Those who weren’t aware there was an opening act got quite a surprise when the very funny Bruce Griffith appeared on stage, looking like a deer in the headlights as he delivered his short, sharp observations in a deadpan monotone.
“I bet some of you thought, ‘Gee, Henry’s really let himself go,'” he offered as his first gag, then fired off about half an hour’s worth of true gems, remaining completely motionless the whole time. While he’s better known for writing with people like Paul McDermott and Andrew Denton, Griffith is also seriously good at the stand up caper too.
After a break of only a few minutes, Henry Rollins made his way to the microphone and proceeded to talk for more than two hours. Taking a somewhat similar stance to the way he used to belt out punk rock, except wearing considerably more clothes, he wrapped the mic lead around his wrist and leaned into it, dedicating the night to his friend Adam Yauch. Much of the show was about music as a result, with hilarious recounts of encounters with Iggy Pop, a sobering tale of a female fan who lost an eye after being crushed by a stage diver at a Black Flag show and an amusing story about a heckler at a gig who was later stabbed and wasn’t even aware of it. These were older yarns though, thrown into his monologue like a band sprinkling the hits into a new setlist. His most biting satire was reserved for the Republican Party, mocking their apparent misogyny and homophobia in the lead up to the US election campaign. “He’s like a man trying to talk a robber into putting his gun down,” he said, then went into a caustic and gut-busting send-up of “plastic” Mitt Romney.
His newer material was more of his blend of commentary, world-weary observation, poignancy and humour, always humour. No matter how stark a picture he painted – of elderly Tibetans cowering in fear from Chinese soldiers, for example – he immediately tempered the mood with laughter: busting a gut with an amazing Vietnamese war historian, ridiculously funny anecdotes from the taping of his documentary series last year (eating rats, drinking cow piss, taunting his hot-headed Australian cameraman), and a long funny/sad ramble about his week in North Korea and the total craziness he saw there. Amongst it all were entreaties to his audience to fix things before they get worse. He was almost rattled as he went into final remarks by a dude trying to present him with a t-shirt; after rebuffing him he collected his thoughts and bid us farewell, no doubt filing the interruption away to bring out on his next trip to Wollongong.
There was even more in Rollins’ 160+ minute unbroken address than what’s noted here, but there was never a dull moment. The sold-out room was enraptured from the first moment to the last. Funny, thought-provoking, intelligent and sincere, Henry Rollins is a master story-teller at the top of his game. Simply put, he was simply brilliant.