Henry Rollins can always count on a royal welcome in Chicago: his 1998 spoken-word CD, Think Tank, was recorded in part at the House of Blues here, and this weekend’s two-night stand at Metro will be recorded and filmed for later release. I never gave Rollins (or his old band Black Flag) much thought until he began wringing out the dirty sweatsock of his life as a monologuist. Over the years he’s become a fine and self-deprecating storyteller, sincere in his engagement with life, sardonic toward his nail-spitting rock persona, and eager to make himself ridiculous if it’ll help pull people along. (Two of his best performances were recently paired on a DVD set, Talking From the Box/Henry Rollins Goes to London.) On Nice (Sanctuary), the latest studio album by his LA jazz-metal quartet, the Rollins Band, the singer seems resigned to a skilled purveyance of hell-bent nihilism (“I wanna break it, I wanna kill it / I wanna rip it limb from limb / I wanna taste it, I wanna own it / You get one shot, don’t miss, man”). In the liner notes he lists his instrument as “throat,” and regardless of the words, whatever’s inside that neck of his does come down like a drill press, perforating a variety of wild grooves. His band boogies as hard as it rocks: “Up for It” is a swell piece of chicken funk, soaked with juicy wahwah guitar by Jim Wilson and culminating in a soul-chick chorus (“Time, time / Stop wasting mine, mine / Don’t stand there cryin’, cryin’ / Just make up your mind”). On the record’s single, “Your Number Is One,” itchy bass and drums proceed into an icy veil of phased electric guitar, over which Rollins chants, “The chaos that surrounds you / The facts that astound you / At last your number has found you / Your number is one.” “What’s the Matter Man” opens with the howling guitars of the Damned’s “Love Song,” but the chorus is pure Rollins: “What’s-a-matter, man–is the time not right? / What’s-a-matter, man–are you wrapped too tight? / What’s-a-matter, man–is it feeling dumb? / What’s-a-matter, man? / What’s-a-matter with you?” Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ralph Strathmann.