Saw Henry Rollins last Friday night downtown. Goddamn...what an awesome show. Tickets were $35, the doors opened at 7, and he was scheduled to hit the stage at 8. At 8:02, he steps out on stage, grabs the mic, and off we go. As if to punctuate the act, he immediately vows that he does not want to waste one nanosecond of our time. Just like that, he puts overblown celebrities to shame who force their fans to shell out $100+ per show, then only deign to show up as they like, often an hour or more late. Fuck 'em all. Rollins is the real deal.
The man remains a coiled mass of caffeine, testosterone, wit and intelligence. Even at 51, he is a sight to behold; despite wearing the most workmanlike of clothes, he white-knuckles the microphone and doesn't let go for the next two and a half hours. He rocks back and forth in an athletic stance as if to prepare himself for an unknown onslaught. Sweat starts to drip consistently from his bared elbow only five minutes in. And the show really is just him and a microphone. No table. No chair. No water bottle. No life-soothing accoutrements, no creature comforts, nothing.
When Rollins talks, you best be paying attention. He starts the show talking at a frenetic pace, fueled by adrenaline and coffee (I'd imagine), and barely stops for a breath. I don't think I heard him say "um" once the entire time. And this includes a stunning verbatim recital of a speech a young Abraham Lincoln gave back in the early 1830s. He didn't even pause in the slightest during said speech when someone in the front row accidentally shattered their drink glass.
And you know he's gonna spill some amazing shit. The title of the tour is "Capitalism," since it hits every US capital between now and election night, where he ends in DC; obviously, he went to town on Republicans of all sorts. He described Ann Romney's RNC speech as being given by someone who was trying to squeeze watermelons through her tear ducts. He brought up reading Dubya's autobiography ("I read it for you," as if he were Jesus dying for our sins), as well as Cheney's; apparently Cheney has led a fascinating life, but is the most unimaginative guy alive, so sez Hank. And he feels badly for Republicans - he truly believes that no one would vote for Romney with any semblance of enthusiasm, he's such a weak candidate. They're all voting against Obama, and Romney just happens to be the guy to vote for. (He admitted that we had a moment in our not so distant past where Democrats had a similar scenario...remember that snoozefest Kerry?)
But the political stuff dies down soon enough, and we get treated to the fun stuff we really came for, what really makes Rollins the phenomenon he is: hyperbolic stories about his wild life. He brings up his life back in DC, hanging with Ian MacKaye and growing up around punk. As a long-time Minor Threat fan, I was hanging on every word Hank said about seeing some of their first shows...in their own living room. He also told stories about his excitement seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time ("He's taking out the bow! Just like on 'The Song Remains The Same!'"), but what really got me was his story of seeing the Ramones. Smashed, along with 800 other kids, into a Great White-like venue meant to hold maybe 500, he found himself withering in the anoxic, stifling environment, standing this close to Dee Dee Ramone, trying to lap up every drop of sweat that came off Dee Dee's nose to keep from dehydrating.
He also brings up his recent travels. Documentary work for National Geographic took him to India, where he was videoed drinking cow's urine, which apparently is considered by some to be a panacea. He also travelled to south Kentucky to witness a charismatic church service, poisonous snakes and all. Then he went to Haiti, where he befriended a whole shantytown by bringing them - by request - tons of soap and soccer balls. Needless to say, the guy leads one insanely fascinating life.
Oh yeah...the title quote? That's his MO. He will take any work, anywhere he can get it. He's slung ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. He's destroyed hundreds of rats (by order of his bosses) at NIH when they all got a tremendously contagious, fatal disease. Don't need to say anything about his musical career or spoken-word tours. He's starred in a number of B-grade movies. He's hosted his own talk show. He still runs a weekly radio show. He maintains a blog. He's a prolific writer. And probably a dozen (at least) other jobs/occupations I can't remember off the top. A work slut, indeed.
If you are lucky enough to live in or near a state capital, do yourself a favor. Get a ticket. It'll be the best show you see all year.