LIVE: Henry Rollins’ “Travel Slide Show” @ The Egg, 1/20/18
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
I first encountered Henry Rollins in the early ’90s. At the time I was helping to run the two HMV superstores in Manhattan. Rollins was on a promo tour for his then new album The End of Silence, and his record label had arranged a lunch with the HMV staffers. I was immediately impressed by this articulate and intelligent man. Not for him the laconic ‘tude of the clichéd rock musician, as in, “Yeah, man, our new album is really cool.” Instead, Rollins monopolized the lunch with passionate, graphic stories about growing up in Washington DC and how he had just lost a close friend to gun violence.
I remember thinking, “This guy is so intense even his hair seems clenched.” Fast forward nearly 30 years, and I am in the sold-out audience at The Egg for Rollins’ spoken word Travel Slide Show tour. Rollins hair is now grey, but the years have not dimmed his intensity.
The tour is loosely based around his 2011 book of photographs and commentary “Occupants.” Rollins has long split his career between continuing to work as a musician, while also working as an actor, writer, world traveler, advocate, lecturer and all-around Renaissance man. While the term “lecturer” does not sound too punk rock, rest assured that Rollins’ integrity and passion makes pretty much everything he does punk rock.
He uses the slides of his photographs as triggers for anecdotes about each situation he experienced. He bounced around from country to country and doubled back, ensuring we never got bogged down or bored with any part of his speech.
In the 2 hours and 45 minutes he was on stage, he spoke without a break (or even a glass of water). I did not see him refer to any notes or crib sheets, giving an impressive and fascinating stream of consciousness.
Rollins’ tales ranged from the humorous – an Indonesian cigarette seller wearing a Black Flag t-shirt, who when informed that she was talking to the former lead singer of that band, neither knew who he was or cared – to the
harrowing – Rollins walking on rib cages and teeth of corpses in the killing fields of Cambodia.
Despite the poverty, deprivation and cruelty that he has witnessed first hand, Rollins remains an optimist, pointing to European student volunteers in Vietnam, helping those suffering from the ongoing blight of Agent Orange, as well as the new generations of this country, who he feels sure will reject racism and bigotry.
His photographs mostly featured people, not famous landmarks or vistas. It is people that Rollins cares about, and the old cliché about more similarities than differences helping to improve this world rang as loud and clear on Saturday night as any punk rock guitar riff.