BWW Reviews: Kris Kristofferson - In A Word, 'Timeless'
At 8 pm the lights went down and, very quietly, Kris Kristofferson walked alone onto the stage of the Orleans Casino showroom. There was a black metal music stand to the right of where he stood. On it were a set list and, it seemed, a harmonica or two. He carried a guitar and a harmonica in a holder. He began to sing and, for 90 minutes or so, it was just Kris Kristofferson and his music.
He began with Shipwrecked In The 80’s and moved on to sing Darby’s Castle, both moving story songs of the kind seldom recorded nowadays. At the end of each song — almost as if to tell the audience it was the end — he would say a quick “thank you.”
At the three-quarter century mark, Kris Kristofferson looks great, is quick-witted and seems to still enjoy what he’s been doing for all these years. For example, at one point a woman — and isn’t there one like her at every show? — who apparently believed she was the only member of the audience and, thus, could tell the singer what to sing called out for the second time, Why Me Lord? Kristofferson, who couldn’t find the particular harmonica he was seeking at that moment, immediately responded, “That’s what I was just thinking” and went on with his set list.
Kristofferson's voice is still folky-pleasant but, as always, it was his writing, his lyrics, that remain distinctive and are what make hi stand out. When he sang Me And Bobby McGee, the beginning of the song was greeted with applause, as was the first mention of the title. The song included a shout-out to Janis Joplin.
He hit most of the songs for which he is best known. These included Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Lovin’ Her Was Easy and For The Good Times.
He sang The Best of All Possible Worlds, mentioning that it is “a true story.” After From The Bottle To The Bottom it was clear that Kristofferson’s passion for freedom that infused so many of his early lyrics has not dimmed. He pointed out that, “In the USA, ‘Land of the Free,’ we’ve got more people behind bars than any nation on the planet.”
He also stated his belief that “aging is a bitch” and, when he had to blow his nose — very quickly and quietly — at one point, apologized, saying, “You didn’t pay these prices to see an old fart blow his nose.” Nobody seemed to mind and his proclamation later on when he couldn’t find the right harmonica that “old age is a bitch” was greeted with what could best be described as affectionate laughter as was his remark, after again briefly being lost in thought, that “I was gonna apologize but I couldn’t remember what it was I was apologizing for.”
Kristofferson took the audience on Casey’s Last Ride and explained why It’s Too Late. He also sang From Here To Forever, Jody and the Kid, The Heart and The Promise. When he sang the most moving Johnny Lobo, he noted that the “real” Johnny Lobo is a man named John Trudell, a Vietnam veteran and Native American political activist.
Near the end of the set, Kris Kristofferson informed the audience, “Normally, I’d walk off the stage and thunderous applause would bring me back on for one more song. Just imagine that is happening.”
He stood in place as the audience applauded and, then, he sang the beautiful Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends.
Now, to sum up, I don’t like when people talk about “the good old days” or claim “they don’t [write songs, build cars….whatever] like they used to” and generally try very diligently not to do that. But….
…each of Kris Kristofferson’s songs tells a story that illustrates a facet of humanity and, as such, most of them are interesting, thought provoking and/or fun to hear. Really, “they” don’t tend to write songs like that any more. And that’s too bad.
A friend told me once that seeing Paul McCartney perform “is a privilege.” I’ve never seen McCartney in and really never felt that way about any singer. Until I saw Kris Kristofferson. He and his music are timeless. Thus, I’d suggest you see him whenever the opportunity arises. It’ll be giving yourself a gift.
Photo: Marina Chavez