Friday night with Henry Rollins at the Met was nostalgic for me. Though I never saw Black Flag perform, I do have a sweet spot for them in the wreckage of my teenage angst -- not to mention grand memories of many a TV party inspired by the band.
I arrived at the Met to find there was a small ticket problem. I didn't have a reserved seat and was going to have to take what was available. My expectations were bleak, but the helpful girl behind the glass assured me she would give the best seat available. Putting my trust completely in her, I took the ticket and went off to find my seat. You can imagine my ecstasy in finding that "best seat available" meant front row. Center. Gee, thanks.
After a bit of waiting and a lot of anticipation, Rollins appeared on the barren stage, which nicely complimented his stripped-down guerilla-style approach to life. Clad in his signature all-black shirt, pants and shoes, he took his place center stage to thunderous applause from the packed house. But something was amiss. I zeroed in on it: His typically jet-black hairdo was tinged with gray, giving the guy an almost mortal aura.
Rollins proceeded to make pointed observations ranging from the current situation with Iraq to absurd interview questions he recently received from a university student and everything in between. I hung on every word as the barrage of anecdotes, alarming statistics and downright hilarious stories rolled off the stage, which was now soaked in 100 percent, Grade A, punk rock-ness. Rollins rattled through his spoken word riffs with the intensity and pace of a Greg Ginn screeching guitar onslaught. To the outsider, he probably resembled a one-man freak out, but his lucid commentary and vivid memories of life-altering experiences were nothing short of fascinating. The intimate surroundings of the Met were the perfect match for such an up-close and very personal performance.
This intensity, humor and sharp wit made the elapsed time (did I mention he spoke for three hours straight?) seem like a brief conversation with a friend that leaves you intellectually stimulated as well as amused. Rollins closed with heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out and left the audience with something to think about as he related the statistics of self-defeating behaviors that plague our society and needlessly take lives: "Try harder to do better," Rollins admonished as he left the stage to a raucous standing ovation.
I decided to hang outside with the 25 or so others who hoped for a brief encounter with Henry. About a half an hour later he emerged from a side door of the theater and graciously accommodated fans by signing everything they handed him and posing for numerous photos. It was the perfect finish to a show I'll not soon forget.
Watch our music section every week as Clint Burgess and other Inlander scenesters check out the local nightlife in "On the Scene."
Publication date: 03/13/03