Henry Rollins - Shock and Awe: The Tour DVD

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UK release 28th February 2005

Although this isn't out until the end of next month, I picked up this DVD on the recent Henry Rollins spoken word tour, hence the early review. And I'm sure that as live comedy and spoken word performances go, you can't get much more intense than Henry Rollins. Famed for his near three hour shows and insights into all sorts of subjects, just being at a Rollins gig is as intense as it gets. By the time you leave the venue your brain is really trying hard to take it all in and explain just how good the show was to your friends at work the next day, who have no idea of why you rate the guy so much.

Anyway, enough ranting. The DVD is basically one taken from a show on the current tour, recorded in Seattle in March 2004. Although it would have been easy to go for a three hour DVD of a complete show, there's a common sense ploy taken here to get all the best bits from the show and make the time around an hour and a half. This way, it can be taken in at home at any time without having to face all that intensity again and again and again. And of course, if you like the recent tour, you will like the subjects discussed on the DVD. I'll take them chapter by chapter as it's the easiest way to do it:

The President Don't Talk Good: A hilarious insight into how George Bush speaks, and how every time that he opens his mouth, he serves more material for Rollins. Definitely plenty of moments where his speech slows down to a complete halt, nodding every word. Delivered with much gusto and joie de vivre.
Hell for Masturbators: Exactly what it says on the tin how he describes the current hell going on when you're a single male and you're walking around Walmart in what he calls "jack-off hell". Hilarious.
LA Living, LA Dating: How being in Los Angeles can really make you feel strange and weird, and how Henry is so shallow by judging a woman by asking lists and so on - the perfect saying not to get laid, really. "Do I do the list thing? Find something interesting..."
Post Ejaculatory Refractory Period:
Hmm.. how to refine the jack off technique by loving yourself, Henry Rollins style by way of using a crash helmet. Bizarre, but funny.
Home Invader:
How Rollins engages conversation with a burglar and tries to hex him and freak him out to show just that he shouldn't be burgling a house by having the most insane conversation in Southern California. Definitely one that went down well on the tour, anyway.
My Telemarketer Friend:
How to speak to a telemarketer (ie: cold call salesman) so that they never speak to you again. One to try out if you're getting cold called too often by those people to freak them out. You can just see the gasps in the audience as they ride along with the sketch and smile as the final lines of the conversation show Henry's acting prowess to a good degree.
Kill Bill Premiere:
Invited to the Kill Bill premiere by director Adam Rifkin, they attend it, get subjected to some crazy speeches from Quentin Tarantino, and are asked by the media (well, Henry is) why they are there: "Free food" proclaims Henry. Eat all the free food, and take the free plastic goods you can. And then bump into Ike Turner in the middle of the premiere and realise that we're all the same starstruck people, really.
USO Tour:
Asked by the USO to tour Afghanistan and Iraq to cheer up the troops, his tales of being on tour there and showing the situation in Iraq as it really is. A fascinating insight.
Fun With William Shatner:
Much fun ensues when William Shatner is recording his new album with Ben Folds (of Ben Folds Five fame) and they get Henry to duet on a track with Shatner ranting about stuff that people just get bugged by. And subsequent invitations to parties held by Shatner himself. Plenty of fun here and many moments recalled and recollected and a good impersonation of Shatner to boot. Excellent stuff here, possibly the best bit of the DVD.

As far as the material goes, Rollins is on excellent form, punctuating the delivery with many controlled outbursts and making you really feel welcomed into the gig at the same time. Lots of quality moments throughout make this, for Rollins fans, a good souvenir of the tour. But wait! There's more. The UK release of the DVD also has a CD soundtrack of most of the sketches from the tour, abridged nicely into around 78 minutes worth of talking. Quite a good idea so you can listen to it in the car, and also your discman if you're out and about.

As for image and sound quality, the recording is very good in terms of visuals: although most of it is of Henry ranting away, the audience pan shots are controlled and timed right, and also the subtitles (if enabled) explain about certain parts of the sketches in more detail so that you know what he's going on about. And it's in 16:9 widescreen as well, bonus. As for the sound, you have Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 to choose from. Quite why the show needs a 5.1 soundtrack, I don't know, but with that on it does more closely resemble the auditorium feel, so my initial concerns were soon allayed. The only minor annoyance is that occasionally, mainly early on in the DVD, the sound and picture aren't always 100% in synch, it's mainly the first couple of chapters that seem to be a little out. This may have been due to the recording equipment, but it'd be nice to know just why.

As one final moot point, the DVD also has some still images from when Rollins was touring Afghanistan with the USO. In a way, it goes to show just how much things are still the same in that country, particularly as some of the soldiers requested Henry sign on one of their planes for some reason. A nice little extra but one you probably won't look at more than twice.

In any case, apart from that, what we have here is a quality disc full of fascinating insights, delivered in just the right way with rants a plenty. If you're new to Henry Rollins and are just wondering what his spoken word tour is all about, then this may well be a perfect disc to get you started. And once you start, and if you like the humour, you won't stop. I promise.

Warren's rating:81%