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This is here

8 Feb

Insightful, informed, articulate. If this was Jeopardy!, who would really go with “What is a punk rock frontman”? Probably only those who have witnessed the crafty spoken word performance of wordsmith Henry Rollins. Having graduated from the gritty stages that Black Flag and The Rollins Band toured many moons ago, Henry has been “getting intense on the mic” for a few years now without the help of those angry vocals his fans knew and loved him for. What you see before you when you go to a Henry Rollins show today is a rock icon that delivers anecdotes, stories and thoughts with the kind of clarity you’d want some of your country’s leaders to have. The topics range from politics and music to Henry’s travel, friends, versatile work engagements like National Geographic documentaries or his role in Sons of Anarchy to the hair-raising stories about his “time at the office” where he is joined by an assistant referred to only as “The Demon”.

Henry Rollins @ Gloria Theater, image courtesy of henryrollins.com

If you’ve never been to one of these spoken word shows, there are three things to keep in mind. 1. You will be laughing out loud. 2. You will feel intense pain as your body and the usually quite uncomfortable seating fight it out for three hours. 3. You will only get to experience and cherish memories of 1. and 2. if you act fast as Henry sells out pretty quickly. As I am a veteran Henry-goer, I scored my ticket early for this last tour – or rather, my veteran Henry-goer ally scored it for me. So off we went to the Gloria Theater in Cologne which sounded pretty glorious at first but still managed to greet us with said rock-hard chairs. However, I knew from the start it would be worth it. So in I went and down I sat, looking forward to being mesmerized for that bitter sweet eternity.

The thing with Henry is: he really keeps his promises. He answers e-mails in a flash, he doesn’t forget those less fortunate and he always comes to town with an amazing amount of stories you really want to hear. This last week, Henry told us about his travels to India, where he discovered the culinary delight that is rat’s liver; his trip to North Korea, where nothing is as it seems and humor is misunderstood; and his trip to Haiti, where soap and footballs made the eyes of children light up with delight. He also told us about visiting Tibet, where the sad faces of the people under Chinese surveillance made him appreciate the trial and error English of his guide as a philosophical notion. After all, saying “This is here” upon arrival at a sightseeing destination is pretty existential stuff, when you take the time to think about it.

Henry also talked about the numerous biographies written – or not written – by former president bush and his associates, his work with Drop in the Bucket, screaming a Frank Booth impersonation at Dennis Hopper and his ladder-buying experiences at the hell that is CostCo with “The Demon”, whose actual name is Heidi. While all these anecdotes are truly entertaining, the thing that makes Henry stand out of the wordsmith crowd is his talent to story-arch back and forth, effortlessly weaving and intertwining the plots until you’re left with a neatly packaged Henry experience that will stay with you long after you leave the venue. And when a sweaty Mr. Rollins exits the stage after 180 minutes of an intense verbal roller-coaster ride and a standing ovation or two, you can bet everything you have on the fact that you are going home with a few blown synapses and a smile. Inspiring stuff. If you’re punk-rock enough for it.

Find out more about Henry, The Demon and the tour here!