The arena lights dim. The audience for The Henry Rollins Spoken Word Tour, presented by AEG Live and The Carolina Theatre of Durham, begins to cheer. ROL-LINS, ROL-LINS, ROL-LINS. A guitar screeches; the volume is almost unbearable. A fog of cannabis creeps across the room as Henry Rollins kicks in a brick wall and comes bursting onto the stage amid the flames and sweat and rage. A veritable god of rock and roll Valhalla has emerged.
That’s what it felt like when Henry Rollins crossed the stage in The Carolina Theatre last Sunday night. Armed with only a microphone, Rollins is real rock star. Or at least he once was. He’s best known as the replacement lead vocalist for California-based hardcore punk band Black Flag, with whom he performed from 1981 to 1986. In the mid-1980s, Rollins began recording spoken-word albums; and he continued to release them while his new project, the on-again/off-again Rollins Band, rocked on until its final disbanding in 2003.
Rollins has made guest appearances on a multitude of TV shows, including MTV’s Jackass, Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, and FX’s Sons of Anarchy, as well as providing voiceover performances on Fox’s American Dad!, Warner Bros.’ Batman Beyond, and Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra.
A blogger, radio host, author, video-game character, and social justice activist, Henry Rollins is more than just a hardcore rocker or Grammy Award-winning spoken word artist (1995 Best Spoken Word Recording, Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag). He is a poet.
For two and a half hours Sunday, Henry Rollins spoke: part monologue, part political speech, part stand-up comedy — he spoke almost without breath, never sitting, never taking a single sip of water. He pulled the audience into an alternate, stream-of-consciousness dimension of hyper, spitting, and kinetic preaching. Even with his hardcore persona, and intensely imposing physique, Rollins was as polite and “clean” as any performer has been. He swore only once in the whole evening and steered clear of sex and drugs, favoring rock-and-roll as his main topic.
He started off with some crowd pleasing statements bashing Governor Pat McCrory and the controversial HB2 law which, Rollins argued, blatantly discriminates against members of the transgender community. He brings two perspectives that are often portrayed as mutually exclusive — a gay rights activist on one hand, and a pro-military USO performer on the other.
Clear about his liberal leanings, Rollins spoke on a variety of political issues, but rarely about the current election (cue an audible sigh of relief from the crowd). He demanded that the audience “upgrade” before his next return: supporting the community from within, taking the responsibility away from the politicians and Doing Good on our own.
Stories poured out of him: an eye-opening journey to see the effects of Global Warming in Antarctica, standing in stunned silence as David Bowie walked past him at a rock festival, watching a dying Joey Ramone watch a documentary about Joey Ramone, being mistaken for RuPaul’s boyfriend while out shopping, and going on CNN to accuse the network of making pro-Iraq War propaganda.
This engaging, inspiring, infuriating, and hilarious evening of storytelling and sociopolitical oration began its tour in Australia last month, and continues to sweep across the United States. Seven nights in Los Angeles are already sold out, and Rollins will wrap up the tour in Florida next January.
When Henry Rollins brings his political act back to North Carolina, let’s hope that North Carolina has gotten its own political act together.
THE HENRY ROLLINS SPOKEN WORD TOUR (The Carolina Theatre of Durham, Oct. 16 in Fletcher Hall).
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://henryrollins.com/video.
Henry Rollins (Washington, DC-born musician, actor, comedian, and broadcaster): http://henryrollins.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0738433/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/officialhenryrollins (Facebook page), http://twitter.com/henryrollins (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Rollins (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing o n it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment He can also be found via his official Facebook page and on Twitter @dkbritt85.