An evening with Henry Rollins

Last night J and I went to see Henry Rollins give a spoken word performance locally.

For those of you with no time to click the link above, Mr Rollins is a punk rock singer, publishing company owner, actor and tour de force.

It was hard for me to reconcile the grey haired, amiable looking chap wearing smart black trousers and a black t-shirt with the man I've seen pictured in countless rock magazines, spittle foaming and veins bulging, hunched over the microphone. You get a sense of the condition of the man as he animates to illustrate a tale - you can discern the outline of thighs that could crack walnuts, even in this, his 50th year.

Seeing Rollins in the flesh - shame on me, I've never seen him sing - made me feel a little... awkward. He has this stance from spending 30 years looking down a microphone. Back slightly bent, he looks almost like an awkward teenager. He grips the microphone so hard I could see the whites of his knuckles from the 8th row back, but it's us who are in for the thrill tonight.

I knew we were going to laugh last night, and laugh we did. Rollins name checked everyone from George W. Bush and John McCain to Matt Groening and Dennis Hopper. He does a mean accent (especially his Dubya!) and is prone to noisy sound effects that - thanks to the huge stack of speakers either side of him - throw you back in your seat to avoid the blast. He's self-deprecating and humble, and brutally aware how other people view America.

He tells you of his travels and the people he met there. India, New York, North Korea and Vietnam are some of the places he touches upon. Hearing about far-flung places is a joy if you have wanderlust, as I do. He talks circles around us all - literally. He starts off at one point, and 20 minutes or so later he arrives back at his starting point via numerous other hilarious asides and you think 'Ah, yes, that's where we were going.' 

I first glanced at the clock and an hour and 15 minutes had passed. My bladder, which is normally the size of a hamster's, slammed shut and told me 'Nah-uh bitch, you're not missing a second of this.' 

Mr R actually spoke for 2 and a half hours, and it felt like mere minutes. I dread to think what would've happened had this man not discovered his talent with words. In his summarising couple of paragraphs, we got to see the real Henry Rollins, and you see that all the comedy is there to mask the giant heart of the man. 

As he finished up (and I'll paraphrase this) he told us Governments don't want us to travel. If we travel, we meet the people on the 'don't go to' country lists our Governments tell us are terrible and dangerous, and we see they are filled with lovely, good people just like you and I. They don't want us to see that, because they want us to buy into the 'They are all evil' bullshit so they can undertake their fake wars. He told us that's why he does this - travels to places and comes to tell people about it, so we can know what he knows. But better - he tells us to go out there and experience it for ourselves.

And then, whilst your face and ribs still hurt from the sum of previous laughter, he's gone from the stage, the lights go out, and you realise THIS is where we were going all evening. Rather than feeling we've come to this point of enlightenment via subterfuge, we realise the rest is all distraction. Rollins is a master wordsmith and the previous 2 and a half hours were nothing but education via laughter so we could come to this point and see he is right. And he is. He didn't get to see his standing ovation, but it led me to believe he touched others the way he touched me. (Man, that sounds so wrong!)

As we all spilled out into the cold winter night, I couldn't help but think we'd all seen something wonderful and - dare I say it - life-changing.

I can't help but look at life through different glasses - it has been a bit of well-needed perspective about what really matters in life. If you ever get the chance to see Henry Rollins speak, for God's sake (or any other deity you choose) get yourself some tickets.


  1. Sounds wonderful. You should do PR for Mr Rollins and this tour :o)

  2. Thanks. It was nice to find something to be enthused about :) It's been a while. As you know, you have to pick your 'battles' when you're ill, so it's rare I have the energy to get really enthusiastic about anything these days.

    If I could find him on Twitter I'd send it to him so he can see how he much he touched me, but I can't, as he's probably far too busy cramming experiences in to be tweeting ;)

  3. I had this whole shebang typed up from my phone...ugh, needless to say, it was lost :(
    So, here I go again...let's see if I can re-create the genius :)

    I have ALWAYS been amazed by ROLLINS. From musical performer, to writer, to spoken word...

    He is everything I've ever wanted in a human being rolled into one sweet sweet package. He's funny, savvy, honest, traveled, musically-inclined, smart, strong, and above all...passionate.
    All the "first-timers" I've ever taking to one of his performances...all were in awe. They walked out of there just enthralled with him. I could literally listen to him speak for days on end. He is such a captivating speaker.
    He had me hooked when I started reading his books. He touched my soul, and I've never looked back from that. He would shock me with things he wrote. It's just how I felt or what I had said or thought. I read one, then another, and another. I wanted more. So, that's how he owns me, heart and soul. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time. I had no doubt you would. Any chance I get to stalk him, I sure do, absolutely. <3

    --Cyn "MG"

  4. I'm a fully bought up member of his imaginary fan club (Does he have a real one?! Must check). I want to get all his books next. He is a whole bunch of contradictions neatly parcelled up. Because he's so humble, I doubt he knows just how bloody awesome he is. NOW I see why he's such a machine - there just ain't enough of the man to go around. We need Rollins clones!

    Oh, btw, have your eyes peeled for an upcoming collaboration between Rollins and Nat Geo. I shit you not. It's about the interaction between man and beast and sees him eating rat in Southern India and going to a Pentecostal church in the US where they dance with poisonous snakes, amongst other things. Can't wait to see it!