To a certain generation of males reared on hardcore 1980s punk rock (you know who you are), Henry Rollins will forever be the ripsnorting frontman of Black Flag, the heroically aggressive California band that swung its knuckles at anything placed in front of it — including, on occasion, audience members.
But to those who have just discovered him in the past decade, Rollins might come across a little differently. Maybe you saw him on the Independent Film Channel, where as the host of “The Henry Rollins Show” he is a tattooed Charlie Rose, going face-to-face with actors and musicians in earnest and intelligent interviews. Maybe you read his politics blog on Vanity Fair, where he triggers hate-filled comments with his antagonistic and unabashedly left-wing “straight talk.” Maybe you know him as a stone jaw actor on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” where he plays the leader of a white supremacist gang.
Or maybe, if you’ve ever seen him perform spoken word at the Pantages, where he’ll return on May 14, you’ve known him as a thunderous mix of all of these roles. When Rollins takes the mic for one of his three-hour rant-and-raves sessions, he kicks off a spectacle that is part stand-up comedy, part storytelling and part political rally. There is no opening act. There is no introduction. There is just a glass of water set out on a stool. And Rollins rarely takes a sip.
For this year’s “Frequent Flyer Tour,” Rollins, an obsessive traveler, fuels his act with anecdotes from recent trips to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Siberia, Indonesia, Brunei, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Driven by a punk rock ethos and work ethic, he looks to first-hand experiences in these places in addition to exhaustive research to build his worldview. As the show’s poster, which was designed by Shepard Fairey, states, “Knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.”
With a Rollins show, there’s always a bit of preaching to the choir. But there’s also an impressive level of story craft, as Rollins might recount his brief foray into high school wrestling as a teen or the time he made a record with William Shatner. On politics or otherwise, the guy’s got a lot to say.
As he puts it in the Minneapolis show’s promotional material, “There’s a lot to remark upon, of course. There always is.”
Henry Rollins’ Frequent Flyer Tour
May 14, 8 p.m.