, Brand read from the newest volume of his autobiography, My Booky Wook II: This Time It's Personal, but not without a bit of embroidery – albeit with fewer trademark "Brandiose" gestures.

"Don't expect too much Bacchanalia – it will be more like Alan Bennett" was Brand's warning, but initially the kind of talking head Brand was interested in was the development of his bouffant hairdo, likened in a cartoon to the ascent of man. "There's more hair in the air than is actually on my scalp," he exclaims at one follicular image.

The book is cursory on Sachsgate and so, it proved, was tonight's show. The first half's readings were dominated by email exchanges Brand had with his hero Morrissey. He likens the correspondence to Bosie and Wilde, but it's more Hinge and Bracket, with Morrissey over-the-top in his exaltation to Brand to teach the Americans something during Brand's stint hosting the MTV Awards. "I've never been," writes Morrissey, "but I am sure it's awful."

The charm of the first half wasn't matched by Ross's Q&A with Brand, in part because Brand seemed to have notched back up to manic mode. This befitted some of the spiritual platitudes that came from Brand, who maintained that both films and fame were "shit".

Already admitting that he misses stand-up, it's the live realm that is the solution to the fame and spirituality conundrum that Brand faces. He quotes playwright Howard Barker as saying "in the end there is nowhere left to go than where you are from". In a sense he has already achieved this by being at the Hackney Empire, site of some of his early triumphs.

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