Kris Kristofferson, Cadogan Hall, London
Monday 02 August 2010
Kris Kristofferson has had a roller-coaster career, from military service and an Oxford scholarship to cleaning floors in a Nashville recording studio and making it big as a country singer and movie actor. At 74, his beard now totally white, he stands centre-stage, guitar in hand and harmonica at his lips. You can still see the Hollywood-grade cheekbones that earned him legions of female admirers.
Starting with "Shipwrecked in the Eighties", he soon interrupts himself, saying: "This goes out to the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, in opposition to the war." This former soldier, the son of an Air Force general, makes plenty of political remarks. During "Nobody Wins" he jokes that Dick Cheney and George W Bush probably sang it to each other in the shower, and then emphasises the lines: "'Cause it's a shame to make/ The same mistakes again/ And again/ It's over/ Nobody wins."
Kristofferson's fame owes much to the songs he has written for other singers – here, "Me and Bobby McGee" is received with wild applause. The song, written for Roger Miller and a posthumous hit for an ex-girlfriend, Janis Joplin, remarks: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." Kristofferson's rendition is soft, smoothing the tune's husky edges but preserving its resonance.
He sings about alcoholism, dope, the devil, prison and his family. You can see why he and Johnny Cash got along. The septuagenarian smiles politely down at the audience but his lyrics are dark as night. His version of "Sunday Mornin' Coming Down", a song made famous by Cash, rings true despite Kristofferson having kicked the booze in 1976.
Having galloped joyfully through 28 songs, a slightly overwhelmed Kristofferson retires to a standing ovation. Female fans scream for more. Returning for three encores, he finishes by shouting the last line of "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends".
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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