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Russell Brand, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review with pictures

By James Driver-Fisher | Entertainment | Published:

Russell Brand knows how to command a room. He may be sporadic, off the wall and 100mph – but he commands a room.

Russel Brand

He’s never going to win everyone over with his ultra-liberal political views, his hatred for everything capitalist – which even he admits is hard to adopt as he walks around with an iPhone – and his belief no-one in politics is truly worth voting for.

But he does have an army of avid followers and watching him perform at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham last night it was almost like watching some sort of Messiah enter the room – and his disciples just lapped it up.

And when the tabloids, Fox News and even Donald Trump are going out of their way to belittle you, it usually means you’re on to something.

How to actually change the world, however, is another matter altogether and, after fashionably arriving on stage for his Re:Birth tour 15 minutes late, he soon delved into the topsy-turvy nature of his existence, why he finds it hard to follow his own principals and how the world is simply populated with bizarre people who do crazy things – and that includes all of us.

Russel Brand. Photo by: James Driver-Fisher

Two main subjects were covered by Brand during his interesting, sometimes electric, sometimes excruciatingly funny and always wayward performance.

They were his new book, Recovery, which looks at all forms of addiction and how combat them, and the birth of his daughter, Mabel.

Before he bounded on to the stage, the audience was treated to some to clips from his favourite enemies, with little tit-bits from the tabloids and Fox slamming him alongside some weird and wonderful clips from the 1950s that revealed the genuine advice women were given during pregnancy at the time.

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Brand perhaps explained how his new take on life, and how he battled back from his sex addiction, was made easier once he had seen his partner give birth.

He used the metaphor of a woman producing another woman, like a series of Russian dolls going back in history to when time began. Well, his explanation was slightly different but that’s the edited version.

Russel Brand. Photo by: James Driver-Fisher

There were also serious moments, like when he asked the 60 per cent of the crowd who were not happy in their job to cheer, and then explained how, statistically, 28 per cent of the room would also suffer from mental illness.

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He didn’t ask anyone to cheer that one but he did then talk about how he was diagnosed bipolar disorder in his early 20s and was prescribed drugs to treat it.

The only problem was he was using crack cocaine and heroin at the time so his new medication didn’t stand a chance. He made light of it but the message was a serious one.

There then followed some painfully funny moments of audience participation – involving peanut butter and radiators, I’ll say no more – before he walked up and down the aisles and, without any prompting, was simply mobbed for hundreds of hugs from his adoring fans.

Russel Brand. Photo by: James Driver-Fisher

Following the interval, which he spent signing copies of his book and posing for photographs, he focussed on being present at the water birth with his partner, Laura Gallacher.

Can’t really repeat any of that but he then humbly thanked the crowd for coming along because, as he explained, it can be hard to find work in the media when you spend all day slagging it off.

There was also a clip of an early interview he had outside Downing Street with a reporter after being asked by a group of women whose flats were under threat from developers to help them fight the plans.

It was at this point he really showed how capable his is laughing at his own flaws as he described his poor interview technique and how he wouldn’t shut up – even going all ‘Danny Dyer’ at one point – while one of the ladies, Lindsay, remained the true hero of the day. Plus they kept their homes.

Russel Brand. Photo by: James Driver-Fisher

Finally, there was time to look back at his now famous interview with Jeremy Paxman and chatting to Ed Milliband on the edge of his bed during the then Labour leader's failed election campaign as he ‘tried to topple the government from his flat’, as he put it.

Russell Brand is not for everyone and this show is quite simple. If you hate him, don’t go; if you’re unsure, it’s worth checking out; and if you love him, you’ll love this tour.

James Driver-Fisher

By James Driver-Fisher

Entertainment and food reviewer for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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