Saturday, 16 January 2010
Henry Rollins at the Royal Festival Hall
Anyone who knows me knows that Henry Rollins is my personal hero and a man who is a day-in, day-out inspiration to me, via his music, his books of poetry, thought and deeds; work with the troops for the USO and his legendary, epic, ass-numbing spoken word shows (seriously, they last 3 hours and kick your fucking ass).
It was as a depressed 18 year old that I first connected with Henry Rollins, via a bizarre double attack of my cousin Shayne, who turned me onto the awesome Rollins Band album "Weight" and the urgings of Kurt Cobain who spoke endlessly about Black Flag, of which Henry was of course the last and best singer.
So in 1994 I bought "Weight" by the Rollins Band and "Damaged" by Black Flag and the two albums kept me propped up and damn near held me together as a human being and as much as I loved the jazz-heavy metal of "Weight", with its uplifting determination in the fact of adversity; it was the life shattering visceral "Damaged" that saved my fucking life, I swear, a record of such density, rage, anger and empowerment I felt I could rise above whatever life would throw me and knock it down.
That record still has the power to transform me, indeed as a young buck "Damaged I" (take a listen right here), which closes the record, used to be my record to get me pumped for a fight (macho bullshit I know but I was a kid) and I still know the howled lyrics off by heart, a mantra to reach a deep, personal-pain intensity to search and destroy.
The cover of "Damaged" is Rollins smashing his fist into the glass and at that time that's how I felt every single day of my life, grieving for a dead best friend, dealing with a life without drugs and coping with my first grown-up relationship. Needless to say, every time I had spare cash I'd buy another Black Flag record and they are my favourite band of all time, just the best music ever and their emblem adorns my left arm, as it should.
I soon began consuming Rollins' prodigious writing output of poetry, prose, diaries and the back catalogue of the band he formed after Greg Ginn quit Black Flag, the perfunctory titled Rollins Band. He became an anchor, I even wrote him a few times and he kindly replied (I am furious with myself that I no longer have these letters) and even now his writing, ideology and beliefs form a centrepoint for my own beliefs and it was because of Henry that I got into Nietzsche, Celine, Sartre, Miller and the seminal work of Bill Shields; which in turn spiralled into so many great authors and thinkers.
So anyway, Eva-Jane and I went to the Royal Festival Hall last night (of all places to see an ageing, alternative rock icon) to catch Henry Rollins in action, Eva's fourth time of seeing him and what must be my 10th or something like that...lost count.
It will come as little surprise to you that it was an awesome show, so positive, so uplifting, inspirational; like a really good three-hour talk for the best motivational speaker you could possibly imagine, pulling at the heart strings but never mawkish, educational but never a hectoring; absolutely essential, so liberating and empowering. If he ever passes your way you should seriously check him out and before I go I'll leave you with an old clip of Rollins doing so spoken word.