Rollins fires up Valentine’s Day crowd at Thursday’s

Shelley Blundell

Henry Rollins spoke at Thursday’s Lounge in Akron on Monday night. Rollins gave an animated spoken-word performance for a packed house.

Credit: Beth Rankin

There’s nothing like visions of war-torn soldiers and Ramones falling off the planet to inspire the inner romantic in all of us.

Appearing before a little more than 200 people at Thursday’s Lounge in Akron, Henry Rollins turned an otherwise dreary Valentine’s Day into a darkly funny and deeply thoughtful evening.

With a tirade that wound its way from one eclectic thought pattern to the next, Rollins spoke on politics, his love of employment and why he likes to stay perpetually pissed.

“I like to get pissed off because it gets me up and going — I don’t ever want to get less pissed off than I am now,” Rollins said.

Rollins spoke at length about both his childhood and his adult life, fondly reminiscing over the moments that shaped him into the person he is today. One of those moments, Rollins said, was his first Ramones concert.

“I had been waiting all my life to hear music from guys who sounded like me — to hear people talking about killing and destroying — and then punk rock came out,” Rollins said.

Rollins spoke of the crush of people in the arena, the impending feeling of doom as other concertgoers pressed harder against one another and how all that slipped away as the Ramones took the stage.

“There were no barricades — I was so close I could have touched Johnny (Ramone) on the shoulder,” Rollins said.

And as the Ramones shaped Rollins, so their music shaped an entire generation.

“They make a lot of music seem completely inessential — they are a beacon in the dark sea of Good Charlottes,” Rollins said.

Rollins has done many things in his 44 years of life but nothing, he said, has been more traumatic or eye-opening than his work with the United Service Organizations.

“I’ve been over to Afghanistan and Iraq and to the Walter Reed army hospital to visit the wounded,” Rollins said.

“It’s like a Pandora’s Box — you don’t know what you’re going to get till you get in there.”

Rollins spoke of his visits with the badly wounded soldiers at the hospital and of the mothers by their sides, doing their best to be brave for the sakes of their sons and daughters.

“I can’t imagine the pain of a mother who has raised this fine son or daughter . . . and who has to watch them come home with their legs blown off,” Rollins said.

“To me, it’s just not worth it. Should Iraqis be free? Absolutely. Is it worth Americans going over there and getting so much as a hangnail to make it possible? No fucking way.”

And, Rollins said, all Americans have a civic responsibility to pay attention to what goes on in the United States every day.

“If all is not well in your country, then all is not well in your life — you want to be in this country? Then you have to take some responsibility,” Rollins said.

And being responsible is what Rollins is all about — performing solo and with various bands in benefit concerts such as “Wed Rock” (an annual benefit concert held to raise money for the Freedom to Marry group) and his latest tours with the USO, Rollins says what he feels, no matter the situation.

“Thomas Jefferson gave me the green light,” Rollins said. “My bottom line is ‘let’s go.’ You can bitch and complain all you like and I’ll say ‘I don’t care, let’s go!’”

And through it all, Rollins struggles to become a better person.

“It’s uphill — you know why? Because I’m a madman,” Rollins said.

And despite his manic tendencies and now-graying hair, Rollins still knows how to inspire and enrage an audience, no matter what he has to say to do it.

Contact general assignment reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].