Music review: Kris Kristofferson, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

AFTER a decade where he believed he was suffering from the onset of dementia, Kris Kristofferson has now been diagnosed with Lyme disease. There is no point pretending all is fine but, for now, the charismatic silver fox of those outlaw country music mavericks is still on a stage near you delivering his indelible songs as best he still can, backed by the late Merle Haggard’s band, The Strangers.

Kristofferson may have lost some ability, but not popularity
Kristofferson may have lost some ability, but not popularity

Kris Kristofferson, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ***

This was a sad celebration, hard to watch at times given Kristofferson’s diminished abilities, but invested with greater poignancy as a result, not least as he sang “you turn to your trusty old partner” while sharing a glance with fiddler Scott Joss, in tacit acknowledgement that The Strangers are his buoyancy aid, doing most of the musical lifting, while Kristofferson picked hesitantly at his guitar.

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There was still a twinkle there, if not outright sparkle, but Kristofferson has lost the clarity of storytelling in his cowboy-out-to-pasture delivery. The band often hung back out of respect, unwilling to overshadow the star attraction, though a number of Haggard covers, particularly Sing Me Back Home and Ramblin’ Fever allowed for more of a team effort.

The audience, however, were happy to stage an intervention, clapping and singing along to Me and Bobby McGee to get him back on track, sensitive to the never-more-bittersweet sentiment of Scottish karaoke standard Help Me Make It Through the Night, saluting the sad seduction of For The Good Times and queuing up at the end to shake the hand of a country legend, unwilling to let him go.