Traveling Henry Rollins recalibrates show to reflect post-COVID world

As the muscle-bound lead singer of Black Flag and Rollins Band, Henry Rollins cultivated a following for his intensity and him-against-the-world musical onslaught. But with his music career nearly 20 years in the rearview, Rollins has a different priority than aggressive on-stage catharsis.

“What kind of goodness can I do,” he said. “At my age, between being in my 60s and COVID, my options are severely limited. What can I do with my life? I can be good. That’s a good reason to get up in the morning.”

As Capital Region audiences can see at his performance at the Egg on Monday, the Henry Rollins that performs spoken word in 2022 has a much different agenda than the one that started that portion of his career by telling humorous, occasionally mean anecdotes about the life of a touring musician. The goal now is much broader in scope, influenced by his pre-COVID ability to travel the globe.

“At one point someone said to me, ‘You travel a lot, and I had to be like, ‘No, I travel for rock ‘n’ roll, let’s not make it what it’s not,’” Rollins said. “But then I was like, ‘Why haven’t I?’ Now, I’m fortunate to have the money to go somewhere I want to go and see, I go when I’m without tour dates and as much as my wallet will allow.

“I’ve been to 87 or 88 countries and less than half of those are for shows,” he added. “I bring all this to the stage. If you have the opportunity to widen your lens and don’t, shame on me. But if I can bring something good to the audience, that means the world to me.”

Rollins journeys to places in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia that aren’t exactly known for tourist destinations. By spending time in Iran, North Korea or “even countries with Sharia law” and discussing his experiences, Rollins hopes to demystify these nations and offer a “global consideration.”

When it comes to issues such as free speech, poverty and human rights, many of the nations are a far cry from the standards Americans expect and often take for granted. Rollins highlights these differences, not to look down on these nations, but to get audiences to think about the shared humanity of their citizenry and ours. It’s a way to get people to challenge their own preconceived notions and rise above the current, fractious fear-based culture to help themselves grow and improve the world around them.

“The shows are more humanitarian, less ‘these people suck’ now,” he noted. “I punch up as hard as I can and never punch down on people or places. There’s a lot of profit in saying the world is a scary place, that your town is unsafe because the libs let in murderers and rapists.

“You turn on Fox (News) and hear, ‘We don’t like gay people, diversity will be our downfall,’” Rollns added. “It’s bad and it’s going to get a lot worse before it ultimately gets better, but it eventually will. The world is not to be feared and if you can travel and get out and see the world and people, you’ll be so much better for it. Doing that is going to be the final nail in the coffin of common bigotry.”

On recent tours, the centerpiece of Rollins’ show was a travel-centric tale. The pandemic made that impossible this time, and possibly forever. This presented a few challenges for him as he put together the material for his current tour, one that saw its February and early March European leg canceled due to COVID-related travel concerns.

“They (the tour promoters) said to me, ‘Henry, we love you, please don’t come,’” he lamented.

He wanted to acknowledge the ways his own life has been impacted by COVID-19, while also being cognizant of the fact that many in his audience faced and continue to face far greater challenges. And he had to work harder than ever to compile a routine he felt was worthy of presenting on-stage. Rollins noted that last year he was “lucky a thing happened that was sad, but also a little hilarious and absolutely bonkers.”

The event was the centerpiece he needed to bring the show together. Without it, Rollins wouldn’t be at the Egg on Monday, as the idea of presenting material he felt was substandard was never an option.

“Man, my pre-COVID life was bitchin,’ but I think that bitchin’ life is over,” he lamented. “I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to travel internationally again, considering my age and travel restrictions. But I have to be careful with that; there are people in the audience that lost a parent or a brother or sister. I still have a good life, but I don’t want to sit around. I’m not 22 anymore.

“I’ve never had to work as hard to get material to justify going on stage; without the travel and the input it gives you, I didn’t have as much to draw on,” Rollins continued. “But the show is ready and I’m very happy with this material. I can’t go on stage and sling low-caloric hash. I want to give you something to think about and if it was work to do it, I can sling knowing I put the time in.”


 Henry Rollins

When: 8 p.m., Monday, March 21

Where: The Egg, 1 Empire Plaza, Albany

Tickets: $30

Note: All audience members must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours. Face masks must be worn inside at all times, excepting food or drink. For more info: