Henry Rollins

Divine Object of Boredom

Rollins Band
with Skunk Anansie
Vancouver, B.C.
Saturday, May 31, 1997

Review and photography by Rodney Gitzel

Skunk Anansie are an engaging live band, to say the least. The British quartet blew the Town Pump away over a year ago, and doubtless a lot of people from that show were here tonight (indeed, there seemed to be two camps in the audience at this show, one for each band). The reason for all this, of course, is Skin, the band's hyperactive (and bald) frontwoman. Mixing fury with charm, she definitely has things to say, but she also understands she's an entertainer -- which is a rare and welcome mix.

Skin What struck me about Skunk Anansie tonight was their command of dynamics. "Yes It's Fucking Political" was first up, and the silence behind vocalist Skin during the chorus was more of a jolt than the loud guitars that followed (a surprisingly clear sound system was a real help, here). The band's set list, too, was a real mixture of searing blasts, Heart-ish romps ("this is one of those songs you can shake your little ass to") and surprisingly laid-back melodies. Hurrah! A band that realizes hitting people over the head with the same stick over and over loses its effectiveness after awhile...

Skin The crowd watched intently, listened intently -- and then cheered wildly at each song's end. A few people put their fingers in Skin's mouth, too. Eew. Then again, Skin has a habit of licking guitar and bass players' heads (not to mention a strange theremin-like device), so, what the heck. As long as the band put on a good show, which they did. (I still would rather see them in a venue -- like the Pump -- with a lower stage, though.)

Now, I am 99.9% sure that when the Rollins Band last played Vancouver, about three years ago, Henry Rollins got so p.o.'d at the audience for booing him that he swore to never play here again. So what was the band doing here, now? Was it pressure from the higher-ups? Or did Rollins figure he'd get revenge by making Vancouver pay money for a weak show?

There, I've said it, and no other reviewer of that night seems to agree with me, but I found the show to be really lacking. The sound was surprisingly awful -- I could hardly hear Chris Haskett's usually damned good guitar playing, and the bass was just a rumble through the floor. The crowd was pretty dead, too, sometimes bubbling a bit, but with little moshing of any sort -- or maybe they were just subdued by the guy on stage.

Henry Rollins And how was he? Rollins was psyched and he shouted from his trademark stance -- but he didn't seem to connect at all with either the audience or his band-mates. He yelled a lot, he sweated even more, but that didn't add up to being much in the way of compelling. From up on high he leeeeeered vaguely at the audience between songs, like he couldn't decide if he should ignore, ridicule or beat the crap out of them, but, regardless, he didn't seem willing to get involved with them.

Since he didn't want to be there, I didn't want to be there -- besides, it was getting pretty boring -- so I left after 45 minutes to catch the end of the Muscle Bitches' set at the Gate. Interestingly, their show was louder -- and they were certainly more entertaining (as is their trademark). Sorry, Henry. Let's see you dance around with a bottle of Corona stuffed down the front of your pink tights sometime...

First published in Drop-D Magazine on June 13, 1997

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