Henry Rollins Spoken Word – Pantages Theatre Minneapolis MN 02.23.04

Ah Mr. Rollins, you truly deserve your status as an “Aging Alternative Icon.” From Black Flag to Rollins Band, you’ve proved us with songs that have transcended into Americana pop culture. You’ve performed all around the world, and evolved from “just” a singer to a man whose tendrils can be felt in all fields of entertainment; from books to movies. From music to spoken word audio compilations.

And the latter is what I plopped down twenty bones to see. A mere twenty dollars to hear “That Liar Guy” speak for three hours on a wide array of topics from Politics to Performing in Afghanistan. How can you beat seeing one man perform for that long for that little cash.

Before I get into the review, let’s get a few things straight. There was no music in this performance. Henry didn’t sing. He didn’t “Rock out.” He spoke. He talked from the heart in an attempt to stir passion and laugher. So why is this in the Music Section? He’s Henry Fucking Rollins. The man is an icon in the music industry and woe to thee who does not know his name. I forced upon one of my co-workers at Charthouse the disc, “A Rollins in the Wry” because she had never heard of him. Of course said co-worker, on the night of my writing this is going to see…Clint Black. I know, I know. I worry about her too. But hopefully those of you reading this are more familiar with his endeavors.

The Pantages theatre was sold out. It’s a very old style theatre, one in which you would see plays or an Opera in. I secured a seat on the balcony with a perfect view, being able to look straight down at the man.

The show started at 7:40, ten minutes late due to stragglers coming in.

Rollins entered and the lights dimmed and I then spent the next three hours of my life cheering, clapping, laughing and enjoying a man who is as intelligent and well read as any entertainer could possibly be.

Rollins started things off with political humour. There was a great deal of Bush jokes, from talking about Bush’s State of the Union address to Bush’s thoughts on Mars. He had a great bit about Bush’s line about “Heroic Space Entrepreneurs” and how the closest thing to something like that actually existing are those people that sell stars for 75$ as a way for guys to seem romantic, when in fact all you get is a picture of space for your money, the same way you get a picture of some kid in Africa when you give 25 dollars a month to Sally Struthers.

Although Rollins did a lot of Bush jokes he did point out, “Making fun of Bush’s intelligent is like punching out an 8 year old. Sure it’s extremely satisfying, but anyone can do it. It’s the easiest thing in the world and it’s not something you can brag to your friends about because everyone does it.” Rollins also made sure to point out that Dick Cheney is by far the more evil of the two people currently in the White House, from Haliburton to the fact that even after 9-11, Cheney has met and made deals with members of the Taliban. I wish I had written down all the links Rollins gave, but it was too damn dark and the man rattles off like a hummingbird on speed.

And before you think his comments make him into the Rock N Roll Mike Moore, realize Rollins bashed a lot of Democrats too and came out and called Teddy Kennedy a murdered of innocent women and the poster child for why you shouldn’t drink. “This is what happens when you survive on barley and hops for 30 years.” If Prohibitionists had Teddy Kennedy in the 20’s, Alcohol would still be banned!” And of course, the Clinton family bashing.

It was great to see Rollins point out that neither Republicans or Democrats are anything even remotely close to squeaky clean and that Rollins was doing his best to convince people that they need to vote. That he doesn’t care who the candidate they vote for is, as long as they vote. You could tell even while joking with the audience, that he wanted people to be educated and look up things like the how badly California’s water is polluted and how, like it or not, the Iraqi war was all about Oil. The majority of Rollins’ Spoken Word this evening was political in some way shape or form, I’m just glad to see the barbs were flung both ways.

Other things that he covered that are really worth mentioning include his Gay Marriage commentary. Rollins had a wonderful skit about Kevin and Shawn and how they were in love and how Kevin decides the best way to bring plague and pestilence and set democracy ablaze and to ruin this country is for the tow of them to wear rings and get married. Again, due to a lack of lighting and foresight to write a lot of his commentary down I can’t give you the exact bit, but everyone in the theatre was rolling with laughter.

Rollins also covered his adventures with Adam Rifkin, writer of Small Soldiers and Mouse Hunt. Evidentially the two of them will go anywhere that involves a free buffet and how Rollins is a bit of a kleptomaniac in these situations, attempting to walk away with the most food possible, whether it be spitting in buckets of popcorn to mark his territory to shoving his pants full of Sushi so it would get eaten because “What’s it going to do, get even MORE raw?”

Adam and Henry attend the premiere of Kill Bill only to take a wrong turn inside the theatre and end up on the red carpet where reporters assumed Adam and Henry were “Lifemates.” What is it about people wanting Henry Rollins to be gay?

He also talked about how annoying Tarrantino is and about his pre-movie speech talking about how Quentin wishes he could have let loose hundreds of rats on the majority of Hollywood and how he screamed for Uma to stand up and receive commentary from him only for her to slink down in her seat from embarrassment from Tarantino’s buffoonery.

At this same event Henry managed to disgust Cheryl Crow by his massive collection of food and his eating habits. This became a running joke 2-3 more times through the rest of the evening.

Later that night at the post movie party, Adam and Henry had a run in with Ike Turner. No one would talk to Ike because well…he’s scary Ike Turner and so finally Henry went up, shook his hand and sincerely called him a musical genius. Ike was touched (and also obviously lonely) that he ended up tagging along with Henry and Adam, the latter who was terrified that Ike would shoot him.

Great jokes abounded about how to get rid of Ike, “What could I say to this guy? So Ike, when Tina got out of the shower was your strategy to do a Foreman or Ali 10 round whittle her down, or a Tyson 1 hit KO? I couldn’t say that because he’d shoot me. He’s Ike Turner! But what else can you talk to the guy about besides Music and spousal abuse?” Finally Henry got rid of Ike by acting like a total dweeb and babbling about movies. Great great bit.

Rollins talked about his tour of Afghanistan to entertain the troops and how he was 100% against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but was 100% behind the troops so he had to go. It was great to see how Rollins could mix sentiment with comedy; caring with sarcastic wit. Like Rollins being asked to sign a bomb. Rollins being a pacifist (Yeah I know…) hated the idea of signing something that “Would cause a lot of people a really bad day” but he didn’t want to insult the troops, so with a big black sharpie he wrote, “What the hell was that? I don’t know; it happened so fast!”

Little lines I remember from mini skits he came up with included mocking Rush Limbaugh: “Today’s topic: Why are women such stupid bitches? Call in now!” and how conservative radio is just a ploy to get people to get so worked up they keep listening because they want to bitch the host out. “Today’s topic: Why the f*ck aren’t Women kept in cages?” or Henry Rollins stating how shallow he is by kicking a date out of his car for listening to Nickelback (But who wouldn’t?) or for not reading books. It’s great to know that the way to Henry’s heart is through existential literature, something I took full advantage of that evening.

Finally, my favorite bit was Rollins talking about his contribution to Ben Folds new album that he was producing. A album of William Shatner. Yes. Ben Folds, Henry Rollins and Williams Shatner on the same track. And if you think your mind is blown now, it gets better, After recording the song, “I can’t get behind this,” Folds decided they needed a guitarist in the song. Shatner takes Rollins out to have “The best scallops ever captured” which let to a quick aside about how hard it is to stalk the wild scallop, to come back and see Adrian Belew from the Talking Heads and King Crimson standing there. Rollins, totally shocked, asked Folds how he got Belew to come at such a short notice. Ben Folds smiled and said, “All I had to do was say William Shatner and Henry Rollins in the same room.”

I realize I can’t tell the stories anywhere close to the way he did that made them memorable or amusing. But then, I’m not Henry Rollins. I’m writing this two days after the event and am willing to admit I’m out of my element in terms of describing a event like this. I talk about folklore and video games. Music or spoken word commentary is not my forte. Hopefully with the four CD’s Henry Rollins gave me (and signed) I can do his work a little more justice. Especially as none of these CD’s are available to the general public.