Review: Russell Brand: Messiah Complex
Venue: York Barbican, March 14
With a title like “Messiah Complex” you naturally anticipate the irreverence coming. Without adequate insight you might soon be swimming in a pool of shock.
This is Russell Brand, and even with his recent triumphant demolishing of Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight fresh in your mind, you really can’t know what to expect.
Inside a rammed auditorium, in the former capital of England, a stone’s throw from its historical walls, there’s an ever-building buzz of anticipation.
Support act Mr Gee uses poetry to entice an already hungry audience. He’s an incredible poet, and funny, who leaves you feeling moved, provoked somehow.
And before you know it a vast incomprehensible expectation is brilliantly interrupted when a breathtaking video sequence explodes onto the screen, a collage of life through the centuries up to the saddening destructiveness of the modern age.
You see conquests, conflicts, a world engulfed by climate change, war, corporate greed, politics. It’s the history of the world, and it affects you, quite profoundly.
Whether you have come for insightful political comedy or spiritual enlightenment (and you might find you get a serious dose of both), what you get is a confident Russell Brand, strutting theatrically and magically onto the stage, wearing signature leather trousers and a pristine white suit jacket, and what looked like rosary beads.
He brings a zany, raw, uncomfortable kind of humour; political, in depth, controversial, but real, and delivered with zest and accomplishment.
Full of energy, Brand does not fail to make you laugh hard and his set is delivered with power.
This is a man who overcame a heroin addiction. Given the context of that journey, you can’t help but feel inspired by the eloquence of his words, the depth and meaning of his messages and his ability to engage with people.
You actually feel awe watching such an accomplished wordsmith deliver with such detail and flow.
Barely 60 seconds in and he sets about the crowd, scoping the “Yorkshire folk”, asking for the lights to be turned up so he can see their “beautiful faces”.
Pretty quickly he reminds you that you are in York: “There’s not much old around here!” he mocks… “And what’s that castle on a hill? What’s that about?”
It unleashes a roar of laughter, the York crowd immediately warming to his charm. But he hasn’t even started with politics, or Ghandi, Malcom X, Che Guevara, or Jesus, not to mention, Adolf Hitler. That was still to come.
This was never for the faint hearted. I regret to have to mention his attention to detail when pointing out the most prominent feature of a cat!
It was heartwarming at times to see the joy he got from elaborating with the Yorkshire accent, albeit a bit weird watching him browse through the York Press, highlighting the recent news
“There’s a story about a mad parrot? We’re on the precipice of a global holy war and a mad parrot is news.”
Amidst the rapturous applause you are confronted by the ideologies of Russell Brand’s thinking. He is a genius in his own right.
He overcame great adversity, he’s talking about real things, belief systems, philosophy, he’s educating audiences. He taught us that 147 corporate giants control half the wealth in the world.
You are just about processing it all when he does a really bad Michael Jackson moonwalk impression while admitting “I can’t do the moonwalk. But you can trust me to baby sit.”
This is a comedian that questions why the world holds him to account over comments about Hugo Boss making Nazi uniforms rather than the company who made them in the first place.
If aliens ever came to earth, Russell would definitely be ashamed to take them to his leader David Cameron. But he would definitely make them laugh.
An intelligent human being and a funny guy who will give you more than a few laugh lines and more to think about than you might have imagined. Everyone needs a hero.