As much as things have changed in hard rock music over the past few decades, two things remain constant: Tony Iommi's hairstyle and Henry Rollins' look and intensity. I can't say I followed Rollins in his Black Flag days. I've only been aware of him since he toured on the first Lollapalooza tour. I first saw the Rollins Band in concert at a Pointfest concert in St. Louis. I was way up on the lawn but I could still feel the intensity Henry was generating as he stalked around the stage, screaming out the lyrics to the radio hit that allowed for his inclusion in the show: "Liar." My friend called him "a caged beast." He did look something like a tiger, pacing around the stage and glaring at the audience who were there to gawk. He wore black shorts and tattoos and nothing else. He didn't even wear shoes. Stripped down and raw, he rocked, as the Aussies like to say, "Full On."
I saw Henry do his spoken word thing at a college in New York. He had clothes on this time but he was just as angry, riffing and referencing like a heavy metal Seinfeld. He had us laughing and nodding and realizing, "this punk rock guy is pretty smart." But the show stretched over the 2 hour mark and I began to think it was a little self-indulgent. Then I saw Henry on the street on Avenue A in the East Village. A fan had cornered him and was telling him how Black Flag had influenced his life. Henry stopped and really listened to the guy. He seemed like a mensch...but I didn't want to get too close.
Hank's been out of the music scene for a few years, concentrating on his books and spoken word routines. He was missed. Now he's back with a new incarnation of his band and a new album Get Some Go Again. The new band features Jim Wilson on guitar, Marcus Blake on bass and Jason Mackenroth on drums. These guys were already playing together as Mother Superior, and Henry had produced one of their albums. Henry suggested they work together and found the collaboration inspired him to record a new album and tour with these guys.
Rollins Band played 3 nights in a row in Sydney and I saw the second show. I got there in time to see one of the openers, Nunchukka Superfly, who were just okay. There was a good-sized crowd but it wasn't packed and I was able to get up close on the floor before Rollins Band came out. When the curtains parted, Henry exploded onto the stage with his bandmates...no overture and grand entrance for him. He looked just the same as the last time I saw him in concert-black shorts, tattoos, close-cropped hair. He's pushing 40 but you wouldn't know it from his ripped body and blistering performance. I have to say, although he scares me a little, I wouldn't push him out of my bed if I found him there.
The band played most of the songs on their new album, which is a return to classic hard rock. The riffs evoke Black Sabbath. To show their roots, they even played a couple of covers of Thin Lizzy songs, including "Are You Ready?" which is on the new album. Henry explained that he wasn't happy with the direction music was going in and wanted to get back to classic rock. I say "Amen, Brother Rollins." The band proves that this music is still relevant when it's played with the fire and rage that Rollins Band delivers. The crowd went nuts and Henry said "Aussies rock harder than anyone." OK, Hank, but I bet you say that to all the countries!
Stand-out songs were "You Let Yourself Down" and "Get Some Go Again." I also liked "Summer Nights," a song that was not a John Travolta-Olivia Newton John cover, but rather a song that Henry said was about growing up in Washington, DC. They played some older songs and got a big response for a frenetic song called "Your Number is One." This was my first metal show in Sydney and I have to say the crowd was not as intense as I expected, although there was some moshing and crowd-surfing. Henry joked, "Next time we'll line the front with soft puppies so that it won't hurt when people fall" and then he yelped around the stage like a pup. At one point, he referred to the Texas dragging death of"James Byrd Jr. and said he wanted to drag the guys who did it "so they could feel what it was like to have their skin come off one particle at a time." Reports of current domestic bliss for Mr. Rollins aside, he's still mad as hell. He played a song called "Frozen Man" and said, "this is about what it feels like to be out in the wilderness and freeze to death." Very upbeat stuff!
The guy stalked around the stage for 1 hour and 30 mins, including a 2-song encore. He let the crowd touch him. Some fans even rubbed his shaved head for good luck. Hanks gives his all and the new band sounds great. Do yourself a favor - get some go again!
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