“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the trains, feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans.”
”Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Those lines were sung early in a concert this weekend in Salem, Oregon as Kris Kristofferson sang “Me and Bobby McGee”. What a great experience to see and hear the man who wrote so many classic songs perform them live.
Kris Kristofferson is now 82 years old. His gravelly voice always added character to his recordings. He still has that same basic tone to his voice, but it’s lost some of it’s highs and lows. Despite those vocal limitations, it was very special to hear this poetic composer treat us to so many great songs.
“Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let if fall. Lay it soft against my skin, like the shadows on a wall. Come and lay down by my side, till the early morning light. All I’m takin’ is your time, help me make it through the night.”
”Help Me Make It Through The Night” was considered a scandalous affair when Sammi Smith sang it in the early ‘70’s, but is certainly mild by today’s standards as Kristofferson sang it Saturday night.
Supporting Kristofferson was the band The Strangers, which was the backup group for Merle Haggard.
The band was absolutely first rate. They were also very good singers who took over some of the lead vocals as Merle Haggard hits were sprinkled in. Most of those songs were uptempo, and added a nice change of pace, because many of Kristofferson’s songs are ballads or mid-tempo.
“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.” As Kristofferson sang “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, he reached the line about finding his “cleanest dirty shirt” and cracked “this one” as he touched the shirt he had on. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was a real highlight of the concert, not only because it’s a great song, but because it mostly fell in the still strong midrange of his voice.
A lot of songs were played during the two-hour concert, including…”Loving Her Was Easier”, “Just The Other Side Of Nowhere”, “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, “Nobody Wins”, “For The Good Times”, and “Why Me”.
Because my wife, Jeannette, is such a Kris Kristofferson fan, we bought tickets right away and were in the sixth row. All of the photos were taken from our seats to the left side of the stage in the beautiful Elsinore Theatre in Salem.
Kristofferson still draws crowds. He had a show in Spokane on Thursday, in Seattle on Friday, and because his Saturday show sold out in Salem, another show was added for Sunday in Portland.
”He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” (From “The Pilgrim”)
Kris Kristofferson wrote lyrics for country songs that were like no others. We were fortunate to see the legend himself singing the lyrics to songs we love.
Update: It was announced in January of 2021 that 84-year-old Kris Kristofferson retired. His final performance was in January of 2020, 11 months after we saw him.
(Also, please check out the more historical article: Kris Kristofferson…Country’s Bob Dylan)