Monday, September 19, 2005

Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle at Royce Hall UCLA

The last few times I’ve seen Steve Earle, he has been with his band and it was a powerful and exhilarating experience from both a physical and intellectual standpoint. So, Sunday night at UCLA was going to be different. It was just Steve and his guitar (and harmonica). At the beginning he started in on a long rap, as he played a riff on his guitar about being a recovering folk singer. How exciting this would be, to get more stories out of him. As it turned out, he then proceeded to stick to the music and only told a handful of stories and only made a few speeches. The speeches got a mixed reaction from the crowd. It seemed that the first anti-war or anti-Bush comment was well received, but a couple of comments later, the applause was much lighter. And this happened several times. Anyone who thought this wasn’t going to be at least somewhat political had no clue about these guys. Both Steve and Kris have been activists for many years. Near the end, Steve pulled out… okay I need to stop here for a second and say, “I was right”. Back in February we saw Steve Earle and Allison Moorer performing. Allison sang several songs with Steve and his band. I commented to the people around me that there was something going on. I could see it in her eyes. My friends said, “Nooooo”. Well, seven months later she has ditched her husband and Steve introduced her as his wife. So, Steve pulled out his wife, Allison Moorer and they sang a song together. You could see the love in their eyes without doubt this night (we had 5th row… that helped). Most of the songs he sang were somewhat older, playing only one song from the current “Revolution” CD and the title track from Jerusalem. It was a very enjoyable show although a bit short and just not as powerful as when he has the band.

I really had no idea what to expect from Kris Kristofferson. We all know songs like “Me and Bobbie McGee” and a few others that have made it as hits, but that was about all I knew. Kris is a classic folk singer. That is, the words are what are important and the melody is, well, generally stolen from somewhere. In fact, at least 4 or 5 songs had bits of “Bobbie McGee” in them. To emphasize this point, and I’m not sure how intentional it is, but at the end of every song, as soon as he sang the last lyric, he would say “Thank you” and literally stop playing without hitting the final notes on the guitar. It was very annoying. But it left no doubt that he had things to say, words to bring to us. He may not be a John Prine, but he is way up there in this category, and if you can get past the basic arrangements, you will enjoy his shows. There were moments of humor too. He stopped a song mid way through to tell us that this line (“She had rings on her fingers and time on her hands”) was the best he had ever written and that it was so good, someone stole just that line and create a song from it. He also mentioned a movie that had some of his songs in it, but during the credits it said, “All songs written and performed by Willie Nelson”. This brought the comment (and I’m paraphrasing), “Songwriting is a great way to earn a living, but it isn’t for the meek”.

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