I’ll whisper it. Russell Brand has gone soft on us.
Yes, you heard correctly. The sex-crazed, foul-mouthed, ex-drug abuser has apparently run out of scandals to shout about and, frankly, lost that shock factor.
Now maybe it is because the comedian-turned actor’s hedonistic lifestyle is finally catching up with him as he nears the ‘Big 4-0’. Perhaps he is still fragile after the collapse of his marriage to pop star Katy Perry or scarred from the Sachsgate telephone message row.
But I doubt it. The long-haired lothario is full of swagger as he saunters onto the Birmingham Symphony Hall stage.
His confidence is still there.
As is the same boastful attitude to his renowned nefarious past. His ego is still intact.
More likely to be the reason behind the lack of ‘mojo’ to his Round-the-World tour of Messiah Complex, is the fact that he continues to talk (a lot) but actually says nothing.
A capacity audience last night witnessed a meagre repackaging of the same ‘libertarian’ act that he has been performing for the past decade with the addition of a pretentious new title and a storyline that goes nowhere.
The formula: A fistful of swear words here, a crude animal sex reference there, and mixed with a dose of high pitched shrieks to finish it off.
Here was an audience pining for scandal. Licking their lips as they sat down at the table of controversy to see what dish the Duke of Depravity would serve up. Unfortunately, they went hungry.
In his 78 minutes on stage he conjured up 81 F-bombs, half a dozen C-words and called David Cameron some nasty names.
And apart from reciting some anti-capitalist, conspiracy theorist hogswash that he had memorised from a copy of the Socialist Worker, that was about it. It was hardly innovative, daring or brave.
Yes, the language was obscene. Yes, the content was lewd. But is was safe. Safe because we’ve seen it all before.
For all the anarchic fistpumps as Brand slated profiteering corporations, the message seemed to get lost in translation as he expected his audiences to pay £20 for a tour T-shirt, £7 for a mug, and £3 for his picture on the way out. But that’s champagne socialism for you. The ‘Messiah Complex’ show is loosely based on how he compares himself to historical figures. But despite the long-winded explanations where Brand tries to splutter as many long words as possible in one breath, the build-ups climax in tenuous absurdity.
It picked up laughs – but they were largely at a cheap swear word or random sexual reference. If you are going to brand yourself on breaking taboos and a mix of controversy, you should at least deliver.
In truth, once you claw back the pretension, it really is no more than adolescent playground humour. Brand is at Symphony Hall tonight and at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on November 28.
By Rob Golledge