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Henry Rollins Doing Spoken Word Live: Punk, Poetry, Philosophy and, er, the Pretty!

Updated on August 4, 2012

Punks and Poets: Go See Henry Rollins Now!

Hallo, any other Henry Rollins fans out there? If you don’t know who I’m talking about, does the name Black Flag ring a bell? We’re talking about the original U.S. hardcore Washington D.C. punk hero who finally went solo, formed the Rollins band, starting doing spoken word shows, acting in movies, acting on TV and now is generally just your average unavoidable ubiquitous renaissance man. And the old silver fox, I’m happy to report, is funnier than ever! (And greyer than ever, too, but then we’re none of us getting any younger.)

Henry Rollins!

Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

I went to see old Henry do his spoken word thing at the O2 Academy in Leeds on 22nd January, 2010. There was some confusion about when he was due on stage, seemingly largely due to there being no advertised start time on tickets or advertising materials. Henry thought he was onstage at eight, and while I can't speak for the rest of the crowd, me and my other half were expecting him by seven at the latest. The cider was cold, the venue was colder, and if we'd been kept waiting any longer I, for one, would have broken out into a rendition of 'Why Are We Waiting?' Ever obliging and courteous, on finding this out Henry rolled out before us at around seven-thirty, to a forgiving and affectionate crowd. As always you'd have thought that Leeds was his very favourite spot in the world to fetch up in. I guess he manages that with every place on his itinerary, but it's still a cute trick.

Republicans Should Be Mocked On A Regular Basis

So what did his spoken word involve speaking about? I think it's safe to say that ole Hank has got a pretty political bent to his train of thought at this juncture. The Obama election and administration, freedom of speech, segregation of the sexes in Islamic countries, and white power activists all got a run in his train of thought at some point. Yes, with a few jokes thrown in there somehow! I do believe there were a few 'Aaaah's and 'Bless's when he admitted to shedding a few tears on the night of Obama's election.

I think the biggest laugh of the night was at the expense of Sarah Palin, the Vice President of some truly scary alternative American future. (Think about that for a moment. It could have happened...) I won't spoil you for it, but listen out for it because it's a riot. From start to finish Henry took us on a ride that included his first Damned gig, travels that seemed to include most of Asia, passing references to his old Fugazi buddy Ian Mackaye and his terrifying PA Heidi, and his speech to the graduating class of an American university.

Henry Rollins Sends Your Children Forth Into The World

This last was particularly touching and amusing. While those of us who follow his work have no trouble thinking of Henry Rollins as an 'elder statesman' of punk rock, it may be harder for grizzled academics to perceive our tattooed, ranting punker as a statesmanlike anything. Requested by the student body as the guest speaker for their graduation ceremony, I have no doubt he gave them a send-off into the world unlike anything any graduating class had experienced previously! (And no doubt that went for their professors too.)

Never seen Henry do the spoken word thing? Well, life is short, and it's one of those things that you just have to fit in sometime before you die. You've missed this tour. Don't miss the next one.


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