At 51, Henry Rollins remains awe inspiring. It’s not just the tautly muscled physique or the fearless spirit of adventure. It’s the hard-nosed insistence on a no-holds-barred optimism. Yeah, the angry voice of punk — decades on — speaks just as loudly, passionately and uncompromisingly as ever.
He just does it to a bunch of old geezers in a nice auditorium that would never have let Black Flag set foot inside it: the Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre at the Egg. Savour for a moment that image: Kitty Carlisle Hart, the epitome of genteel and Henry Rollins meeting.
The thing is, it would have been fantastic. Rollins can have a conversation with anyone, anywhere in the world and Carlisle Hart always had such grace, she could probably do the same. And how they would talk!
Despite the theme of his tour, Rollins eschewed direct political discussion (‘I’m not going to stand up here and tell you how to vote’) but having been immersed in reading about Abraham Lincoln lately, it coloured much of what he had to say (and became a clear rebuke of what the Grand Old Party has devolved into) and that he always referred to Obama as ‘my president’ left no doubt as to his allegiances. He saw Lincoln as someone with an eye on the long tail; unlike the current Republicans who seem to favour a scorched earth policy (literally, alas), to get in, rip out all your can, frack it if you can’t and then leave to enjoy your offshore accounts, Rollins himself offered a model of close-to-the-bone existence. His tour group is small; his merchandise is reasonably priced; he requires few frills.
He spoke of the disorientation of returning to his ‘mancave’ in Los Angeles, but can’t seem to remain stationary for long, because he has to be out on the road, meeting new people. And that’s where the optimism shines. Rollins decided to make a tour to all the places Dubya said ‘hated our freedom’ (and wow, he does a disturbingly good impression of Dubya) on his own, just to see for himself if they did. His icebreaker, when people looked at him suspiciously and asked, ‘Why are you here?’: ‘Hi, I’m Henry and I’m here just to meet YOU!’ It never failed to get a smile. His honesty and directness works with the countless fans he meets too, and he told sometimes heartbreaking stories of how they’ve touched him.
Keep up the good work, old man.
I am kind of flabbergasted by the kind words from Graham Joyce about our conversation at Alt.Fiction on the Extremely Dangerous Fairy Folk andfor putting me in such fine company as Claire Massey and my lovely friend, Maura McHugh. I shouldn’t be surprised by random kindness; maybe it’s the effect of being back in the States, where hatred seems to have been made a virtue, proof of a kind of ‘manliness’ (appropriated by women, too) that pooh-poohs rape and that defines leadership as heedlessly crushing the most vulnerable and rattling sabres they (and their strapping young offspring) will never have to wield.