Russell Brand did not disappoint his fans. They had turned out in their hundreds to see the comedian despite the allegations of serious sexual misconduct levelled against him, strenuously denied by the comedian, and their solidarity was rewarded by his defiance.
Rather than allowing an elephant to linger in the room the comedian immediately addressed the controversy, which might have reasonably been expected to lead to the cancellation of his performance. Rather than awkwardness, there was an atmosphere of more or less uproarious support.
Greeted by a standing ovation after stepping onstage to a packed house at Wembley Park Theatre, he said:
“I really appreciate your support. I love you, I appreciate you.
“There are a lot of things I want to talk about, that I can’t talk about. I’m sure you’ll understand.
“I love you all already.”
This earned another cheer from the crowd, while a middle-aged woman sitting in the crowded auditorium held aloft a placard urging fans to “Stand by Russell”, wearing a t-shirt with the same slogan scrawled across it.
“Support for Russell” was the theme of the night, during a set in which the most political and anti-authoritarian perforations earned the biggest applause.
In the build-up to the show there was little sense of suspense as hundreds of fans awaited the arrival of Brand, whose delayed entrance was put down to “traffic”, according to staff.
Young and old, men and women, filed into Wembley Park Theatre to form a crowd as diverse as it was excited, despite the controversy hanging over the entertainer.
There was no sign of protest outside, and inside, those attending the show were always confident it would go ahead, without any intervention by either Brand or the venue.
Queues for the stall selling Brand merchandise were briefly as long as those for the bar and the hotdog stand: fans could purchase Brand-branded t-shirts, mugs, water bottles and notepads marked with the word “Community” (the name a festival he drives in hay on Wye) and his frequently used crow symbols.
Some attended in glamorous attire, others sported the colours of Brand’s favourite football club, West Ham.
Late, but welcomed with rapturous applause, Brand launched quickly into his set, with jokes about fatherhood and a tirade against the establishment.
“Never trust authority in any circumstances,” he told the roaring crowd, later critiquing “top down elitist control”, and calling for people to “fight the power”.
There was a chorus of cheers when he spoke against Covid vaccines, the subject of many of his YouTube videos, and after speeches made in the rhythm of a spoken-word poet on subjects ranging from spiritual awakening through drug use to the authoritarianism of traffic lights.