There are only two types of people who know who Henry Rollins is: those who find him sage and those who find him ridiculous. Depending on which category one falls into, the idea of a “spoken word” tour by the famously intense (and shirtless) hardcore-come-jamrock icon seems either intriguing or befuddling, but Rollins has had plenty of time to perfect his performance, having taken the stage in such a manner for nearly 20 years now. The practice has paid off; Rollins captivates.
In person, Henry Rollins is everything his critics believe he is not: funny, self-deprecating, and articulate (and on this night, fully clothed). He is noticeably strong, but not the ripped hulk he comes off as on television; in fact, he is not at all what he appears to be on television. Speaking to a packed house at Deep Ellum, the “forty-something” singer/author/malcontent comes off as, well, pretty content. He mused about topics as diverse as the Iraq situation and the Ramones. Rollins mainly centered around one topic area through, interesting people and places he has encountered in the bizarre Hollyweird world he inhabits. The tale of how he landed in the film Bad Boys II is worth the admission alone. Rollins doesn't remind you of a burnt-out rock star, or you dad, but rather of a man striking up a conversation at a bus stop. Listening to him speak is less like taking in a speech or poetry reading and more like getting acquainted.
For a man best known for screaming a lot, Rollins’ tone in his performance is strikingly easy-going. He is speaking extemporaneously, and keeps the crowd laughing as if he were the host of a very large dinner party (though one with a lot of tattoos and swearing). There is a bit of seriousness and discussion of activism towards the end of his set, but by then the audience is already spellbound and thoroughly on his side. Rollins has been doing this long enough to have perfected the form; he neither sweats under the lights nor glances at his watch. He knows where he is going, and the audience, myself included, was all too happy to go along for the ride.
For a show featuring nothing more than a man standing onstage
talking, it is a credit to Rollins that boredom is not a factor at all
for the crowd. Though he talked for three and a half hours straight, it
feels like half that long. Afterwards, I genuinely felt as if I knew
Henry Rollins, the man, like if I had eaten dinner with him, or sat next to him at a
baseball game. Though the experience could have easily turned out to be
as lame as Karl Malone’s knees, the show lived up to its' (high) expectations
and then some. Whether you’re a casual, or die-hard Rollins fan or simply
like interesting stories along with frank, light-hearted discussion of current
events, you’ll not want to miss the man when he comes through your town.
There is, it would seem, only one type of person who has taken in a
Rollins spoken-word show: a fan.