Punk Rock Spoken Word: Henry Rollins at Turner Hall » Urban Milwaukee
Sahan Jayasuriya
Punk Rock Spoken Word

Henry Rollins at Turner Hall

By - Mar 26th, 2012 04:00 am
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Henry Rollins from a 2011 appearance. (Photo: .melanie via flickr)

Henry Rollins has covered a lot of ground over the last 31 years. Starting out as the manic frontman for LA hardcore punk heroes Black Flag, Rollins has developed an impressive resume, ranging from small business owner (he owns the 2.13.61 publishing company), to talk show host (he hosted the Henry Rollins Show on IFC from 2006-2007) to actor (anyone remember The Chase?). Over the last decade, however, Rollins’ main focus has been on his spoken word performances, and a packed house at Turner Hall Ballroom last Friday was happy to welcome him back to Milwaukee.

It almost seems wrong to label Rollins’ material as “spoken word,” conjuring up the image of a beret-clad beatnik reciting verses over improvised bongo rhythms, but there really is no other way to describe it. Calling it “standup” would discredit his cutting social commentaries, while labeling it as merely a “talk” would completely ignore the fact that Rollins is indeed quite witty. He shifts seamlessly between humorous anecdotes and powerful social commentaries, with intense delivery and virtually no breaks.

The evening began with Rollins covering the current American political climate, vocalizing his opinions on everyone from Texas governor Rick Perry to Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. His intense analyses of their policies were peppered with equally intense humor, which much like an opening monologue of a talk show, warmed up his audience for the rest of the evening. He also discussed the many letters he receives from fans, ranging from troops serving overseas to fans reaching out for advice. He claimed that he makes an effort to respond to most all of his fan mail, as “that’s what punk rock is all about.”

Shifting focus again, Rollins regaled his audience with a few stories from his days in Black Flag. As a young man in his early 20s, Rollins toured extensively until the band’s dissolution in 1986. It’s taken years, he said, but he can finally “extract some wisdom” from his experiences, and his stories of stage-diving gone wrong, antagonistic “fans” and the mean streets of Los Angeles were spoken of with a sense of nostalgia and fondness.

Rollins spent much of the evening sharing his recent travel experiences, which found him as far as Tibet, North Korea, and Uganda. He recalled filming a documentary for National Geographic and hunting for venomous snakes. He spoke of his experiences in a Port Au Prince orphanage, where children lined up to play with him. He reminisced on his time spent in a Kentucky Pentecostal Church, which he described as being “the best concert I saw last year.”

At the end of his marathon three-hour performance, Rollins was met with a standing ovation and uproarious applause. Rollins’ life experiences have brought him many places, and while his visit to Milwaukee was not his first, lets hope it’s not his last.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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