A man walks on stage, grabs the microphone and attacks. It's Henry Rollins. Plain black t-shirt, well worn but clean black Dickies and boots - SWAT looking boots. The pace is set high and within in minutes Henry has performed a coup with military-like precision and tactics. He looks military, or mercenary, with closely cropped hair, tuned physique and the jawline of a staff sergeant. The attacker has taken over the audience by force. There is no escape and no desire to flee. Everyone is riveted. Slashing away with the keen blade of the English language, he channels his thoughts and experiences into stories that are parts and pieces of a bigger story which circles back around, "like a snake eating its tail" as he puts it, two and a half hours later never once breaking his stance or intensity. His SWAT boots rarely moved and his microphone arm remained cocked with sweat dripping off his elbow.
"Spoken word" is a phrase the feels at though it should be muttered with a Shakespearean grumble. It feels highbrow and artsy. Poetry slam, open mic, stand up, spoken word - they all feel very drama club. But there is a rawness that amazes. No hype-man, no band, no warm-up, no net and no light show or fog machine. A performer, a microphone, a spot light and the audience. Its a high wire act, fail and you die a horrible death. If you pull-off the double back flip the audience is yours. But your tricks have to be original, clever, creative and flawless. Spoken word is exactly that - words spoken. The artistry comes by way of original thought and view of the world, presentation, passion and a masterful use of the English language. It's all you, do or die.
30 years has passed since I last shook Henry Rollins hand. Great to see him yet again, great to have witnessed him performing again, great to know he is "going up the road" building on his experiences and thoughts and great to see that he continues hone his keen blade.