Pop: Rollins Band Brixton Academy, London

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The Independent Culture
If you ever have the misfortune to be eternally condemned to everlasting Hell, you could do worse than take Henry Rollins with you. He's been there before and come out the other side. Man, this guy is heavy. He performs as if there are broken chains lying strewn around his feet. In Brixton, Rollins strutted and pawed at the very edge of the stage, his clenched body depositing sweat on the seething crowd. "On my way to the cage!" he roared. "On my way to the cage! On my way to the cage!" Over and over. Behind him, the band hammered its way into the blackness, driven by Melvin Gibbs's pounding bass.

Last Sunday night, Henry Rollins once more tore himself open before his people, giving urgent instructions in a song-poem called "The End of Something". "Touch your fear, don't be afraid," he ordered, jabbing and pointing at the half-naked mob before him. "Don't confront me!" he yelled in "During a City".

There was no remission from his endless rage. The man with the words "Search and Destroy" emblazoned across his back only allowed himself to take breath on rare occasions. The monster frame expanded and contracted as he sang "Inhale Exhale". He inhaled love, he exhaled fear. He inhaled power, he exhaled force. He inhaled tolerance, he exhaled judgement. And so on. Rollins described these new compositions as "pig-ass monolithic rock songs", which is something of an understatement. More like a series of controlled explosions; songs about the restraint of beasts. He didn't do as much talking as usual ("Some say I talk too much") but, when he did finally address his audience, he came forward with a sincere smile on his face. He spoke for a moment about "fat-fuck music journalists" who questioned his music. But there was something else coming. "I wish I could give each of you a flower to hold," Henry announced. "And a tree for you to hug, and a calf for you to save."

Somebody in the crowd murmured "Liar". The end had begun. A cry went up and Chris Haskett's guitar ripped the air apart while Henry plunged into the litany of untruths: "Liar" was the first of four encore numbers from Rollins Band.

The performance had started with a disembodied voice suspended in the gloom above the stage, quoting expressions from what sounded like an Anglo- Japanese phrase book. "The bathroom light is burnt out," said the voice. "Could you fix it?" These were simple words, measured and controlled, always repeated twice, but meaning little. The night ended with Henry Rollins howling, wordless, in the dark like a beast. Maybe he was teaching us a lesson. Maybe it was time to come away from the case.