Live Review: Henry Rollins - Astor Theatre

14 May 2012 | 5:20 pm | Anthony Williams

"Indeed, our arses may have gone numb, but our minds were massaged and souls stirred in the best possible way."

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Like church services and motivational seminars, the Henry Rollins spoken-word experience can be hilarious, creepy, thought-provoking and utterly inspiring. The man's memories, morals and observations – gathered from more than 30 years of relentless road-warrior action – held a full-house Astor captivated for more than two-and-a-half hours last Friday night; no mean feat for a conversationalist at a comedy festival. Indeed, our arses may have gone numb, but our minds were massaged and souls stirred in the best possible way.

Rollins began the show by expressing his genuine affection for Australia and our fine lineage of guitar-slinging rock bands, while also being impressed by our fine array of potentially lethal native fauna. He then recalled how punching out a beer-spitting heckler at a Rollins Band show in Melbourne, many years ago, had led to a painful masturbation “mission” in a Los Angeles hospital, the result of a serious hand infection – caused by mouth plaque and bacteria – and one man's biological urges. Revelations about a preferred “overhand stroke” may well have constituted too much information, but Rollins' candid honesty was both disarming and endearing.

After personally witnessing – and appreciating – Henry's discomfort on Adam Hill's ABC talk show more recently (while in the company of Australia Zoo's painfully robotic PR girl, Bindi Irwin), his suggestion that Irwin Jr. might be “Damien Omen with a vagina” was spot-on. Propaganda rates high on the Rollins shit-list, with George W Bush described as “my travel agent” – 'axis of evil' countries becoming 'must-see' destinations for our sceptical hero – and time spent in North Korea, Iran and Tibet leading to the same conclusion: these are bad governments, not bad people.

Indeed, it was Rollins' compassion and respect for people that resonated throughout the night. Whether he was recounting tales of Los Angeles 'rent boys' standing up to aggressive cowboys or the Pentecostal congregation that danced with deadly snakes and delivered an almighty blues jam, it was with genuine affection for the human spirit. After more than two-and-a-half hours of intelligent, engaging, entertaining banter, the mighty Henry Rollins wrapped up with the simple assertion that we are the generation that can change things. At 12.45am on that Saturday morning, anything seemed possible.

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