Henry Rollins @ Geelong Performing Arts Centre

[Wrote this back in February soon after seeing the show. Never got around to posting it anywhere. Was reminded of it recently upon the arrival of four Rollins spoken word CDs that I ordered from his publishing company, so here it is.]

Henry Rollins, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, “Twenty Five Years of Bullshit” Tour, Jan. 31st 2006

Henry Rollins is touring Australia and New Zealand doing spoken word as part of the Big Day Out. He was added to the bill late in the piece when several other bands pulled out or, as he put it, when they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is only the second time he’s done spoken word at an actual music festival.

And like many of the BDO bands, he’s doing side shows, but not in the places you’d expect. This time, it’s the regional centres like Geelong and Byron Bay. This guy could fill the Palais or even the Concert hall, but he chose this time around to keep it small. Either that or the other venues were booked!

The Geelong Performing Arts Centre is actually a nice venue, and this evening was almost completely full of people from Melbourne, despite being out of town on a Tuesday night.

Henry Rollins is a person of interest. In these paranoid times, a tattooed man sitting on a plane, highlighting passages from a book called “Jihad” (written by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, and on the New York Times best seller list for months) is considered suspicious, at least by the idiot sitting next to him on the plane. Thankfully the woman given his case at the Department of Foreign Affairs was a fan, so she wasn’t offended when Henry told her “fuck you, and tell your boss fuck you as well!” But now he’s on the official list as a Person of Interest.

Henry’s been at this a long long time, as the stream of spoken word albums shows, and is a fantastic performer. His shtick is still the same – angry old rock guy yells at you for two hours. And somehow he never seems to repeat himself.

The audience consisted mostly of angry suburban white boys, here to see the Uber Angry suburban white boy. He wraps the mic cord around his hand three times, like he always does, strikes a pose, and starts talking. We were fully transfixed for two hours and twenty minutes. This time around he bagged the Bush administration: “I don’t lie, that’s the vice presidents job”, the destruction of New Orleans, his trips to Wal-Mart in his band’s tour bus, the “Def Leopard Express”. By far the most bizarre anecdote concerned the USO, the group who sends entertainers to war zones to boost the moral of the troops. Apparently wherever they go, the soldiers are asking to see Henry, so they called him up. After explaining that they might want to check him out before hiring him, they called back, called him a potty mouth and sent him on a tour of the Middle East. It defies the imagination to think of Henry Rollins standing in a room “full of armed men” in Baghdad, calling Bush a dummy, and no one getting hurt. He’s also visiting injured soldiers in hospital, which made him understandably even angrier than usual.

Rollins is master of the digression. A story about a trip to a massive hunting supplies store digresses into a story about deer and other “prey animals”, then onto the squirrel which lives in his back yard, and some how back to the hunting store. A story about Wal-Mart diverges into a story about “Cops” and a discussion about the Mullet – Australian versus American mullet – and somehow back to Wal-Mart.

One gets the impression that he goes and does stuff in order to have stories to tell, such as his trip on the Trans Siberia Railroad. He seemed disappointed by the experience, since the only stories he got to tell were about the cranky Russian woman who looked after the passengers on the train, and the amazing barfing he did after some bad Russian fish. Rollins is also allegedly in a band, which no one quite remembers, one wonders if perhaps it also exists mostly as a source of more stories.

Henry Rollins is old. He’ll be 45 on February 13th, 2006, the biceps are still firm, the tattoos still clear, but the hair is getting seriously grey, so that he’s buying clothes to match. And “tourists are living in the lines on my face.” But he’s still king of the angry white boys, after the show a knot of them, none more than 19 years old, gathered out the back of the theatre attempting to catch a glimpse of the Person of Interest. More power to Henry’s Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

One day in forty years time, they’ll be wheeling an ancient Henry Rollins on stage so he can continue to act like an eighteen year old. We should all grow old this disgracefully.