Though the title of his latest album is Feeling Mortal, Kris Kristofferson treated fans (and their moms) to a show filled with life during a special Mother’s Day concert in Northampton Sunday.
As the owner of a music career spanning nearly 50 years and a second occupation as an actor that dates back to 1971’s “The Last Movie,” Kristofferson can hardly be considered an underground artist. And the depth of the singer’s back catalogue was on fine display at the Calvin Theatre as he growled and guffawed his way through an astonishing 35 songs in a tight two-hour performance.
Opening with the “Road Warrior’s Lament” from the 1995 album A Moment of Forever, Kristofferson quickly set the template for the evening’s entertainment – poetic lyrics, off-the-cuff humor, and a wealth of charm to draw listeners into his own private world. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, which frequently reflected the venue’s stage lighting, the former member of the Highwaymen sang of being both a “friend” and a “lover,” while also promising to stay with the crowd “right to the end, until it’s over.”
Several songs later, the playing of “Me and Bobby McGee” was greeted with enthusiastic whoops and hollers from the audience, while the tune itself featured a heartfelt nod to the late Janis Joplin, who took the song to the top of the charts in 1971.
“The Best of All Possible Worlds” also included a short aside from Kristofferson, who joked that honky-tonk artist’s Roger Miller’s version of the track featured scatting at its conclusion, but since he himself couldn’t scat he was “just going to quit,” bringing the number to quick conclusion.
Also fitting the delicately beautiful “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and somber “Nobody Wins” into the first half of his set, Kristofferson, who quipped during the latter tune that it “Sounds like the evening news doesn’t it?” took a short intermission shortly before 9 p.m.
Returning to the stage a little more than 20 minutes later, the onetime lead of “A Star is Born” turned his focus to some lighter material. Though shortened to less than 30 seconds, “You Show Me Yours (And I’ll Show You Mine)” received a few laughs for its suggestive lyrics, but was soon overshadowed by the more obvious humor of “Sky King,” which was written during Kristofferson’s time in the army and was sung to the tune of the Jimmy Dean cut “Big Bad John.”
Changing course, more ballad-like material followed, including “Jody and the Kid” along with the fan favorite “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” which each showcased Kristofferson’s incredible eye for detail. Whether referring to the “blue jeans rolled up to her knees” or “the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken,” the singer’s delivery stressed the human elements in his songs, lending both tunes an intimacy that earned fervent applause from those in attendance.
Finishing his main set just before 10 p.m. and leaving the stage with a short “God bless you for your spirit,” Kristofferson returned less than a minute later to perform a five song encore. Segueing smoothly from “I Hate Your Ugly Face” to “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” to “Moment of Forever,” the singer seemed at times to revel in the emotive power of his own lyrics, earning laughs and applause with the way he added inflection to often just a single word. Then with many starting to turn to the exits, Kristofferson decided that the night was still not over.
“I’m going to do something now that I’ve never done before,” he said as some over-eager fans rushed hurriedly back to find their seats.
Bringing out the young singer Samantha Schultz, who Kristofferson met during the Berklee College of Music commencement concert held at Boston University two days prior, the silver-maned star proceeded to play two stirring duets – “Pancho and Lefty” and “Why Me Lord” – alongside the talented vocalist, who easily earned her own share of applause from the appreciative Calvin crowd.
“God bless. Thank you for your spirit,” Kristofferson then finally said to a standing ovation at the conclusion of his night. But for many, the spirit in the building Sunday was obvious. It was older maybe than many remembered, and maybe possessed a little more gravel in its voice. But it still had the power to stir a few souls. And as a fitting close to a cool Mother’s Day in Western Massachusetts, who could ask for anything more?
For more information on Kris Kristofferson or to see future tour dates please visit http://www.kriskristofferson.com/.
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