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Russell Brand: Comedian appears distracted at gig but gets ovation from fans

British comedian and actor Russell Brand walks outside the Wembley Park Theatre, in northwest London
Saturday's performance at Wembley Park Theatre was Brand's first public appearance since allegations against him were published

"There are obviously some things that I absolutely cannot talk about and I appreciate that you will understand."

Russell Brand was addressing a crowd of 2,000 of his fans at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, part of his Bipolarisation tour - but this was no normal show for the comedian-turned wellness guru.

Hours earlier, the 48-year-old had been accused of rape, sexual assaults and emotional abuse in a joint investigation by the Sunday Times, the Times and Channel 4's Dispatches.

Brand had already strenuously denied the allegations in a video posted on his YouTube account. But his appearance at the sold-out show in north-west London was the first time he'd been seen in public since the claims were published.

Before the show began, I was almost certain it would be cancelled.

Then there was an announcement that Brand was on his way to the venue, having been caught in traffic, and we waited.

In the crowd, a woman held a large piece of paper, the top line of which read: "We stand by you." She asked security to make sure it was given to the comedian.

Brand's fans could be heard expressing their hatred of the mainstream media, using language that is unpublishable here.


Russell Brand allegations


Then the show began, shortly after 20:00, an hour later than the scheduled start time.

Brand walked on-stage to the track "You Don't Own Me", a 1960s feminist anthem performed by American singer-songwriter Lesley Gore.

"I appreciate you, I appreciate you," he said, apologising for his lateness, which he blamed on a traffic jam.

Dressed in dark skinny jeans, a dark shirt and a dark jacket, he said to the audience: "You came."

After asking them not to film, he said: "I really appreciate your support, I love you, I want to do a fantastic show for you.

"I've got a lot of things to talk to you about. There are obviously some things that I absolutely cannot talk about and I appreciate that you will understand."

The laughter followed.

"I love you lot already. I'm going to give you everything I've got, let's go."

Brand on stage at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
During his set, which lasted about an hour, Brand alluded to the accusations but did not address them directly

Brand started the gig with gusto and enthusiasm.

He told stories of trying to be a normal dad to his children, who he'd been teaching to question authority, interspersing his performance with video clips.

But he appeared distracted throughout. In the second half of the show he constantly referred to pieces of paper. At times it appeared he had lost his place, when he would resort to talking about "freedom", "transcendence" and "authority".

But he forged ahead and the show ended with a standing ovation lasting a few minutes. He seemed touched by the gesture before leaving the stage.

The crowd exited and seemed happy, until they encountered the cameras and paparazzi outside.

"We should kick you off your ladder," was one of the comments made in their direction.

Brand has more performances scheduled around the country in the coming weeks and months - time will tell if they will go ahead.