If the term "Renaissance man" weren't so hackneyed, it might very well apply to Henry Rollins -- author, essayist, legendary singer of the Los Angeles punk band Black Flag, producer, spoken word artist, actor, one-time TV host and publisher. He's even done public service announcements for the Partnership for a Drug Free America. But one of these things is not like the others.
Nevertheless, over the past five years or so, "Renaissance man" is the moniker that stuck to Rollins. As he yelped in the title track to the 1999 Rollins Band release Get Some, Go Again: "I do a lot, I do a lot, I do a lotta stuff!"
It's pretty much true, of course. He's been doing a lotta stuff for more than 20 years. Sure, his many books tell fine stories. The records are better. Anyone who's seen The Chase can tell you what Rollins adds to a movie. But long after his hulking physical presence and browbeating persona have been wiped from the world, the most remembered part of his repertoire would likely be the talking shows. Best described as free-form comedy routines devoid of direct punch lines or exaggeration, Rollins' shows bear little resemblance to any standup or spoken word formulas. Yet, almost by sheer charisma, Rollins is able to sustain audience imagination for (on many nights) three hours at a time. Pretty good for a guy "trembling on stage with a microphone." Fans and newcomers alike can expect nothing less when he stops at the Pikes Peak Center on March 10 for his current Shock and Awe My Ass tour. It's just what he does.
"It's a bit of recap," Rollins explained modestly from a phone in Pittsburgh. "It's what happened since the last time I was through town, and hopefully, it's interesting."
Rollins always twists some politics into his shows, but as the less-than-subtle title of this tour suggests, there is a heavier political tone to the topics this time around. Part of this, he says, is a result of a USO meet-and-greet week he did in Iraq last December. Most of his time, he said, was spent answering questions from soldiers, some of which he met on their downtime in military bars.
"They're coming up to me in Slipknot shirts," Rollins said. "These are kids that go to gigs, and now they're in the military. I certainly have some strong opposition to all this, but I can't take it out on them."
The war has affected Rollins in more subtle ways. As a guy who spends many months overseas each year, he can attest to the anti-Americanism around the globe.
"Whenever there's been a Republican in office, it can be potentially tense to volatile in other countries" he said. "The eight years of Clinton were like, 'Yeah, you guys are cool, it's cool, you're not so bad,' but I remember the Reagan years vividly. You'd be in Europe and people would ask, 'So how's Ronald Reagan today?' and it's like, 'Whoa, pal, I'm not your enemy, I'm the guy with the music.' A lot of that comes back with Bush Jr."
Tellingly, Rollins and his self-proclaimed "big ugly mouth" have little trouble diffusing situations like these.
"I just say, 'you dislike him with a machete, I dislike him with a laser. I can go point by point and dissect it in front of you down to the last nut and bolt."
-- John Hult
Pikes Peak Center 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Wednesday, March 10 at 8 p.m.
$21.50; Call 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com