Friday, February 10, 2012

Henry Rollins storms through Helsinki

Last Wednesday night I attended a spoken word performance by an American super artist Henry Rollins.   I would be surprised if you haven't heard of Henry.  He has to be one of the hardest working men in the arts world.  He is a singer-songwriter, spoken word artist, writer, comedian, publisher, actor and radio DJ.  Those are quite some credentials, and it seems that he never slows down.   Perhaps that is the issue with Henry, he has been performing in one fashion or another for the last 30 years nonstop.  He claims he is not a "workaholic", but I beg to differ.  I think work keeps him sane and suppresses some earlier pain in his life.  Henry is legendary in the punk rock world for his work in Black Flag in the 80s, but in my world it has been his spoken word performance that I find the most captivating.

I had once seen Henry perform spoken word way back in 1993 at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, California.  However, last night almost 20 years later I had the treat of seeing Henry perform for the Finnish audience in Helsinki.  It was quite surreal to be perhaps the only American in the audience of 700 or so Finns.  Henry started his show by saying a few pleasant words about Finland and it's unique geographical location in Europe and how he played several music shows in Finland when he was younger.  He showed total respect for his Finnish audience this evening.  He then proceeded to go on an angry rant about the "circus act" that is the Republican primary election currently going on in the United States.  Later, he went on for about 20 minutes on American gluttony and the Costco shopping experience.  Other topics including his stint with a National Geographic travel show which took him to India to eat rats with the locals, and how he got a tourist visa to visit North Korea.  In North Korea he visited the mausoleum that displays the body of the so called "great leader" Kim Il Sung.  In North Korea he ate the same food everyday while being escorted around by his Korean guides.  Henry seems to have a lust for life and really enjoys visiting places off the beaten track that Americans haven't really had a chance to explore (Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, etc.)  He seems to want to give "forbidden" locations a chance to see what really lies behind the iron doors.  Rollins explained to the crowd that it doesn't matter what country you visit and what kind of political regime they have, people are people with thoughts and feelings just like you and me.  Henry also spoke about how he really tries to personally answer each and every email or letter that he receives from his fans.  He claims that he doesn't have an assistant to help him and that he takes everyone of them seriously.  If that claim is true, that is definitely a rarity in the celebrity/artist world.

In classic Rollin's fashion, he got pissed off in the beginning of the show when his microphone kept cutting on and off.  He proceeded to taunt the sound mix guy, to which the crowd got quite a kick out of.  Finally, after another 30 minutes passed, someone handed Henry a fresh microphone,  he cheered up and the crowd clapped.  He is definitely not one to hide his feelings and thoughts about anything; he appears to be as honest as one gets.  This attitude is quite refreshing when viewed by the Finns who are sometimes known to suppress their feelings.  I was quite surprised how well received the show was in Finland.  Especially in light of the fact the he is rattling off non-stop in English for 3 hours straight at break neck speed.  I wonder how much of his show was "lost in translation" to the Finnish crowd.  Finland's command of the English language is very impressive to say the least and English is spoken and heard just about anywhere in Southern Finland.  All in all, it was another great spoken word performance from one of the industry's hardest working man.

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