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Kris Kristofferson captains an earnest voyage

La Zona Rosa, Austin, March 16, 2006

Reviewed by Adi Anand

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The reputations of legends tend to go before them. Kris Kristofferson has achieved enough in film and music to warrant a huge crowd every time he takes a stage.

And with Kristofferson just having released his first disc of new material in 11 years, his SXSW show at La Zona Rosa was comprised mainly of loyal fans of the larger than life icon.

Kristofferson took the stage around midnight to roaring applause. Accompanied by Stephen Bruton (guitar and mandolin), it did not take long for the crowd to join in the vocals as "Me and Bobby McGee" made an early appearance in the set. Inviting the audience closer, not literally, with each song, Kristofferson meddled in past favorites like "Beat The Devil" while also previewing songs from the new album, "This Old Road."

Included was a somewhat dark track detailing the Laci Peterson saga while he also found time to address the current situation in Iraq. He's done it many a time, and once again, Kristofferson held the audience in his palm during those emotional three minutes. No stranger to issues of freedom, Kristofferson seemed set in getting his point across in as he berated the recurrent Baghdad bombings on "In the News."

Contemporary musings aside, Kristofferson continued to serenade with the beautiful "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" much to the delight of the audience that included celebrity attendees, Norah Jones and the Little Willies.

Stopping to interact with the hordes continuously between songs, Kristofferson expertly performed the title track of the new record while also finding time for "Here Comes the Rainbow," "The Best Of All Possible Worlds" as well as "Darby's Castle."

Another highlight was his shout out to legends Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin, among others, drawing thunderous cheers from the country aligned crowd. With Bruton backing him up on vocals, Kristofferson's voice rang true as he encouraged, depressed, and then heartened again, over the course of the magical evening.

Kristofferson's songs are like journeys: each lyric twisting and turning, and moving the listener along on the path of life. Dry humor, affable sarcasm and smart wit are just a few of his many positive attributes as he combines pop melody and folk simplicity in pure form.

Multiple Grammy's are meaningless when Kris Kristofferson takes you on an earnest voyage to understanding this world and the bliss needed to survive it.