Monday, November 07, 2016

Concert review: Kris Kristofferson simply sensational at Segerstrom

Kris Kristofferson performing at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Photo: Doug Gifford, Contributing photographer

Editor's Note: Robert Kinsler's concert review was originally published in The Orange County Register on November 6, 2016 (online).

Kris Kristofferson
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts
When: November 5, 2016
Kris Kristofferson performing on Nov. 5,
2016 at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom
Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, CA.
Doug Gifford, Contributing photographer

At age 80, Kris Kristofferson is a bona fide legend. An acclaimed Golden Globe Award-winning actor (for his role in the 1976 film “A Star Is Born”), he is even more celebrated as a singer-songwriter, responsible for classics forever linked with Janis Joplin, Ray Price and Elvis Presley. Additionally, he was a member of the country music supergroup the Highwaymen (in which he joined forces with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash) from 1985 to 1995.
On Saturday night (Nov. 5, 2016), the Texas native brought his considerable legacy to the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa for an impressive set of nearly 30 songs performed over 80 minutes. Standing alone center stage and rarely saying much more than, “Thank you, Costa Mesa,” Kristofferson left it up to his songs to connect with the adoring audience. 
Kristofferson’s material is tailor-made for solo outings. As he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and, occasionally, a harmonica, his raspy baritone often struggled to hit the right notes, but his compelling delivery blending country folk, spoken word and singer-songwriter traditions conveyed the power of literate tales of love, faith, loss and hope with dramatic perfection.
Kristofferson got the biggest cheers for his best-known material (“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Just the Other Side of Nowhere,” and the night-ending “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”), but he tackled each song with an equal sense of purpose. 
After opening with “Shipwrecked in the Eighties” (featuring some fine harmonica play) and “Darby Castle,” Kristofferson played one of his most beloved tracks, “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song is as timeless as any in the country-Americana tradition. Other compelling nuggets followed, including “Here Comes That Rainbow Again,” the story-styled track “Casey’s Last Ride” and the confessional “Feeling Mortal,” during which the artist addressed his own mortality, noting that he was descending “like the sun into the sea.” 
Kristofferson has always been able to write love songs that are especially potent; “From Here to Forever,” “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” and “Duvalier’s Dream” were as tender as anything in the set, Kristofferson’s voice conjuring powerful emotions despite the bare-bones arrangements. 
In a concert age of immersive and oft-overwhelming technology, smoke machines, lasers, virtual guest stars, orchestrated sing-alongs and other overwrought clich├ęs, Kristofferson’s concert was refreshingly simple and centered on timeless songs. Because when it comes to music making, Kristofferson is obviously still a rebel at heart.

Review by Robert Kinsler

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