Henry Rollins is a self-proclaimed “work slut.” Best known for his contributions to the punk-rock canon via his stint in the genre-defining Black Flag, Rollins brings the same legendary intensity that made his tenure in Black Flag so memorable to everything he does. (Notable examples include his writing career and his sadly defunct IFC talk show.) These days, Rollins travels the world professionally and tours behind his spoken-word performances. Friday saw his first spoken-word appearance in South Florida since 2010’s “Frequent Flyer” tour.
Those familiar with the brooding intensity of Henry’s written works might assume his performances contain embittered rhetoric about the plight of humankind or other similarly vitriol-laced invectives. However, Friday’s show at Revolution was generally free of the venom most associate with him. While his brand of spoken-word does include social commentary — alongside punk-rock memoir, travelogue, and stand-up comedy — the final package feels more like an exercise in optimism than anger. Moreover, Henry seems acutely aware of such expectations when he spotlights his positive outlook, saying things like, “Maybe my thoughts are slathered in patchouli oil looking for a hacky–sack to kick” or “I’m not a hippie, I just want this country to be really rocking.”
The Rollins of 2012′s the “Long March” is still incredibly intense. But age seems to have tempered his former “search and destroy” approach to life, transforming it into more of a lust for living. While Rush Limbaugh’s most recent transgressions against women did elicit a well-timed jab or two, the majority of the evening felt much more like catching up with an old friend than a politically charged sermon. Rollins made his audience feel welcome and appreciated, acknowledging the uncomfortable seating and thanking us for spending our Friday night with him. This is the just-as-real, though oft-overlooked side of Henry Rollins: a disarmingly funny and charming guy, who happens to have a gift for story-telling.
Friday, Henry’s tales further revealed the worldly individual many of us have gotten to know through much of his recent work: He’s traveled to places most Americans cannot or will not go, like Cuba and Vietnam. He’s hunted for venomous snakes and eaten barbecued rats in India. He’s met some of the former Ugandan child soldiers currently blowing up your Facebook feed. And he recently filmed a series about the animal underworld for National Geographic. He’s like the punk-rock Anthony Bourdain.
In addition, Black Flag fans were treated to stories highlighting the dangers of a proper, vintage hardcore-punk show. Stories included a large man’s stage-dive robbing a young woman of her eyeball forever, parking-lot stabbings, and a time the members of Black Flag were forced by management to dole out advice to a young Metallica waiting backstage after one of their sets.
Rollins’ energy kept audiences engaged throughout the loquacious two-and-a-half-hour performance. Both entertaining and inspiring, each story and anecdote of the set peeled away at a man who’s seen and experienced more in 51 years than many people could in two lifetimes. Lucky for fans, that means we can expect a lot more to come.
By David Von Bader