Henry Rollins Spoken Word


June 25, 2008


I was worried when I walked into Tipitina's for the Henry Rollins spoken word concert last night. The first thing I noticed was the backdrop photo collage of Katrina ephemera. How could this go well and not turn into exploitation?

Well, it went about as well as possible, but afterwards, I still had a taste of being used in my mouth. During his two hour mix of stand-up and stroytelling, Rollins talked about how when he visited Iran, the local Iranians weren't interested in talking about their past political, social, and military foibles. They wanted to move on and live life. Even though I appreciate Rollins coming down to the city and bringing attention to our continuing struggle, I kinda feel like those Iranians. And maybe that's me being in denial, but I don't wanna talk to outsiders about it, and I feel weird when outsiders bring attention to us, no matter how pure their intention is, because it always seems a little like a person like Rollins trying to bring attention to himself as a Jesus figure.

Rollins started the show by pointing out the cultural significance of New Orleans and telling the crowd how much he loves the city and drawing some funny comparisons between the East Coast, the West Coast, and our city. From there, Rollins mainly told stories of his travels abroad, and it's a testament to Rollins that he made two hours seem like ten minutes. There wasn't one point where I was bored or looking at my watch. I actually remember thinking, before I looked at my watch, "Gee, that was short." Maybe 'cause Rollins had built it up as a 3 to 4 hour concert, I had prepared myself.

The packed crowd was with him the whole time. They were the choir. The only time people moaned was when he blamed George Bush for the death of Marines. But Rollins stood his ground and said it was the truth. Twice Rollins highlighted the importance of voting this year, and I gotta hand it to him for not letting either of the two candidates names come out of his mouth.

I saw Rollins at the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge in '99 or 2000, and his set was less heavy-handed and therefore funnier, but I understand if Rollins feels like a man on a mission to spread the word. As I stood on the corner after the show, I heard a girl say, "That was depressing." Maybe a little, but the knowledge and perspective and belly-aches I gained from his stories were worth it. If he continues to change his set, I'll be back.

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