Henry Rollins was Charmingly Obstinate at Het Depot – 20 January 2016, Leuven, Belgium
There are many 3-star reviews on Henry Rollins’ one-man spoken-word performance for the Charmingly Obstinate European Tour. This is a 5-star one.
Henry Rollins cannot be evaluated by straightforward comedy criteria. He’s not a comedian … He’s a punk rock icon, musician, radio and TV host, activist, writer, journalist, actor, motivational speaker AND comedian. His funny side is thought-provoking; however he’s inspirational without being provocative. His humor is witty; however, his wittiness goes with the references. And there are tons of them, as he’s a hyperactive, eager and enthusiastic person. Just like his almost three-hour show about music, movies, life, traveling, universe and everything. Because when Henry Rollins tells a story, he tells the story from the beginning.
Almost one hour was about Lemmy. Starting with the first time he has ever listened to Motörhead (in the context of Ramones, Clash and Sex Pistols), continuing with the first time he met Lemmy (in a panel where both found themselves together with Leonard Cohen), then the first time Lemmy called him ‘my friend’, then the first time he visited Lemmy right after the legend’s contribution to charity album for West Memphis Three, and ending with the last time he saw Lemmy. Story, after story, after story … a delightful, moving tribute to The Man, portraying his badass attitude as well as his loneliness … because no matter how abundant his narration is, Rollins’ storytelling is firm, articulate and intense. Which makes it meaningful.
He didn’t start with music however. He started with Donald Trump and an X-ray of the American society living today what he called the ‘post political America’. His social philosophy highlighted Human-Justice-War-Capitalism equation and the danger of loosing oneself into too much technology.
Henry Rollins is riding this carousel fuelled with self-deprecation even when he’s clearly bragging or proud about things. A quite familiar feeling for many of his messed up weird fanatic audience, isn’t it … Meeting David Bowie was one of those tales, meant to captured the artist’s greatness and special charisma which was not censored by revealing that Bowie was in fact a Henry Rollins fan up to the point that he was reading his books and following his interviews.
With Rollins, there is no missing link in the association chain although it might look random to some. When he spoke about his movies, he related a theatrical scene happened in a Starbucks, when a real biker cried at his table over a role he had in Jack Frost and a lady hit on him over a Neo-Nazi character.
He kept his traveling for the end, with his scuba diving experiences and recent visit in Antarctica. But music is everywhere in his recital. Even when he’s describing penguins mating he’s bringing in The Stooges.
He didn’t forget to make reference to Paris attacks. A starry-eyed idealist, he preached for getting even more music out there, making and playing it and persuading others to join, as a way of finding true connection. Otherwise, the world in his view should rely on the power of the individual and not on masses to be manipulated by politics.
Inspiring. Authentic. Fanatic. Henry.
Every Sunday from 8 to 10 p.m., Henry Rollins brings an exclusive mix of songs old and new to listeners on KCRW of Santa Monica, California. Visit KCRW for more information and to stream his show online.