The promotional poster for Henry Rollins’ Frequent Flyer tour says “Knowledge without mileage equals bullsh*t” and has Rollins depicted as a screaming torpedo- speeding across the city skyline. It’s a great poster- and reflects the show beautifully.

Before now, I had not ever encountered his work- not in any conscious way- I just spend a huge amount of my waking hours seeking out new experiences- recently I have embraced visual art as my new obsession- and have been consuming history and theory of art in vast binging quantities, insatiably slurping it up with an unquenchable desire to know, see, understand, experience more… Mostly I spend my time reading new plays- I read everything I am emailed by playwrights… and other things too- scientific papers, the back of cereal boxes, letters to the editor, shopping lists left on trains- anything… and before now, I had heard of, but not seen Rollins- I had heard of but not seen his band/s- ignorant. Utterly ignorant of what I was missing.

A few years back, my own narrow minded would have been deterred from listening to anything to do with a person who clearly enjoys weightlifting (nothing wrong with weights specifically- I just dated a body builder who was so vain he was almost a mirror- and I had unfairly coupled vanity/selfishness/superficiality with guys who spend alot of time at the gym)- but again- my ignorance and I am happy to proclaim it. I have been missing out due to my own prejudice- and this is especially acute and ironic as it is a driving preoccupation of Rollins’ message which resounds throughout my body- “time to GET OVER PREJUDICE- and it stops here and now, with you.”

Willingly lead by the recommendation of a friend- I decided to review Rollins- ignorant of his work and therefore my opinion not tainted by blind fandom, I headed to see Rollins at Enmore on Monday night – curious to see who his audience is. And there they were, resplendent in tattoos, black clothes, punk hair- men and women- fierce and strong (and the occasional fifty something year old)… the type of folk who I may have seen at Faith No More concerts.

All I can say is- I am utterly transformed…

First published on www.australianstage.com.au

Out of the black curtained fringe stage, dressed in black shoes, black pants and black t-shirt launches Henry Rollins- complete with tattooed muscles and a voice that could melt rock candy- he starts his eloquent stream of considered consciousness- words are plucked from his extensive labyrinthine mind and carefully carved into a charming coercive and utterly engaging tirade of appeal- for audience, for approval, for understanding, for examination, for compassion, for generosity, for political action, for rigour, for intensity, for freedom of speech, for robust debate, for intellectual wrestle, for harmony, for diversity, for acceptance, for the embrace of all for humanity- and it doesn’t stop.

Henry Rollins- a kaleidoscopic verbal talent- sucks the marrow out of life- consuming, thinking, wanting, investigating, scrutinizing and noting it all- from knowing the Latin for breasts to reciting sections of the American constitution at will- this guy can not, will not, should not, be stopped.

Singer, song writer, writer, publisher, spoken word artist, actor, radio DJ, stand up comedian, frequent flyer, activist, producer and punk rock legend- there is no one that comes close to the awe-inspiring ball of magnetic power that Rollins wields- and it’s not a power which is purely physical nor animal- but a power which is utterly impressive- impressive in that it presses into the corners of who you are and what you think and dares you to examine/consider your view point and your society and your country and demands you do better than what you know, what you think you know, what is around you and what is accepted. That is what impressive is. I am left impressed upon- changed and transmogrified by his performance.

Don’t be fooled by appearances or prejudice. This is not an aggressive man- his intellect is fierce, and he may look aggressive- but it is his curiosity which is aggressive- not him. It is his ability with words to delicately twist the buzzing rubik’s cube cracking in your cranium which is truly breath-taking.

Armed with a microphone and a voracious appetite for living, Rollins’ routine is a call to arms. This show is a St Crispin’s Day speech for the legion of fans (and soon to become fans) to become better people- to be ultimately curious and accepting and compassionate humans- to go beyond who they are or who they think they are and be responsible and accountable for their actions. This show is not about male aggression, or anecdotes about the evils of money or fame or women. This is a show where nothing is taboo, nor censored, but everything is handled with delicate, poetic, intelligent eloquence- base subject matter is never discussed in a base way- in fact more care is taken to elevate any content which may be a little blue. This show is a cascade of retorts, reflections, reviews, ruminations is a call to arms- and the guns are the firing synapses in the minds of the audience.

Rollins is impressive- his honesty is impressive- his synthesis of ideas is impressive- his memory is impressive- his physical presence is impressive- his voice is impressive – his ability to hold the attention of an audience with merely his voice and his ideas for three hours is beyond impressive- it is simple incredible. I have never, and probably will never see anything like it ever again. Do yourself, and the world a favour: see Henry Rollins.