A Lighter Side of Life – Kris Kristofferson and The Strangers – Music Hall, Aberdeen – 19th June, 2019
Although age should not be a consideration when it comes to a concert, it is natural to see Kris Kristofferson’s visit to the Music Hall as being a final one and that makes you treasure every moment of his performance, and pinch yourself that you are watching a true legend whose roll call of success in song-writing and acting over half a century is exceptional by any standards.
At the same time, when you watch Kristofferson’s performance, it is clear that this is not a one-way reaction. Although he may still have many years ahead of him, at nearly 83, he has reached that stage in life where every single day is worthwhile savouring. There is a certain beatific aspect to his smile when he is on stage, a contentment in his music, a relaxation with his three bandmates, and a genuine appreciation in seeing the response from a very warm audience who send him off with a standing ovation. He is very much in the present, standing solidly throughout the performance with his guitar strapped to him.
As for his songs, they contain some of the most honest and pithy statements in music, often timeless in their sentiments. To a ripple of applause at the start of many of them, his set includes Me and Bobby McGee, Best of All Possible Worlds, Help Me Make It Through the Night, Loving Her is Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do), Just The Other Side of Nowhere – and those are just some of the songs from the first half of the show before the interval.
In the second half, the audience are treated to I’d Rather Be Sorry, The Pilgrim, Jesus Was a Capricorn, and the much anticipated Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down which his weathered voice now gives so resonance.
His band tonight are The Strangers (or three of their number to be more precise) who were Merle Haggard’s band until his death in 2016. Their arrangements of Kristofferson’s songs are a masterful complement to his gravelly bass vocals highlighting the tunes that his vocal range now struggles to reach, and on which, he can sometimes become monotone or breathy – which is no surprise given his age and the fact that he manages to get through an incredible 30 songs. Scott Joss, who plays guitar and fiddle for The Strangers, is a wonderful foil for Kristofferson. It is clear that both men have a great affection for one another. With certain lines in songs about situations that arise in life, they trade knowing smiles and sly glances with each other which, in itself, is a joy to watch.
The Strangers are more than a backing group since they continue the tradition of Merle Haggard’s songs. So, the audience are treated to Okie from Muskogee, Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man), Sing Me Back Home, Ramblin’ Fever and I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink. There is another side to Scott Joss who could best be described as a country singer’s singer. The sound and intonation of his singing voice are beautifully pitched, and these numbers are given a fresh lease of life. The punctuation of these more upbeat Haggard numbers throughout Kristofferson’s more sedate and reflective set also gives good pacing to the show as a whole.
The show is completed with For the Good Times, A Moment of Forever and Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends. These are songs about memory and endings, and their position on the set-list underlines a message. But, they are not rendered too melancholic largely because you get the impression that Kristofferson is at peace with himself tonight and enjoying the occasion. If this turns out to be the final show in Aberdeen, it is a suitably satisfying one.