July 12, 2008 — Berlin, Zitadelle Spandau

Kris Kristofferson \Last night, the ‘other’ man in black came to town: Kris Kristofferson in Berlin, one of the last great singers/songwriters — of the kind they don’t make anymore — performed some of the best songs ever written.

Just the man and his guitar, dressed in black on an empty stage, stripped his songs of the sometimes overdone ’70s Nashville arrangements, and reduced them to their eternal core: poetry and stories of unbelievable beauty. While his guitar playing is never more than simple accompaniment, the warmth of this deep voice is as touching as ever.

Except for the high register, he shows no sign of age at all (except for wisdom, maybe). At now 72, he stands on stage for almost two hours, delivering song by song without a break. This man still doesn’t need a teleprompter, remembers the words of songs written 40 years ago (just once messing up a song, he remarks that these days he can’t remember what he had for breakfast: “Old age is not for sissies!”).

Kristofferson’s 2008 performance is a black and white movie in slow motion: there’s no country song, just plain poetry, with emphasis on every line, each word sinks deeply into your heart and mind. More than once I was about to cry, the beauty of his words and stories sometimes is nearly overwhelming. “Here Comes That Rainbow Again”, “Jody and the Kid”, or a final “For The Good Times” were especially moving. Looking at the setlist, one has to realize that this is not only a greatest hits show, but that Kristofferson has written some of the greatest songs ever.

The show was not only very emotional, but also very funny and communicative. Kris made personal remarks about his songs, as well as political statements (“Darby’s Castle” and “Nobody Wins” suddenly seemed to be about 911 and Iraq; a longer intro to “The Circle”). He was very interactive, paying attention to kids running around, playing on request (“Sky King”), and obviously enjoying himself. The audience was great as well (with people who were listening to the songs that he was playing), wouldn’t want to let him go even after more than 25 songs, applauding for another ten minutes when Kristofferson had left the stage with a final verse, shouted out loud: “Please don’t tell me how the story ends.”

(Here’s a recent video from Amsterdam.)

Setlist (not in order, incomplete?):

Broken Freedom Song
Casey’s Last Ride
Come Sundown
Darby’s Castle
Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down
Duvalier’s Dream
For The Good Times
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Here Comes That Rainbow Again
In The News
Jody And The Kid
Just The Other Side Of Nowhere
Love is the Way
Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)
Me And Bobby McGee
Nobody Wins
Pilgrim’s Progress
Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends
Sky King
Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
The Best Of All Possible Worlds
The Circle
The Heart
The Pilgrim: Chapter 33
The Silver Tongued Devil And I
They Killed Him
This Old Road
To Beat The Devil