Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, 17 September 2019
Kris is a versatile man: a scholar, a soldier, an actor (of sorts) and a country music living legend. If we sound snippy about his film career, it’s because they’ve been so many more misses than hits (think Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Last Movie, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, or Heaven’s Gate – those last 3 would grace many a worst-list) – but we’ll give him inter alia: Blume In Love, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and though he’s oddly cast, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.
He’s in his 80s now, ye gods, yet the gravelly voice, perhaps not as strong, remains clear, and the songs, with the country feel and the sensitivity of a poet who majored in English Lit., have their own sonorous resonance. Kris & ‘The Strangers’ played a great two-hour set Tuesday night (The Strangers are best known as the back-up band for singer-songwriter Merle Haggard, and are Scott Joss (fiddle and vocals), Doug Colosio (keyboards & vocals) and Jeff Ingraham on drums).
Kristofferson was the star of course, tall and venerable centre-stage, but he also let Joss shine on fiddle and often in a duet or as a lead vocal. (I closed my eyes and heard Merle, especially on some of the Haggard covers, such as Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man) and Okie from Muskogee.) And the keyboards and soft drums were just right.
We couldn’t, in the dark theatre, compile a full play list (if anyone can supply it please do so) but there were a bunch of highlights in a night of musing about mortality, hangovers, heartache and high hilarity, and we recalled and enjoyed Here Comes That Rainbow Again, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make it Through the night, Jesus Was a Capricorn (“Some folks hate the whites, who hate the blacks, who hate the Klan/Most of us hate anything that we don’t understand” ), I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink, I’d Rather be Sorry, For the Good Times, Why Me, Shipwrecked in the Eighties, Darby’s Castle, Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), Broken Freedom Song, Casey’s Last Ride, Feeling Mortal, Best of All Possible Worlds, Jody and the Kid, Sing Me Back Home, Just the Other Side of Nowhere, The Pilgrim, Chapter 33* , finishing with Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends.
It’s fair to say the band did much of the heavy lifting, but there is still power as well as poignancy in the Silver Fox, as well as true Texan charm and manners (manners not least of all: he appeared dead on time, did the time, and left the crowd standing).
*He’s a poet, he’s a picker
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
(The Pilgrim – Chapter 33)