Something That I Said

Posted on 29th January 2008

Last night Nicole and I went to see Henry Rollins play in Wolverhampton. He's a lesson for any performer in many ways. He's entertaining, funny, thought provoking, informative and a tour guide. He also performed for just over 3 hours, taking only one drink of water in the middle of the show and spoke non-stop about his life, his adventures and his observations on the world. I've been a fan of Henry Rollins' spoken word performances for many years and have been fortunate enough to see him on several occasions (I can even be seen in the audience of the 'Live In London' Video/DVD), as well as owning pretty much every spoken word album he's ever released. Last night Nicole thought he performed the best she's ever seen him. Admittedly she's only seen him once before, but I would also have to agree.

The show started tentatively, with Henry apologising for not having been to Wolverhampton since the late 90s, about 10 years ago. With Birmingham being only just down the road, that isn't too bad, as he's played Birmingham a few times since then. As long as he plays the midlands I'm happy, as it means I don't have to trek up and down the motorway to see him. Once he got into his stride, and got the feel of the audience, he settled down and got into the flow of his story telling. By the end of his set, he was wise-cracking those leaving to relieve themselves or a couple who had to leave slightly before the end. Not maliciously I might add, but making it obvious you were fair game if you disturbed his flow. Not that he missed a beat anyway. Off at tangents he would recall interesting asides, to return to the main thread of his story just when you thought he'd forgotten where he was going.

Prior to the gig, through the PA we got to listen to a compilation of songs by The Ruts. At first I thought it was The Crack album, but seeing as Staring at The Rude Boys also featured, it must have been some compilation CD or a self made compilation. Henry is a big Ruts fan, and although I wouldn't particularly classify myself as a big fan, I certainly liked them and would have loved to have seen them had I been allowed to go up to Manchester one night, like my friend Alan did. However, seeing as I was only 14 at the time, my parents were rather understandably not going to let me go on my own. Henry told of how the remaining members of the band asked him recently to front a reformed line-up, as it would be Paul's last gig, having just been diagnosed with lung cancer. As he told the story of practicing the songs in his apartment, meeting and rehearsal the band and finally playing the gig on July 16th at the Academy in Islington, London, I couldn't help but wished I'd been aware of the gig, as I would loved to have been there. With The Damned and UK Subs playing, it would have been great, but also getting to finally see The Ruts, would have been memorable. The Damned, UK Subs, The Buzzcocks and others are doing a tour together later in the year, I'm thinking it might be an idea to get tickets.

The major lesson to many performers is not only did he stand on stage for just over 3 hours, but it also only cost £16 for a ticket. That's roughly £5 per hour. It's not unusual these days to pay £30+ for 90 minutes of music (if you're lucky). I walked out of the Wulfrun Hall last night feeling like I went to a gig and got value for money. I'm not a fan of The Rollins Band, and I can't say I was a really a fan of Black Flag either, but as a spoken word performer, Henry proves he has a talent for story telling that few could revival. He's 4 years old than I am, and it's encouraging for me that he's still got the same ferocity and intensity for life as he did when he was first playing in bands. It crossed my mind that unless he comes a cropper on his adventures to Pakistan (he was on holiday in Islamabad at the time of Benazir Bhutto's death), Syria, Lebannon or another interesting place, I'm likely to enjoy hearing his stories and observations for many years to come, to the point I wouldn't be surprised to see him walking the stage in his 80s or 90s, entertaining and thought provoking as ever.

Thanks Hank, it was a great night, and I look forward to the next tour.

I'm currently listening to Get In The Van in the car at the moment, and have The Ruts lined up for later :)

File Under: gigs / henryrollins / spokenword / wolverhampton

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