Mesmerising as ever the now distinguished grey haired Rollins owns the stage with more than two hours of tales from the culture frontline.
With his hyperactive mind and his machine gun wit Rollins is the perfect host and the silver tongued raconteur delivers a series of incisive anecdotes dealing with music to mother nature, from his brushes with the showbiz to sleeping with penguins!
Two hours is nowhere near enough time and as he apologies for putting us through it he leaves the stage with the standing ovation wishing for more he leaves us with this definitive quip. ‘I know that, at my age, I shouldn’t have this anger. I should be sedate and rotund sat on a couch. As long as you’ll come to see me, though, I’ll try to go out like Lemmy and David Bowie. Brilliant, free, and uncompromising.’
There he is Henry Rollins – not so much the intensematron of the past – the granite hewn muscle bound man of yore but an amiable, if hyperactive, older man with a fascination for words and the gimlet eye of an observer baffled by the foibles of the human race. This eye looks quizzically at the weird world of love or his fellow Americans and their increasingly baffling world and their fascination with strange, would be politicians, like Donald Trump who makes former Rollins target George Bush seem like a Teddy bear.
Perhaps the best part of the set tonight was a long piece on the late and great Lemmy who Rollins met several times. The first time was in 1988 when he shared a panel with him at a music conference in New York where the grizzled maestro put Rollins down which Henry saw as a badge of honour. Then it was a series of shared planes on the less glamour edge of the touring circuit or going round to Lemmy’s tiny cramped flat in LA and sharing a bizarrely brilliant afternoon with the man. You can smell the nicotine ghost of the Monty Python loving Lemmy in the room laughing at Henry’s descriptions of him delivered from Manchester – a city the gruff legend lived in for three years.
Rollins love of Lemmy shines through and it’s this human touch, this shiny eyed fanboy edge of Henry that is both endearing but also perfectly observed as he describes the Motorhead and Hawkwind legend perfectly and draws out the humanity and loneliness and sharp intellect of the great Lem that lurked beyond the gruff surface.
As the years have gone by Rollins spoken word has gone from the intense just post Black Flag tales of violence, pain and murder to an audience trying to grapple with what spoken word was to these beautifully delivered and observed vignettes on the human condition. Gone is the bullish battering ram approach that was once so hypnotic and replaced with these smouldering and perfectly constructed pieces that ooze humanity and warmth and humour and self deprecating style.
Whether it’s laughing at his own bit part film career, the awkwardness of being recognised in public, the late David Bowie, the tragedy of terror in Paris and his solution to that problem or filming a nature programme that saw him sleeping in a trench surrounded by thousands of stinking, breeding penguins who looked at him as giant follow feathery friend, Rollins doesn’t drop a beat.
I’ve seen him many times over the years and this could be the best. Rollins has this spoken word down to a T.