Review by Natasha Wyborn
On Saturday night in front of a full house in Bendigo Victoria a packed house got to witness one of the last remaining treasures in country music. Hitting the stage with the enthusiasm of a man considerably younger than his true age, Kris Kristofferson started what can only be considered by any standards a marathon set. Playing almost 2 hours with a traditional intermission in between. It’s hard to believe it has been over 50 years since his debut album. A lot has happened during this time with Kristofferson maintaining a consistent reputation as one of country’s music’s great troubadour’s and performers.
With this much history you would expect a story or two in between songs, a moment to pause and wet the whistle of a mouth and mind that has truly walked a million miles, well it didn’t happen, a brief introduction of the band after the first song, a thank you Bendigo and that was it. For the true fan present you simply relied on the songs and what Kristofferson still brings to them to tell the stories.The audience complied with a true mark of respect being silent and hardly moving at all throughout the entire set. Holding firm at centre of the stage with guitar in hand complimented by the occasionally bit of harmonica Kristofferson these days lets his singing do all his talking.
Accompanying Kristofferson on his current world tour are The Strangers. Best known as the back-up band for Merle Haggard, they join Kristofferson with an abundance of talent and pure respect, the combination is simply outstanding. Fiddle, guitar and vocalist Scott Joss shined especially when he featured on the Haggard tunes “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “I think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” and who could forget one of country’s classics “Okie from Muskogee” which had the audiences hearts fluttering.
The audience was given a brief chance to listen and reflect early in the set with Kristofferson singing his classic “Me and Bobby McKee.” A shared relationship in another time allowed the passing of words into the hands of an individual who simply died to young. “‘Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose”. Years after the death of Janis Joplin the world still gets to hear this song from its original writer, had Joplin lived how very different it could have been especially as a duet.
Following the intermission a hangover met a heart ache with the hit “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” followed by “For the Good Times,”. Again I found myself watching and listening to the voice of a man who continues to touch the very people around him. I am sure in the audience that night was a cowboy, a veteran or someone who had recently lost a loved one. For a very few precious minutes the preacher the centre of the stage provided to those some solace and sense in an increasing difficult world.
Overall this 83 year old veteran gave the crowd exactly what they came to see. Amongst the hits and memories there remains a soul who continues to share his craft. Kris Kristofferson accompanied by The Strangers, playing at a renovated prison in the middle of country Victoria added to the mystic and the aurora of the night, what a truly special evening.
Kris Kristofferson Live at Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – Saturday 21st September 2019