Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins urges audience members to think for themselves

Scott Murphy, Crier Staff

On the New Hampshire stop of his 2012 tour of the nation’s fifty capitals, eminent entertainer Henry Rollins unleashed a spoken word spectacle that captivated the audience at the Capitol Center for the Arts for nearly three hours.

A mere glimpse at Rollins’ résumé can easily explain the packed room at the Concord theatre. Initially the vocalist/lyricist for pioneering hardcore punk band Black Flag, he has branched out into other modes of entertainment such as television, radio and film in more recent years. However, Rollins’ most prominent modern presence lies with his fervent political and social activism, exhibited through seemingly nonstop speaking tours and global philanthropy.

This current tour felt like Rollins’ own personal State of the union address. Commentary on this year’s American presidential campaign and state of American politics accompanied personal anecdotes of everyday peoples’ plights in a world growing constantly more complex.

Studying those in attendance provided an intriguing social study as the lobby filled up prior to the show. There were of course the typical twenty-something year old punks sporting ink sleeves and Bad Religion merch, but alongside them stood just as many middle aged and senior couples. The intermingling of the generations provided some enlightening discussions, with teens that had discovered Black Flag while sifting through their father’s vinyl collection conversing with men who had watched Rollins perform the songs on those records in a rundown club.

Comradery waning, beverages drained and cigarettes extinguished, the crowd began to file into the theater to find their seats. Soon after, Rollins took the stage to a raucous bout of applause, which he acknowledged humbly while taking his position on stage. He maintained that statuesque stance for the entirety of his performance without a single sip of water or pause to catch his breath.

Rollins opened with politics, with an extended focus on the right-wing’s recent comments and legislative efforts against woman’s reproductive rights. This point was illustrated through Rollins’ own encounter with abortion as nineteen year old. The deep emotional anguish that Rollins experienced after he and his then girlfriend chose to terminate an unplanned pregnancy was apparent and heartbreaking as each detail of his story unraveled.

First hand encounters like this are an integral aspect of Rollins’ monologues. Each tale further reveals the rich and varied life Rollins has experienced. From nights spent sleeping on strangers’ dank carpets while touring with Black Flag to providing bulk purchases of soccer balls and soap to refugees in Haiti, Rollins’ limitless ambition and nonexistent fear is admirable and inspiring.

Those that inspire Rollins himself make up an equally eclectic list. Amidst flawlessly quoting passage from the writings of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, Rollins would recall meaningful encounters with the music of the Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Ramones as well as the members of the bands. These varied examples exhibit Rollins’ unbiased pursuit of knowledge, recognizing meaningful philosophy regardless of the manner in which it is presented.

This idea fit in to the motivational mantra that Rollins stressed the most: think for yourself. In a time where politicians and pundits never cease to spew factually questionable information, it is refreshing to hear discourse such as Rollins’ that encourages the listener to engage in self-reflection rather than attempting to influence what they believe.

As Rollins thanked the audience and walked off stage, the crowd seemed to simultaneously contemplate whether he would make a more fit candidate than the two he mentioned.