First things first: A warning. If you go to see Henry Rollins, you will need stamina.
The show I went to see on Friday started not long after 8pm, and we only just made it out of the car park before it closed at twelve. Henry talked without break and barely drawing breath for close to four hours. My poor brother, who accompanied me, thought it went for too long, but he had been driving for seven hours the previous day, and was very tired.
Me, I could happily have stayed there until he lost his voice. And you get the feeling he could have as well. The energy on stage was as high when he left as the moment he came on – with a minimum of fanfare, not even announced.
First he dealt with the inevitable – the election results. And how thrilled he was to see the results, and hoped we now had a government in powers that were afraid of the people and not the other way around. “And if it isn’t, kick them out when you get the chance”
He veered from a number of subjects – spending Christmas in Pakistan – the fallout from Buto’s assassination there, New Years in Tehran, having sex with a horse, fronting the Ruts, travel and how it broadens the mind, why he’ll never have children. He was awesome. Not in the “Hey Dude, that was Awesome” way, but in a “My God. The man has no fear. No limits” kind of way.
And of course, he does. That’s what makes it even more impressive. The man roamed the streets the day after Buto’s assassination. He saw a plume of smoke in the distance and hurried towards it, eager to see a riot in progress, and found only grief-stricken men burning tyres. He’s not fearless, but he refuses to live his life “Under a rock of fear” He’s made it his business to go to any country Bush tells him is evil, to see for himself if it is. He refuses to accept information given to him unless he goes out and verifies it for himself.
And then there’s way he looks – He’s built like the meatiest of gym bunnies, but without the ostentatiousness. His neck is as big as my waist. Even with the greyer hair, he looks nowhere near his age. He’s a force of nature, and you sit back in your seat and wonder at the energy, the contradictions and the life of this man who never, ever stands still.
Even the way he holds the microphone cord wrapped around his hand like boxing tape is defiant. He’s unique. Not so much a breath of fresh air as a Force Twelve gale ricocheting around the theatre, holding you captive and challenging your preconceptions.
It’s hard to describe exactly what Henry Rollins does. It’s not really comedy, although there are times when you think you’re going to pop a rib into one of your lungs. It’s not really prose, although some of it feels like it, wreathing around you like a mist. It’s spoken word, but it’s more than that. It’s an exercise in difference. It’s listening to a man who spends only thirty days at home every year, and would probably cut it down to zero if he could. Its hearing how this man can’t sit still, can’t turn down work, won’t stop until he can go know further. A man who describes his mission as “Making life RUN. I want life to celebrate the day I die because it spent all that time keeping up with me”
This is man, without doubt, who should be kept away from the Coffee pot.
I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t get something, even if it’s something small, out of a Henry Rollins show. Maybe a deep-seated conservative would get nothing out of it. But even if it’s just sitting in a room with a man who will make you struggle to keep hold of your beliefs, it’s worth it.
Go and see him, at least once, if you can. He might not change your life, but it’ll make you think.
And you’ll certainly sleep well that night. Henry Rollins is nothing if not exhausting.
**UPDATE** - Completely forgot to add that the show I attended was filmed for Movie Extra on Foxtel. If you get a chance, I believe it will be airing on the 23rd May. They're also releasing it on DVD. BUY IT.
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