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Review: Henry Rollins pulls no punches discussing politics, his career and LGBTQ+ youth

May 19, 2022 Updated Fri., May 20, 2022 at 4:36 p.m.

By Taylor D. Waring For The Spokesman-Review

Poet, musician, actor and activist Henry Rollins headlined Bing Crosby Theater on Wednesday night, and in a blend of comedy, memoir, political activism and motivational speaking, Rollins’ off-the-cuff show was a memorable experience for new and returning fans alike.

Rollins grew to notoriety as the fourth and most notable vocalist for hardcore punk legends Black Flag. Since the early 1980s, Rollins has proven to be a versatile and driven creative. During the 1990s, he helmed Rollins Band, an alternative rock band that incorporated elements of his spoken word poetry, most notably their 1994 hit “Liar.”

In the aughts and beyond, he gradually transitioned into a TV personality. He hosted “The Rollins Show” on IFC, a talk show that featured interviews with legendary musicians like Chuck D. and Ozzy Osbourne and live performances from boundary-pushing new artists including the Mars Volta, Placebo and the Blood Brothers. Later in the decade, he played a deadly white supremacist in FX’s “The Sons of Anarchy.”

Rollins opened his politically charged set with a bit about expanding the Second Amendment specifically for women to have the right to shoot “rape-y” dudes before tearing into right-leaning white men who feel the need to “own the libs” on the internet. During his opening number, several people were seen exiting the balcony, presumably in search of a safer space, never to be seen again.

Next, Rollins told the story of his decision to join Black Flag in 1981 and how he’s been perpetually touring ever since. The singer recounted working at a Häagen-Dazs fresh out of high school and fearing that it would be the summation of his life.

When, after a late night of show-playing, the then-singer of Black Flag offered him the mic at a show, Rollins’ life was changed forever. He was quickly thrown into the rigors of DIY touring in the 1980s, and he discussed at length how this formative experience encouraged him to stay hungry and angry, which has driven him to be the successful man he is today.

Then he told the story of a young man from Finland who traveled, during COVID-19 travel restrictions, through the Mexican border to his L.A. home in an obscure canyon and broke in. With plenty of slapstick comedy and an unlikely bit about Rollins’ eBay habit, he used the wild narrative to explain why he chose not to press charges against the mentally unwell young man.

The closing segment was spent discussing Rollins’ emphatic support for the youth of the country and the problems they face in the current climate. This included a focus on LGBTQ+ youth, who regularly face homelessness and food insecurity due to the “ignorance of the people who are supposed to protect them.”

While, in many ways, Rollins’ show fit the “old man yells about lawn” vibe, he’s aware of it and uses his platform to draw attention to important political and existential issues. Far from the “smart tough guy” persona he grew to notoriety with in the 1990s and beyond, his show demonstrated humility and a willingness to use his privileged platform to better the lives of less-privileged people.

If this upsets you, as it did a few folks in the audience, you could try to stop him – but it would be no use.

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