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Live Review: An Evening With Henry Rollins @ The Tivoli


It was difficult to know what to expect going into ‘An Evening With Henry Rollins’. Taking my seat in one of the front rows of a sold-out ‘Tivoli, I recapped what I knew about the great punk legend. Rollins’ legacy was founded out of the grimy, sweaty clubs of a 1980’s Los Angeles undergoing a number of distinct social evolutions.

Rollins voiced his anger against the juxtapositions of the world by fronting the legendary punk band Black Flag, a group whose primordial ideals gelled well with the raw aggression of their music. Beyond this he simply had the look of a tough guy, so when the crowd bristled and Rollins, on time, walked out on the stage the end result surprised me entirely.


With no more than a cursory “Hello”, Rollins’ launched into his opening words with zest before the crowd had even stopped clapping his entrance. It was soon understood that you would certainly get your money’s worth from Rollins, as he spoke at an unwavering and rapid pace. One could only assume this was to try and fit as many words in each sentence as possible before his thoughts moved elsewhere, as they often would, taking the man from one story to the next with ease.

Rollins made it clear right from the start he was a friend, taking the time to explain how much he loved Australia, often drawing comparisons between the great southern land and his own nation of America (usually to highlight his frustrations with current political happenings).


Throughout the evening his conversation would cover all manner of things, including tales of his childhood, his discovery of music, and his lifestyle, which contrary to the stereotypical punk rocker consists not of copious sex and drugs, but rather hobbies like writing and record listening. Sweat poured down his arms, dripping from his elbows at a constant rate caused both by his refusal to slow down the enthusiastic discussion, and the heat of the house lights bearing down on him.

It became clear, despite acknowledging the flaws and injustices of the world, that Rollins’ outlook on life is optimistic and hopeful. He would often end a sad story by putting forth a potential solution, or at least hoping change would one day eventuate.

Despite fronting one of the most influential punk bands to exist, Rollins spoke comparatively little about both his time in Black Flag and his own contributions to music, preferring to discuss his favourite artists, which were as widespread as the Ramones, David Bowie, and Dionne Warwick. Rollins did manage to include humour throughout his conversation, and most memorably I can recall him referring to his car consistently throughout the night as “My Bon Jovi-mobile, my Def Leppard Express”, included each time without missing a beat.


Though you have never met him, you feel that Rollins’ true personality and feelings are laid out on a platter for all to see. That is to say, he is the same guy on the stage as off, that there are few secrets kept when Rollins is talking and little left unsaid. His buoyant and excitable personality is infectious, as he held the audience’s unwavering attention for the whole two hours he spoke.

Incredibly humble, polite, and as friendly as a puppy dog, but also thought provoking and reflective, Henry Rollins will (only reluctantly) leave you feeling good and satisfied…but not so satisfied that you wouldn’t go and do it again!

Photos by Vincent Shaw