Kris Kristofferson strode onto the River Rock stage to the thunderous ovation of an obviously adoring sold out crowd. He would leave that same stage nearly an hour and 3/4 later to a similar display of both affection and appreciation from his fans.
On this night, as he has been partial to doing in recent years, Kristofferson kept it stripped to the bone. It was simply the man, his acoustic guitar, a harmonica and collar, and a collection of songs that most writers would be happy to have written a single one of. Perhaps setting the tone early, he chose to open with the lesser known "Shipwrecked in the 80s" on his way to playing a set list which included most of his mega-hits but also featured both newer and older material that, while not having received the same level of airplay, still resonated deeply with an audience that cleary knew them just as well.
"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", "Lovin' Her was Easier", "Me and Bobby McGee", "For the Good Times" and others of that stature were delivered well with new, sparser treatments, and received with delight and enthusiasm . "Duvalier's Dream", "Darby's Castle", "Best of All Possible Worlds" from that same era were inter-mixed with newer songs, including several from his two most recent Don Was produced CDs on the New West label. These newest offerings have returned Kristofferson to a much simpler and more direct sound. That sound, that approach, and that presentation reward the gifted songwriter and storyteller. Kristofferson certainly is one of those.
From the beginning it has always been a compelling combination of vulnerability, sensitivity and insightfulness that have marked Kristofferson tunes. Those things, along with a great sense of humour often directed squarely at himself. Those very same traits make for truly initimate and personal performances where it gets down to, if I may borrow a phrase from the recently departed and longtime Kristofferson bandmate and friend Stephen Bruton, nothing but the truth. Kristofferson displayed not an ounce of pretense and instead gave of himself freely and openly.
Having 'fessed up to feeling less than confident as he hit the stage, the man responded to and fed off the evident joy this crowd was receiving from his honest and heartfelt performances. He has spoken in the past of the "sacred space that is the stage". I would further that by including the dimension of time. In our moments of greatest openness and clarity we are reminded that all space and time is sacred. Kristofferson and his audience shared sacred moments in a place made sacred through simple sharing, giving and receiving, coming together and being together.
The man, his guitar, a harp, and those songs. He sang his heart out and had it given right back to him. One of his finest performances... approaching perfection. One more time, Kris, go break a heart.