So Saturday, me and my pal @HeatherMG went to see the guy who wrote “Me and Bobby McGee.” This short review is kinda buried in today’s Paper of Record, and split over two pages web-wise, so I’m posting it here to make things easier. For all of us.
Kris Kristofferson is no hurry, but he doesn’t like to waste time. At the Music Center at Strathmore last night, he marched onstage in his customary black-shirt-black-jeans-black-boots regalia at exactly the announced go-time of 8 p.m., launching with little fanfare into a generous 30-song solo acoustic revue of his bone-deep body of work. A hardy 74, the Rhodes Scholar and former Army helicopter pilot moved lightly from one coiled, economical story-song to the next, punctuating each tune with an abrupt “Thank you!” or better still, “True story!” rather than allow the last note to hang in the air — as they can, within the Music Center’s sound-abetting walls. His tectonic growl would be frightening if it didn’t let it break so freely into laughter, or if you couldn’t see that beatific smile.
Song introductions, when he made them, just as often came in the middle, or at the fast-arriving conclusion. He passed along a punning, mildly gross variation on his ballad “Loving Her Was Easier,” suggested, he said, by Bob Dylan; quipped after “Nobody Wins” that “George Bush was singing that song to Dick Cheney in the shower”; he dedicated “The Promise” to “my kids and their mommas.”
For a guy who struggled into his 30s to get his songs heard, and who has had more success as a songwriter and film actor than he ever has performing his own material, these demo-like solo acoustic renditions sounded haunting and definitive, even when he was interrupting them to tell jokes, mock his own prowess as a harmonica player, or to remind us who “sang that song a whole lot better than me.” (Artists who’ve covered his compositions number in the hundreds.)
After a brief intermission, he invited singer/songwriter John Flynn (“a local boy,” by way of Philadelphia) on to play his own “Without You With Me,” standing aside while the younger man’s performance moved him literally to tears. He was still sniffling a few numbers later when someone shouted, “Cheer up, Kris — you’re killing us!”