When I went to enter Henry Rollins' St. Louis tour stop into my calendar I discovered that the show was due to hit town a mere two days after the presidential election. Holy shit. “This is amazing,” I thought, “If Obama wins it will be a party. If McCain wins, St. Louis might just get to watch Henry Rollins' head explode on stage. I've gotta be there.”
Rollins’ show clocked in an impressive three-plus hours and did not disappoint. He talked nearly the whole time, pausing only for effect, and took a sip of water maybe twice. It's apparent when he comes out on stage at the beginning of the show that he's ready to blow, ready to release an avalanche of ideas, and that it nearly pains him to hold back the stream of word vomit while he's being cordial and greeting the audience.
Rollins jumped into the politics right away, but quickly strayed, smiling and promising, "We'll get back to that in the 4th or 5th hour [of the show]." True to his word, he kept coming back to politics again and again -- but despite his left-leaning views, he never got stuck in a relentless pummeling of the current administration. He was very fair, and always expressed a hope for progress, rather than a reactionary hate.
He opened with "It's a very interesting time in our wonderful country.” [crowd cheers] “Well, some of us don't share that opinion." He was never condescending to the few brave Republicans in the crowd, but he was insistent on making very clear, very articulate points sandwiched between both sarcasm and sincerity.
On Josh Brolin's Bush impersonation in the Oliver Stone film W: "I prefer his to mine and I've really worked on mine."
On the way George W. Bush speaks: ""Surrealist poetry at its zenith."
On what should happen to Bush: "Bush is a war criminal. He lied to all of you, he got a lot of kids killed. I need to see him in jail."
On current political climate: "War shouldn't be something we want. Shouldn't war be a failure? Every war is a mistake."
On kids: "I like children, but I don't have any children. I let Sarah Palin have all of my babies for me.” [smirk]
Politics aside, Rollins talks about movies, carbon footprints, writing, the Brill Building, crying, William Shatner, airports, child molesters, and Corey Feldman, all seemingly within the same breath. He seems particularly amused that he's now an "old dude" and has many funny stories related to this development. One extra hilarious story centered around Rollins and Fugazi's Ian MacKaye going to see a Bad Brains show when they were 17 or 18 years old. Rollins said "It was one of the first Bad Brains shows, about 150 years ago. [At the show] It was me, Ian and Abraham Lincoln."
Much of his show is centered around stories of his wanderlust and what he's learned in his travels. South Africa, Thailand, New Zealand and Ireland all got time and stories during the show, with Rollins adding on a long, interesting and informative description of the time he went to Islamabad for Christmas "just to keep the heart rate up."
He ended the show with a positive, hopeful vibe; thanking the audience for their participation in the election, though both volunteering and voting. While he stressed that there's still much work to be done and that we’re all still splintered by race, money, politics and pride, he expressed hope for the future. Specifically, Rollins wished for everyone to come together and work to make a positive change by explaining, among other things, that "KKK members are only two Al Green records away from seeing the light."
-- Jaime Lees; photos by Sarah Paradoski