Punk rock icon rolls through DeKalb


Henry Rollins

By Connor Rice

“I guess you kind of had to be there.”

We’ve all told those stories. Something humorous and unexpected happens to us in our everyday lives, but we can never quite recapture the essence of the situation when relating it to friends.

This is what sets people like me apart from Henry Rollins.

When the former Black Flag singer performed his spoken word act Thursday night to a sold-out crowd at Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, he told story after story from his 50 years of existence.

But Rollins’ strong vocabulary and sharp wit proved that you don’t always have to be there.

From jaunts around Asia to a trip to Costco, Rollins had his audience rolling in laughter for the non-stop, two-hour performance. Even telling his fans about a joke he wished he once told had people cracking up. His mastery of the English language and speedball delivery kept everyone on their toes, fully engaged and cackling uproariously.

The experience was rather odd, however. The very left-wing, very critical man on the stage was not polarizing his audience, as some performers are wont to do. Given that a quick search of YouTube will reveal videos of people attempting to taunt and heckle Rollins in other environments, it would have seemed almost certain that at least one person would have worked up the nerve to try and pull the spotlight from him.

Some might speculate that his demanding physical presence might have caused even the unruliest of patrons to think twice before cracking wise from the back of the room.

But the large, swelling reaction (and standing ovation) that his work received Thursday might have provided the best answer to this conundrum. Rollins took no mercy (and little effort) in cultivating a reaction from his crowd.

During a bit that showed off his more juvenile side, Rollins rhetorically asked, “Why am I still like this?”

It is doubtful that anyone in the room could have given him a real answer. But with the kind of high-caliber performance he gave Thursday, it doesn’t matter anyway. His fans will always be there, laughing right along with him.