- ‘I own this room.’ attitude
- Mastering crowd control
- Astonishing eloquence
Erica and I went to see this man perform at the Opera House at the end of last year. It was an experience. And then some.
The audience was an interesting mix. I was a tad surprised by the age diversity, with grey hair in abundance, a scattering of Goths and some Russell Brand lookalikes along with a buzzing blend of ages and stages all awaiting the wit and wiles of Mr Brand.
Brand arrives on stage to a booming soundtrack and stands, warrior like, head thrown back, hands on hips while accepting the applause and cheers of the 2000+ crowd. In the first seconds his energy, posture and attitude screamed ‘I own this room.’
He opened with classic comedic technique, getting a huge laugh in the first 20 seconds. “I arrived at the airport with everyone asking ‘… got any fruit? Got any fruit? Got any fruit? No fruit! Any fruit? No fruit allowed! Got any fruit? Fruit? Fruit? Fruit?’ ” Pause “and then I discover everyone is on meth! Perhaps you’re focusing on the wrong thing.”
Russell is hyper articulate, with his high velocity barrage of words battering us continually as he riffs and plays with the audience (he walked amongst us) for 20 minutes before getting back on stage. He went super-sexual very quickly and his boundaries are seemingly non-existent with people, both men and women, clamouring to hug or kiss him… yet the people he didn’t want near him he kept away and under control. His masterful engagement and crowd control capability was clinically efficient.
His one-hour set is a tour de force of manic intensity as he takes us through stories from his life of notably embarrassing events. Self-deprecation at it’s finest…
The sub-text is Revolution. His contention is that the world is run by a tiny group of corrupt and manipulative mega-rich who corral and contain us with indentured ‘slavery’, distracting us with trinkets and circuses and ‘teaching’ us to despise our bodies and our lives as we stumble through from birth to death. Born, consume, die.
His eloquence is astounding. His vocal delivery is a mix of rap, syncopation, Shakespearian soliloquies and crisp story telling. His solipsism is unabashed but self-aware. He knows he is a clown and a contradiction. He owns the stage, owns the room and owns the full attention of everyone present.
He struts and bounds around the stage, head thrown back, microphone held high as he rants and screams and rages. He is angry at the world and yet he delights in it. He consistently refers to unbridled desire, saying things like ‘… now there might be some women here who might want to sleep with me tonight. You can you know. I’m staying at the Intercontinental.’ It’s bewildering and shocking because he is sincere. He balances his intensity and shock value with grounded self-deprecation and Essex humour easing back and forth between staccato intensity and laconic reflection. He is a master of energy management through voice (sudden changes in pace and pitch), physicality (full expression with whole body engagement) and unpredictability (you have to keep watching).
Brand looks like a mad Jesus and the messianic complex is evident. He claims the revolution is imminent and he invites us to play. Oh, and he will lead the way, of course…
He closes to a standing ovation. The lyrics of “My Sweet Lord” blares out as he descends into the crowd to be swamped with hugs and touches as his devotees surround him with adoring (and lustful) looks on their rapt faces. We were not sure who needed it more, his fans or Brand.
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