Kris Kristofferson and the Strangers performed at Llewellyn Hall, Canberra on 25 September 2019. Jen Seyderhelm was there. She tells us about her experience on the night.
A new project idea I am dabbling with. A Mum, aged 42, goes out on random weeknights and gets her gig on.J Seyderhelm 27 September 2019
On the day of Kris’s concert, I had a job interview. To unwind afterwards I popped into my favourite second hand shop where they had a couple of country music love song albums for the princely sum of $1 each. Two caught my eye and, as I entered the shop proper, I left them with the elderly gent behind the counter so that I didn’t have to carry them around.
About a minute later, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire bursts out of the store speakers. I’m surprised, as usually when you buy a CD the shop doesn’t voluntarily play it for you. The elderly gent had found my music taste to his liking. He’d also found that the second album, which I had not yet checked, actually contained two Foster and Allen CDs.
We had a bizarre conversation where he thought I was trying to sneak out with some Foster and Allen, and I was trying to make sure I still got my country, when a woman jostled me from behind.
She was in her seventies and shimmying around the shop like a debutant.
“Oh, I love this music. It makes me feel like dancing!” And she spun off again around a clothes rack. I felt I was in a safe space so I announced to everyone,
“I’m seeing Kris Kristofferson tonight.” The shimmying woman came up to me a couple of minutes later and said,
“I saw him twice! Once in 1984. I also saw him in America. I lived there for a few years. That’s where I fell in love with country music. And bourbon.”
My date for Kris is the person who idolises him more than anyone in Australia, possibly in the entire universe. This person recently sent me a screen shot of their email account. I noticed that they had individual folders for family and friends and then about five folders for Kris! I teased them that Kris was the love of their life. He simply agreed.
Prior to the concert there was an article in the paper reviewing Kris’s concert in Melbourne the previous weekend. There were references to being in the “presence of greatness” and the voice being a bit wispy (Kristofferson is 83 after all). Having seen Burt Bacharach about a year before, who’d utilised backing singers (a good idea, based on his extensive repertoire) over his voice (merely a whisper) made me worry a little about this hero not living up to expectations. As Kris walked carefully to the microphone, I held my breath.
And then he sang.
Yes, his voice is not quite what it was, but the poetry and the magic remained. Yes, there was very little banter and at times it felt like the warmth of the bond he shares with the fiddle man from the Strangers, Scott Joss, physically held him up, but, as my concert buddy said, “he’s still Kris.”
If you’ve ever stood on stage at a gig, you’ll know that once the stage lights are up and the audience lights go down, you can’t see your mother in the front row. We were that “mother” in the front row and yet I felt like Kris was singing to me. Scott was definitely making eye contact. I swear I got a wink. The first half before intermission was so deeply personal an experience that I ran out of tissues.
Whenever Kris would hit you in the heart, he’d pair it up with something silly or lighter to follow. Jesus was a Capricorn was a romping stomping delight.
Toward the conclusion I blew Kris a kiss. Obviously, mid song, he was in no position to catch it and throw it back, but I know it landed on his cheek, and that he felt it. When the final song, Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends, was done, Kris was whisked off stage and the lights came up before the stamping and encore cheers could start proper. The great man was done. He won’t return to Australia.
Scott Joss came out to help pack up. He was as lovely and warm in person as he had been on stage. He’d seen us. Those moments where it felt like Kris was singing for me alone were real.
Sunday night I’m going to enjoy my first death metal concert. Until then, Kris, Scott and outlaw country will help me make it through tonight.
Featured pic is CC