Pictorial: Henry Rollins spoken word, O2 Academy

Posted on 21 January 2010
By Amy Roberts and Sakura
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Henry Rollins is a man who easily divides opinion. For every legion of die-hard Rollins disciple, there’s also a legion of die-hard haters, banging their heads against tables in sheer revulsion to a man they see as nothing but a self-indulgent, wide necked pillock.

Nonetheless, whichever side of the Rollins border you stand, there’s no denying that he’s an incredibly engaging and passionate bloke with a helluva tale to tell. I mean, come on, the man fronted Black Flag for a good five years, counts Ian ‘Fugazi / Minor Threat’ Mackaye AND William fucking Shatner as close friends and has probably done a great deal more advocacy for a number of human rights issues in the past ten years than braindead Bush even attempted to think about in his entire 8 years in clown office.

In short – there’s very few men who can hold the undivided attention of an entire venue of people for two and half hours by talking non-stop. No interval. Rollins doesn’t even take a sip of water, or a breath for the whole of that time. Most people zone out just hearing their other halves saying hello to them – nevermind a whole sermon.

The set is as you’d expect it to be. Full of cutting witticisms observing the constant fuckeries, idiocy and inadequacies of global politcs and personal anecdotes, all expressed with a candor of passion and warmth that is incredibly engaging.

He begins with a piece about freedom of speech, leading him into an anecdote about once having a book censored for writing something derogatory about Sting, concerning the droll self-important singers attempts to save Willie Mandela’s cat from a tree with fellow meat head, Bono.

He peppers the set with wonderfully personal anecdotes about spending Thanksgiving (i.e. ‘the fake holiday’) with The Shatners’, replete with a now customary Shatner impression, having a hall full of rowdy pepped-up graduates bust open their gowns to reveal Black Flag t-shirts following what sounded like the most motivational graduate speech in the World as well as the time him and Ian Mackaye forged fake ID’s to go see an early Bad Brains performance.

When Rollins isn’t going on about his personal life, odd turns of career and confusedly lusting after ‘beautiful, long legged drag queens’ during his cameo as guest host for Ru-Paul’s Drag Race, he’s delivering verbal pummeling’s towards some of politics most easily targeted villains. Most notable is his biting onslaught against Sarah Palin, describing the joyless, pump-pump-squirt boning between her and her husband in order to procreate ‘more white people’ – ‘why the fuck else would anyone think they NEED to have 5 children?’ he muses, wryly, pointing out that Palin is ‘constant, comedy gold’ for her constant idiocies.

Where Rollins properly shines though, is when he really gets into his politics, touching topics usually made quite inaccessible to the masses for their sheer harrowing nature, and the heavy handed way with which they’re reported. Insightful and invigorating, his experiences lead into strikingly impassioned tales and rants ranging from the union carbide disaster of Bhopal in 1984 – the toxins of which still pollute the groundwater in the area, to this day – to the extreme inequalities of Sharia Law.

Engrossing, educational, often hilariously self-deprecating and deadpan, Rollins’ performance is one of rare substance, structure and intrigue. Catch him if you can – just make sure you take a good cushion along – two and half hours sat rapt on the edge of a very unforgivingly plastic chair is no holiday on the heiney. True story.

Photos By Sakura: http://rockphotographer.net/
Official Website: http://21361.com/