I had the privilege of seeing Henry Rollins perform a spoken word show on June 15th at the beautiful Corona Theatre on Notre Dame Street West.
For two and a half hours, the former lead singer of Black Flag and the Rollins Band stood on a bare stage, legs akimbo, mic to his face punk-rock style, rarely ever breaking his pose. Never once did he take break, even for a sip of water, of which there was none present.
He started his show by briefly talking about the Montreal student demonstration without going into great detail. He did express his support of those who believe that education is an important right, rather than a privilege. More specifically, he noted that it was vital our society continue to strive to be better through available mechanisms, education in this instance, rather than traveling down the rabbit-hole of dumbing-down participants that make up society.
He turned his monologue to the cultural and political state of United States. From bath salts to homophobia to Planned Parenthood to American foreign policy, Rollins ran the gamut of what we can see as an interesting time for our neighbors to the south.
Rollins let us in on the joys of turning 50, and how it pains him when people tell him that he's made the halfway point of life ("What, are you Mr. Metric?!"), even when he knows the American average is in the 70s and that he's hit "field goal range".
"I'm not a workaholic... I'm a work slut"
Henry Rollins hasn't done much musically since 2002's Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three and the tour for that album, which I am so sorry I didn't get to see. That's not to say he hasn't been busy.
Besides the lengthy spoken word tours he embarks on, Henry Rollins runs his own music label and publishing company, 2.13.61 (named after his birth date), hosts a weekly radio show on Los Angeles radio station KCRW, hosted his own TV show on IFC, performed various voice-over work, has made numerous appearances in movies and TV shows. He seems to be interviewed for every punk documentary ever made (seriously, find me one he isn't in!). The self-proclaimed "work slut" tends to take any job offered to him, but as he mentioned during the show: "I say yes to employment, because inactivity will not do for me. I don't like sitting around. I don't want to watch the grass grow, I don't want to watch the parade, I want to be the damn parade". And so with that, he began describing his latest adventures as host for the National Geographic show Animal Underworld. From eating rats and drinking cow urine in India to wrestling alligators in the south, he entertained the crowd with stories from his latest adventures around the world. Especially amusing were the ways his cameraman would torment him, for example, making him drink the cow urine twice since "he didn't get the shot".
The show ended with two fascinating stories: one being a recent visit to North Korea and the other, Tibet. Both stories were somewhat disheartening considering what little you can do to help the locals while visiting. Lead around by North Korean guides, and fed propaganda during the entire visit, you got the feeling that a visit to that country was little more than a check mark on his bucket list of countries to visit. The story about his visit to Tibet involved watching Chinese soldiers bullying local Tibetans, and being powerless to help.
Henry Rollins is intense. This is not an overstatement. This is what makes him a compelling a story-teller. His show was a non-stop battering wave of statements, anecdotes and experiences, bursting with both humor and gravity that never ebbed, enticing listeners to want to hear more. This was my second time seeing Rollins perform his spoken word, and I wouldn't hesitate to see him a third time.