Eugene Weekly : Spoken Word : 3.20.08

Rollins rolls through the punches

Henry Rollins is a busy man, so I couldn’t really take it that personally when he was unavailable for an interview. Besides, it’s not like there’s a shroud of mystery surrounding Rollins’ persona or much doubt regarding his assessment of the current state of the world. If Henry Rollins wants to share something, he’s got more platforms than almost anyone from which to scream, write or expound about it. Over the last two decades, his dark, penetrating stare and bulging, inky biceps have become nothing short of iconic. Even cultural consumers who couldn’t name a Black Flag song have been imprinted by this anti-hero who started off in the DIY world of punk rock and took that mentality into the blossoming multimedia era. Rather than dutifully aging out of the spotlight, Rollins the punk artist has gradually recast himself as a producer, author, actor, publisher, spoken word entertainer and comedian, not to mention social and political watchdog. While the last few years may have cultivated a somewhat gentler Henry Rollins, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this larger-than-life man has both consistently commanded and alienated audiences (anyone remember the video for “Liar”?).

Rollins’ latest speaking tour is called “Provoked,” and what he’s currently provoked about is anyone’s guess. Rollins hates the war but loves the troops (he has been to the Middle East on multiple USO tours), and is unflinching in his derision of those who perpetuate social injustice in any form (gay rights are a primary focus of his activism). While his commentary is often politically steeped, he is also a social philosopher who challenges mediocrity and complacency, and he motivates listeners to enrich their own lives by thinking critically and refusing the labels placed upon them by others. An evening with Henry Rollins is likely to include a lot of laughter, but it is also likely to include some wincing pain, as his razor-sharp observations navigate toward those raw, exposed emotional patches in all of us, making it uncomfortable to continue ignoring those pieces of the world and of ourselves we’d really rather not see.    

Henry Rollins • 8 pm Sunday, March 23 • McDonald Theatre • $20 adv., $23 door