Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Long March

Henry Rollins is one of the most important voices in modern pop culture. Why? Because he has a voice, and uses it to inspire, enrage, and enlighten whoever will listen. Henry is known for many things: He's a musician, a writer, a speaker, a host, an actor (not one of his strongest talents, he'll be the first to admit), a traveller, and most importantly, he's a Thinker.

If you want his full biography and background, I'm sure there's a Wiki page that would love to tell you. I'm going to speak about Henry through my own experience, having seen his spoken word act several times.

Last night, as part of his 'The Long March' tour, Henry dropped by the Vogue in Vancouver to spend some time with, as he describes, us 'sexy Canadians'. Though Henry has many talents, his spoken word show is by far my favourite way to experience him. The phrase 'spoken word' can be somewhat cryptic and I'm sure many people who go to see him have no idea what they're getting into. Once Henry hits the stage, he's on. No warm-up, no rehearsal, no waiting. His spoken word act consists of a little stand-up comedy, some motivational speaking, many anecdotes about his experiences as a pop culture icon and as a traveller, and a whole lot of opinion.

I don't ever expect to agree with everything Henry has to say, but that doesn't stop me from loving the fact that he says it.  Last night's show involved Canadian and American politics (and hilarious impressions and descriptions of politicians), stories about fan mail, memories of old-time punk rock shows, the inevitable travel anecdotes, and a few character pieces about the strangers that he's encountered along the way. Filled with shouting, sound effects, voice impressions, humour, rants, and inspiration, I've never had an easier time staring at a man for almost three hours.

As self-deprecating and negative as Henry may seem about his own life, the way he views the world and our future makes it very difficult to categorize him as a pessimist. He truly believes that if we, as a society, keep learning, communicating, travelling, and appreciating each other and our own life, we can change the world for the future. To paraphrase, Henry says that we will either be the last living century, or we'll be the century that future generations look back on gratefully, for we were the ones to prevent the world from imploding on itself and we actually made a difference.

For all the screens we put up between eachother, whether it's a phone or computer, for all the ways we try to communicate and sometimes avoid real communication, it's refreshing and endlessly inspiring that a man such as Henry Rollins can walk out onto a stage, face a room full of people, and speak his mind to a chorus of laughs, cheers, and appreciation.  He says that as long as he can speak, he'll be having spoken word tours. Well, as long as I can listen, I'll be there in the audience.

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