Henry Rollins @ Bridgewater Hall
Henry Rollins at the Bridgewater Hall, 12/1/16
It is four years since Henry Rollins was last in Manchester and he has been sadly missed, but on this cold and damp January evening he is performing at the Bridgewater Hall. Although a magnificent venue for classical music (that is what it is designed for), it is not a great place to see rock bands and it is equally as poor for this spoken word performance due to the massive echo around the hall; it was like listening to Henry’s voice three times a second. Having said that there was little else to complain about other than a numb bum (and Rollins had equally numb feet)!
Although from a punk/metal background as a singer/songwriter with Black Flag for some five years, and then with his own Rollins Band, Henry Rollins has become a very busy man and that is how he likes it. When not on tour doing his spoken word performances, he hosts a weekly radio show, has columns in the LA Weekly and Rolling Stone (Australia) and is an actor too – including a role in a series of Sons Of Anarchy. As he says, he has to be busy doing “something” all the time and it is this busyness that has prevented him from making his two yearly sojourn around the UK.
The first 40 or so minutes of the two hour show were dedicated to his stories of his friend Lemmy. From the time Lem guested on a fund raising album through to their last meeting where Rollins passed up on the opportunity to sing on stage with Motorhead because he had his own solo show to do, you could tell Rollins has a fondness for the great man that was palpable and that he is sadly missed.
Rollins then went on to regale us with tales of his journey to the tip of South America where he came face to face with global warming care of the penguins along with the pungent smell of penguin crap. Listening to Iggy Pop’s Raw Power album in the middle of the night in a sleeping bag in the open with the sound of copulating penguins between songs and the constant smell of their crap was a surreal moment! From there his journey took in Africa and an initially aggressive baboon, some monkey’s deliberately pissing on him, finally scuba diving off the coast of Catalina Island and coming face to face with some equally curious sea lions.
Whether he is in Starbucks in LA or on the streets of Santiago, Chile, or in the freezing cold of Mannheim, Germany there are the tales of meeting fans regardless of whether they are greasy bikers who are grieving, a female fan describing him loudly as a neo-Nazi (he isn’t one), or a tattooed fan, or an abused fan a long way from home, you can tell he is human and he cares; he cares a lot. Then there is his acting and a long narrative about Jack Frost (for some not his finest moment) and his aforementioned role in Sons Of Anarchy all told with a humour only Rollins can deliver.
Although dressed in grey, his performance was colourful and at times controversial allowing us to dive into the mind of Henry Rollins and how he thinks. But what is most interesting is the way his stories interlink and seamlessly work together creating a narrative framework. A great skill from a superb charismatic raconteur and a fabulous evenings entertainment.
Words: Anthony Firmin
Photo: via henryrollins.com