I've always wanted to see Henry Rollins speak. That's no misnomer. I've heard about his legendary spoken word performances in their Springsteenesque length. But, somehow I've always been too busy to catch him. Finally caught up to Rollins last night at Le National, thankfully (as it turned out) missing the Canadiens-Senators match up at the Bell Centre.
I brought my 19 year old daughter Jade to the old theatre and made sure she didn't know anything about Rollins other than the punk bands he used to front, Black Flag and the Rollins Band. Try to resist the urge to look him up on YouTube I almost pleaded with her and she co-operated, having no idea what to expect when we settled into our seats in the balcony at about 8 oclock.
Rollins jumped out a few minutes later, grabbed the microphone and didn't move for nearly three hours. He didn't stop talking either, not for a second. Not even to sip some water. In fact there was no bottle of water for him to sip from. I've never seen anything like it, except perhaps, Jimmy Stewart fillibusting on the floor of the U.S. Senate in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington".
Rollins riffed on Anne Coulter-invited by the "Young Conservative douche bags" to speak at University of Ottawa (where he will be at the same time), health care, Madame Tussaud, Michelle Obama, George W Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, David Duke, Barack Hussein Obama, John McCain, U.S. election night, RuPaul, homosexual fantasies, gay rights, racism, sexism, pluralism, censorship, travelling the world while spreading the gospel of punk and rock, The Damned, Bad Brains, The Stooges, masturbation and free speech.
It was a tour de force. And I thought hosting a four hour talk show was challenging. It's clear Rollin's brain works at a whole other level. He's still got the amazing energy he used to have when fronting his bands only now it's his brain and mouth that work in tandem and as a primary instrument. And as long as he's "rested and straight" he needs no other accompaniment.
I won't recount highlites other than to say his takes on and tales of Sarah Palin and her offspring, playing a white supremacist on the tv series Sons Of Anarchy and delivering a commencement address at Sonoma State University in California last May were howlers.
It was just before 11 Pm when I turned to my daughter for some reaction that didn't include laughter. "Thanks for taking me. He spoke twice as long as some of my classes but it seemed to move twice as fast".
A great teacher, that Henry Rollins.