Review: Standing tall and revered

Country music singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson knows only too well he's in his twilight years.

Kris Kristofferson
Dunedin Town Hall
Friday, May 2

But last night, like a defendant in a witness box, the 77-year-old let his fans at the Dunedin Town Hall know he's not gone yet.

Tall, with his white hair and beard - and dressed casually in black - the singer-songwriter opened with no introduction to a hushed audience.

Under the glaring theatre lights, alone on stage with only a guitar he looked lonely. His voice - never his strongest asset anyway - faltered at times and his fingers took their time to warm on the strings.

But it was the lyrics, especially, that people came for and words hung in theair as the crowd sat inalmost reverence.

Kristofferson has counted as collaborators, confidantes and drinking co-conspirators such luminous country artists as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

With many of his peers gone, Kristofferson's latest album is titled Feeling Mortal, from which he offered up a taste, showing he's lost none of his introspection.

''I've begun to soon descend, like the sun into the sea.''

His songwriting explores human emotion - returning often to themes of love and regret - with honesty and humour. It seems simple but carries plenty of weight.

And, thankfully, one after another, he delivered his old songs, such as Casey's Last Ride, Me and Bobby McGee, Loving Her Was Easier, Billy Dee, Just the Other Side of Nowhere, Sunday Morning Coming Down and, yes, To Beat the Devil.

Later, he was joined on stage by his daughter Kelly, on vocals and banjo, and while she was by his side, Kristofferson stood taller and sang stronger.

It seemed some of the lines he wrote 40 years ago were for this moment, the twilight years. And if he was on trial, he found a sympathetic and grateful jury.