Henry Rollins @ O2 Academy Oxford – 18/01/12

For those who don’t know, Henry Rollins isn’t just the lead singer of the legendary and highly influential 80’s hardcore band Black Flag. He has also written over 15 books, made 7 solo albums with The Rollins Band, appeared in numerous films and TV shows, including hosting his own ‘Rollins Show’, and since 1985 Rollins has recorded and released 17 spoken word albums.

The O2 manage to find the world’s most uncomfortable chairs be used as seating in the downstairs room, which are quickly filled before Rollins takes to the stage at dead on 8.30pm. For the next two and a half hours the tall, muscled, cropped haired, tattooed, punk rock icon that is Henry Rollins barely stops to catch his breath.

Rollins speaks with a direct intensity that demands your complete attention, he is extremely funny on stage but is quick to point out that he isn’t a funny person, but a person who knows funny stories. And that is the best way to describe his set, a collection of funny stories, ranging from his youth in Washington D.C and touring with Black Flag to eating rats with Indian snake hunters. Henry Rollins has clearly lived an amazingly interesting and exciting life, though he never brags and always comes across very endearing and respectful of both the audience and the people who make up his many tales.

Rollins’ delivery and presence on stage remind me a lot of the great comedian Bill Hicks, both hold strong left wing ideals, which they have no problem literally shouting about and even getting red-faced with rage, but both also have a deep rooted faith in humanity that shines through. Henry’s stories almost all focus not on himself, but the people he meets and his experiences in different cultures all around the world, from visiting North Korea and seeing Kim Il-sung’s preserved body to snake handling Pentecostal churches in the deep south of America.

Then at bang on 11 o’clock as quickly as he took the stage, Rollins thanks the crowd for coming to the show, promises to return, and is gone. For me at least the set flew by and would have happily sat through another two and a half hours in the worlds most uncomfortable chairs.