Henry Rollins, as the t-shirts sold tonight testify, has been doing these spoken word shows for 25 years. He isn’t a comedian, he never tells jokes, he just walks on stage and talks about his life.
In the past when Henry has done these shows in Manchester he usually performs in the Academy. I personally have never been but Henry did say that usually there is someone lying on the floor, “with a glow stick up his ass”, still drugged or boozed up from the night before. When I saw him in 2003 he was at the Opera house, which you would think would be a little more up market, but not until you see the inside with the house lights up. The audience then was just about as diverse as you could get. I never thought that Henry could attract such a strange cross section of people. Primarily it was the typical “Rock Dude” out for an evenings entertainment with his girlfriend, the “Rock Chick”. There were goths and punks, but to my left there was a middle aged man and his wife, who was pregnant, who were both suitably dressed for an evening out. I wondered if they actually knew who Henry was, or how they had ever heard of him. Such is Henry’s appeal I guess. Don’t get me started on the old lady on the row in front who was wearing a neck brace and a lemon cardigan. I swear, mid performance, she started knitting.
Anyway, tonight it was more of a rock crowd, the occasional middle aged couple and me. I won’t go into the details of the performance as you can no doubt buy the Shock & Awe DVD and check it out for yourself.
There was no warm up act, I mean who could do that! There was no elaborate backdrop, just a black curtain. There was just an empty stage, monitors and the PA system. The house lights went down and Henry walks onto the stage, grabs the microphone, wraps the cable around his hand three times and starts to talk. He says that yesterday, Saturday, was a day off and that he had wandered around Manchester, “some of you might have seen me”. How great would that have been! Walking down Market Street and seeing Henry Rollins! A little like seeing Noddy Holder in Sainsbury’s on a Sunday. Okay I’ve been there and bought the t-shirt.
One thing that did seem very strange was the number of teenage children in the audience. There was one youth, obviously with his parents, who was directly in front of the microphone stand. This must have had an affect on Henry as he usually swears much more and he didn’t talk about the crash helmet and the bite plate as graphically as he does on the DVD.
Henry talked for three solid hours. He said his goodbyes, disconnected the microphone, put it in his pocket and walked off stage. I’ve seen him take the microphone on a few occasions on DVD’s and video’s and have never understood why. Possibly he’s had them stolen in the past.
It’s always great to see someone that you admire, in the flesh, so to speak. To be able to talk like that, without notes of any kind, is a rare talent. He is genuinely one of us, someone with a great love of books, music and films, someone who can still be excited when he meets one of his heroes.