Something to declare: Kristofferson at
Egg, March 30
rather see Bob Dylan, too.” Kris Kristofferson wasn’t reacting
to any negative audience vibes with this self-directed jab
midconcert at the Egg last Thursday; he was, in a laughing,
self- deprecating manner, commenting on his own shortcomings
as a harmonica player.
If that’s a shortcoming—his harmonica playing is actually
pretty good—it’s the only one he has. Kristofferson’s masterful
solo acoustic performance in front of a sold-out crowd at
the Hart Theater confirmed the obvious: He’s one of the great
songwriters and a charismatic performer.
It’s easy to forget the way Kristofferson, after years of
struggle, blew up in the country music scene in 1969 and ’70.
First Roger Miller, then Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Price and Johnny
Cash had hits with his tunes.
Then Janis Joplin topped the pop charts (posthumously, as
seemed to happen a lot in those days) with “Me and Bobby McGee.”
An avalanche of awards (and royalty checks) followed, but
Kristofferson never seemed to lose perspective on things.
Maybe it’s his Renaissance-man background (Air Force helicopter
pilot and Rhodes scholar) or his deep Christian beliefs, but
he has remained as direct a personality as he is direct in
His songs are spare, using no more words than necessary to
get the point of his story across. “Darby’s Castle” is chilling
in its depiction of isolation and neglect. “For the Good Times”
may have inspired some really bad imitations over the years
(re: the collected love songs of Bob Seger), but it retains
its own emotional impact. “Best of All Possible Worlds” is
laconic and hilarious; “Loving Her Was Easier” is tribute
to the persistence of memory and the power of regret; “Sunday
Morning Coming Down” is a classic alcoholic lament; and “Why
Me Lord” is a disarming affirmation of faith.
And they all rhyme so precisely and yet so simply that it
makes one wish that this old-school rhyming hadn’t gone out
It was a lot like Randy Newman’s show at the Troy Music Hall
a couple of years ago: The lone songwriter playing one great,
expertly crafted song after another to an adoring crowd. Kristofferson’s
audience—which skewed old er than even I expected (I felt
like a youngster at 42) —was his crowd. They recognized
almost every song instantly, noting particular favorites with
immediate applause. They laughed at every aside, and cheered
at every pointed political comment.
Kristofferson isn’t shy about his politics: He’s a lefty,
and opposes the war in Iraq. His ability to merge his radical
politics and Christianity is deft and seamless; the Democratic
Party might want to hire him as a consultant.
There was no opening act, and only a 15-minute-long intermission.
The man came to sing, and that’s what he did.