Kris Kristofferson, Royal Albert Hall, London
Be Your Own Pet, Audio, Brighton
He's a rather craggy icon these days, but the eyes still have it
Sunday 06 April 2008
Two eyes, blue as swimming pools that made you want to dive into them. These, as much as anything he ever did behind a microphone, were Kris Kristofferson's selling points. To locate them now, you'd need to search among an abseiler's landscape of ravines and ridges.
The face may be craggy. But the charisma that seduced Joplin, Streisand and Coolidge, made him a guilty-pleasure "Bit of Rough" to a generation of female cinema-goers, and also charmed Johnny Cash, retains its potency. When Kristofferson, uninvited, landed a helicopter on Cash's lawn to hand him a demo tape, the older man chose to mentor and champion him rather than reach for his shotgun.
If Kristofferson is a foremost face on country music's Mount Rushmore, it's because its more iconic faces have crumbled away. Along with Willie Nelson, he's the Highwayman standing, and he's back on that highway in a big, sleek, Beat the Street bus to prove that his umpteenth album, This Old Road, is at least as good as ... well, his umpth. And, of course, to tell a few tall tales.
In my late teens, as a friend and I sat strumming our guitars on an empty beach, an old man walked out of the sea after a swim and told us about his time in the Spanish Civil War. Rather than reminisce about his fight against the fascists, he preferred to recall the lodgings where "I shagged the mother, and the daughter too!"
I think of him when I see Kristofferson, now 71, and who also likes a story; and if he doesn't tell one before the song, he tells one during it. "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" has an inbuilt gag: "Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes/And found my cleanest dirty shirt ... it's the one I'm wearin'." It still raises a laugh.
He's a raconteur who, like my marine mercenary, is on the right side. An opponent of wars from Vietnam to Iraq, a Sandinista supporter and Barack backer, he's a relative red in a genre better known for its rednecks. And such lines as "We've seen the ones who killed the ones with vision/Cold-blooded murder right before your eyes" just prove that he's one of the Sixties generation who didn't get depoliticised with age. That and his cragginess make for a marketable image.
Look at the video for This Old Road's title track in which he strides across disused railroad tracks in Big Sky Country, guitar slung over his shoulder. It's as much a pose as anything from a glossier pop star, but fetishists of "real" music lap it up. As, indeed, they're lapping up this solo acoustic tour in which KK, in proudly battered cowboy boots and a harmonica brace, belts out songs more often known for their covers, not least "Me And Bobby McGee", which frequently tops Favourite Country Song of All Time polls. The flipside, "Help Me Make It Through the Night", even when stripped down by its writer, is cheese, whichever way you slice it.
Young enough to be Kristofferson's grandchildren are Nashville four-piece Be Your Own Pet. Led by the blonde-ponytailed Jemima Pearl, they're just out of their teens, meaning that the Heineken the singer swigs would be illegal back home. But in a teen-punk scene where their peers are the neutered likes of Paramore, Be Your Own Pet are refreshingly feral. It's an act, of course: only an illusion of abandon, but it helps that Jemima Pearl has a voice which sounds as if it comes not from her slight frame but the body of Beth Ditto.
It's a combination that inspires a melee of limb-thrashing. By the end, the mirror ball on Audio's ceiling has been kicked around so badly that it's now ... well, just a ball.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant