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Arts

Henry Rollins brings his loud mouth to Toronto

Posted by Roger Cullman / November 20, 2012

Henry RollinsHenry Rollins is a self-professed work slut. Not a workaholic -- a term he is quick to eschew.

Rollins' three-night stand at the Glenn Gould Studio continues his 100+-shows-a-year work ethic over the past 30 years. This time round, his spoken word performance -- or "mile-a-minute verbitude" as he calls it -- rewards audiences with a two-and-a-half-hour-long monologue rife with astute observations, social commentary and entertaining storytelling like no other.

He doesn't even pause for a sip of water throughout his set. For fear of people taking the seven seconds to walk out during his performance.

At 51, Rollins still commands every bit of attention on stage. He strikes an imposing stance, microphone firmly clenched in his left fist, cord wrapped around a few fingers. Tattoos on both his arms stick out of a black t-shirt gets that gets increasingly darker with sweat as the set goes on. His black dress pants and thick-soled Doc Marten boots and thick sports watch completed the look.

His commentary on the recent U.S. presidential election was aimed at one "feckless douche" which he described was unendurable but hilarious to watch on television. He likened the Toronto audience as a smart, astute and "switched on" crowd. So by and large, he was preaching to the choir. But there was never a dull moment hearing Rollins preach.

"At age 51, I'm getting the strength to learn from the people I meet now," he admitted. "My youth is 40 exits behind me and I can't remember the name of the onramp."

Indeed, some of the highlights of his stand-up delivery for me was hearing him retell stories about his fans approaching him after his show or writing him letters.

"People tell me stories that would peel the paint off your car," he says. One story is of a young man, or "YouthMan" as he refers to him, confessing about suicidal tendencies. Another is about a young teenage girl emailing him naked pictures of her, wondering if any boy will ever find her attractive. What's most telling is the retelling of his reactions and responses to them in his unique, Henry Rollins way.

His schtick is also filled with plenty of punk rock music references and hilarious stories about his recent Animal Underworld gig with National Geographic Wild, doing things that scare him to death. And his workout routine, where he gets on the elliptical trainer and tries to "destroy the machine while listening to a combination of The Ramones and Slayer" on his iPod.

If you've never seen Henry Rollins perform live, do yourself a favour and check out this show on Wednesday night at the Glenn Gould Studio for his last of three nights in Toronto.

Photo courtesy Swift River Productions.

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