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Last Night: Henry Rollins at Revolution Live


John Hood

Henry Rollins speaks to a crowd gathered at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale Sunday night.

Henry Rollins

Sunday September 28th 2008

Revolution Live, Fort Lauderdale

Better Than: The same ol’ hipster shtick.

Fitting that I’d have to drive through a torrential rain storm in order to catch the latest from Henry Rollins, I mean, the cat’s a fuckin’ force of nature. It’s also quite fitting that he’d stage in a place called Revolution. Not that Ol’ Henry’s a revolutionary, mind you (though he has had his revolutionary moments), but because if a revolution ever went down, it’s a cinch he’d be posted right along the front lines, stomping heads with the best of ‘em.

And last night up in Broward, the cat stomped some heads alright, and stuck it to The Man with a ferocity that cored his very marrow.

To be fair though, The Man – by which we mean the white men who continue to run America into the ground – does make for a rather easy target, what with his ridiculous wars, despicable viewpoints, and untenable raping of the Constitution. And Henry doesn’t fail to call him on every one of his transgressions. In fact, The Man is the very reason Rollins is on the road in the first place. As he told me in last week’s interview: “[Bush] and I have done eight years together,” and “I just wanted one last lap around America while [he’s] still in office.”

And it’s been one helluva last lap. In fact, last night’s show was the 101st of the year, which, when you consider we’re still 3 months shy of its ending, is a remarkable feat, of both endurance and purpose.

But don’t think Rollins is merely just running around the country and ranting about W and Company. Sure they get theirs – and then some, yet so do his would-be successors, McCain (who “I do not hate, [and] I do not disrespect”) and Palin (who makes Henry actually scream).

Still, like I said, those targets are easy to hit, so no matter how cleverly you peg them, it’s no more an accomplishment than shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel. Rollins knows this, which is probably why he dispatches them with such swift efficiency and gets on with the real work at hand: people, and how we consider each and every one of them.

Beginning with his trips to Walter Reed Army Hospital and the medical center at Bethesda Naval Base on behalf of the USO, Rollins recounts what it’s like to sit face-to-face with a soldier who has had a piece of him literally blown off. The sick he feels in the pit of his stomach in the hours preceding his visits, and the sick that last for days after he’s left the man (and so far, it’s always been men) to try to navigate a life no one could ever even imagine.

This is the true nature of war, says Rollins, and “anyone who says I don’t have the stomach [for it is] damn right. I’m always gonna be against [people being maimed]. I don’t think the motherfuckers have the stomach for peace.”

It’s a prevailing wisdom which gets stretched further when Rollins recounts the way we so quickly make fun of others, despite the fact that the very same people we’re deriding might one day just save our asses. He means ordinary folk, the man with the mullet who can fix your flat with his eyes closed and then will thank you for the opportunity to help, or the tattooed beast behind the Subway counter who spends each and every day just “getting to sundown.” Rollins insists that these are the real American heroes, and it would behoove us all to get to know them.

And don’t think that such a position will make you less aggressive (“You can dig people and still wanna stick it to the man”) or weak (“cynicism is what’s weak”), and don’t believe that “sucking it up” when the bills are overdue, the baby’s crying and the spouse is on the way out the door makes you strong either.

“I’m sick and tired of some guy in a flag lapel pin telling people to suck it up and take it like a man. I like to think we look out for each other.”

It’s a stance which Rollins comes to through extensive travels, where he gets out among the people and finds that they’re nicer than you think, especially “if you’re nice first.”

Hardly the stuff of hipster revolutionaries, is it? Come to think of it, with the way he dispels the traditional hipster notions of cool, maybe Rollins still a revolutionary after all.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Rollins and I have mutual pals, including M. Gira and Susie Horgan, whose Punk Love vividly captures the cat’s early days.

Random Detail: Throughout the 2½ hour rant, the crowd sat and actually listened.

By the Way: You can get with all things Rollins at 2.13.61.

-- John Hood

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John Hood