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Monday, April 20, 2009

Kris Kristofferson @ The Potawatomi Bingo Casino

April 15, 2009

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The road takes it toll on some musicians, while others wear its tread marks like badges of honor. Singer Kris Kristofferson walks the line in between, with weathered features and a graveled voice tempered by good humor and superior songwriting capabilities. One of the last of the grizzled troubadours, the white-maned and bearded Kristofferson shared them all for nearly two hours Wednesday with an appreciative Northern Lights audience.

From "Shipwrecked" and "Darby's Castle," which opened the show, to closers "The Silver Tongued Devil and I" and "For the Good Times," Kristofferson ran through a songbook longer than anyone there probably remembered. And many of those songs, the product of 60 years of songwriting, boasted lyrics few of us would forget.

Kristofferson's talent is more evident in his songwriting more so than his singing, the later limited to a gravelly baritone that ranged from a growl to a whisper. Yet his vocal instrument perfectly suited the nature of the songs he wrote, many of which had been hits for other artists.

"Me and Bobby McGee," which became a mega-hit for former girlfriend Janis Joplin, popped up third on the evening's playlist. "Help Me Make It Through The Night," a million-seller for Sammi Smith, wasn't far behind. "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Casey's Last Ride" and a host of others followed.

The performance was filled with a few abrupt closes and the occasional wrong harmonica, but Kristofferson's solo acoustic performance was rife with unintentional humor and feelings that the musician had simply stopped by for a visit and decided to pick a few tunes. Attention was rapt and the applause effusive, even though the artist was plagued with what seemed to be a head cold.

"How does it feel to pay good money to see an old fart blow his nose?" Kristofferson, 72, asked, placing the well-used blue kerchief back on the music stand yet one more time.

Judging from the response, many felt the time and opportunity to be well spent.