Country and folk musik always has a rebellious touch. You might not hear it right away, when you lean back and enjoy just the musical part, but it does, when you start listening to the words, when you know what Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash stood for in their heydays, and when you’re familiar with their always subersive personalities and lyrics. Then you will understand that it felt as if Kris Kristofferson’s concert at Vienna Stadhalle on November 5th had been planned to coincide with the gathering of a crowd of student protesters outside of the venue. For me anyway it was ideal. I’m not a student anymore, but I sympathize with their plight and so I marched with them all the way to Vienna Stadthalle, to then move on over a few steps and enter a whole different universe, or so it seemed, when I saw the people, who were going to see country rebel and legend Kristofferson with me that evening.
I had expected an entirely different crowd, more in the direction of Grizzly Adams on the men’s side and an aged but still subversive Janis Joplin type on the women’s side, yet the people who waited to enter the concert hall seemed to belong to an entirely different breed. They appeared to be more like the people you would encounter at a rather provincial Austrian train station. A diverse mix of men and women; on average a little older.
So here I was in the midst of this curious crowd of Austrian Kristofferson lovers and wherever I turned I would see yet another peculiar looking person. There would be older men, with receding hairlines, heavier set women with shiny satin blouses, gentlemen type men with suits and tie, middle aged women in close fitting dresses, that seemed a bit too tight already, older couples, who looked like they had just left the weekly seniors’ club meeting, and finally, three rare examples of the Austrian country western aficionado, who finally got a chance to show off their bootlace ties and exclusively embroidered western shirts.
Even more so was it comforting to know that a crowd so incredibly diverse could share a common interest: the music of Kris Kristofferson, who hit the stage almost on time shortly after 8 pm, equipped only with a guitar and a harmonica. And I’m quite sure that nobody in the audience was disappointed that evening, because it didn’t take much to notice that these vastly different people were, each and everyone of them, die-hard Kristofferson followers. You’d see them when you turned and looked around, you didn’t even have to search long and you’d be able to spot them all over the place, the true believers, the ones who would sit in their seats and whose lips would silently form every single word Kristofferson was singing right in that moment when you looked at them and together with this prayer-like form of adoration you’d see this expression on their faces, a mixture of melancholy and understanding. Always seeming to say something like „I know what you’re saying, I’ve been there too“.
Kristofferson started the show with „Closer to the Bone“ which shares the same title as his latest album, and with just a small break during the concert he went through an impressive catalogue of songs such as „Me and Bobby McGee“, „Help Me Make It Through the Night“, „Love Don’t Live Here Anymore“, „Final Attraction“, „Sandinista“, „Silver Tongued Devil and I“ or „Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down“.
I am quite sure – no actually I am sure – that Kris Kristofferson was just as pleased as his audience that night, because there was this very special moment at the end of the concert, a moment that, if it wasn’t real, at least would be something that distinguishes a great artist from an average artist. He had just played his last song, or so it appeared, the audience was enthusiastic and he seemed to really be enjoying the love which was thrown at him, when he stopped and considered for just a second and then turned to us and said: „Wait, I’ve got another one for you“. That’s when he bid us farewell with the lovely, endearing „Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends“, which starts like this:
This could be our last good night together; we may never pass this way again; just let me enjoy it ’til it’s over, or forever; please don’t tell me how the story ends.
Or I should say almost bid us farewell, because after Kristofferson had finished playing he spent yet another twenty minutes signing what seemed an endless amount of pictures, CDs and ticket-stubs his admirers had brought along for just that opportunity. As for me, I shook Kris Kristofferson’s hand that night and went home happy.
Susanne, November 8 2009