Kris Kristofferson: A Profound Experience

Last week I wrote about Diana Ross’ nearly perfect show. Although, that was not the only show I saw that weekend. Sunday I had tickets to see Kris Kristofferson as well.

It was sensory overload.

Now it’s easy to see the stark differences in Diana Ross and Kris Kristofferson. I hope this speaks to my diversity or mental instability. I went from turning upside down to hanging with Bobby McGee within 48 hours. That’s quite a stretch.

I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago with a link to Kristofferson’s show at The City Winery in NYC. Now I’m not a Kristofferson expert, but the tickets seemed irresistible. Oddly, I grew up watching A Star is Born, and I knew some of his songs. He reminded me of home, so I decided to buy.

Kristofferson left me speechless. I didn’t know what to say about his show, and I still don’t. The only word that I can find to describe his set is profound. Every note he sang, every lyric he wrote, every look he gave the audience was simply profound.

He sang a staggering 28 songs. These songs ranged from his hits like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “For The Good Times,” while also touching on some minor musical milestones. From the moment he began to sing I could not take my attention away from the stage.

During his show, he seemed to profess wisdom while singing the same songs he has sung for years. Instead of coming at them from just experience, his demeanor also led to advice. This concert was set in a winery and I felt like it was my grandpa and I having drinks together. Kristofferson wanted to give me advice so that I could have a better tomorrow.

The entire show told a story. It was a concept show. Although, I don’t think Kristofferson meant it in that way at all. Each song was a chapter. Every topic he sang about came to a head at the end of the show with the songs “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” and “Why Me.” I believe these 5 songs, some of Kristofferson’s best, describe both the high and low of his life and the topics he struggles with. Life may be tough, but he is just happy to be alive.

It was a simple show. The stage was just adorned with Kristofferson, his guitar, and harmonica. What struck me the most in retrospect is how relevant his songs are today. They have passed over generations and he is still writing. He finds a way to explain timeless truths in a language that will never be antiquated.

Seeing him live is surreal and truly a profound experience.

 

Clear Country: The Leona Williams Experience

I love real country and western music. The material that is released today is something, but it is not founded in what was once country. Give me music with endless fiddles and steel guitars, and I’ll have it made.

This weekend I did just that. I found the perfect pure country show. It was in a little theater in Collinsville, OK. This show was held in the Herron’s Crown Opry Theater on main street. I had gathered word from a few websites and friends that Leona Williams, along with her son Ron Williams, would be gracing the stage at this renovated movie theater.

Ron Williams

Ron Williams

I am used to traveling many hours and miles to see my favorite singers and performers, but this time it was different. Instead of traveling hours to go to an arena to see a huge over produced show, I found myself speeding down the turnpike to find small town Oklahoma. I have spent $100’s on tickets before to these concerts, yet the ones for this show were just a mere $10. There was one big difference between the tickets I have spent $100’s on and this $10 show.

I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed

The show began with a local act, Will Clark and The Back When Country was Country band. They played a great set showing that country purist do not stand alone. Next, Ron Williams took the stage. It’s always a pleasure to hear him sing. He is country to his core and easily echoes many of the greats like Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and George Jones.

Then it was time for the main event, country pioneer Leona Williams. Some remember Leona from her work and marriage to Merle Haggard, which was littered with musical gems, but Leona’s solo music she made before Haggard and now after is simply country gold.

FullSizeRender-1It wasn’t long after Williams took the stage that she went into one of my favorite songs, “Yes Ma’am (He Found Me in a Honky Tonk).” This single was released in 1970 to rave reviews and garnered Williams some serious air play. It sounds just as good today as it did in 1970, except when she sings it now, I think she is reminiscing. I don’t think Williams frequents honky tonks.

Williams’ show covered so much ground of both the history of her career and the history of country music. She is a gifted storyteller and had many stories to tell over her relationship with Merle Haggard and her close friendship with George Jones. These first hand anecdotes are priceless.

Around the middle of the show, Williams sang “You Take Me For Granted” and “Someday When Things are Good,” which were both number one hits for Merle Haggard. She also sang Connie Smith’s smash hit “Dallas,” which she also wrote. Although these songs by their “original” artists are classics, there is something different hearing them from the songwriter. There’s more honesty and sincerity. You can hear the connection to the heart. Leona is at her best singing songs she wrote.

Williams covered some of her more recent recordings which include “Melted Down Memories” and “New Patches.” Her new material is great and is just as good as anything she has released. She is still on the top of her game. She doesn’t know how to give less than 100%.

unnamedShe closed out the show with some good fashioned country gospel. What I love about country gospel is its sincerity. You can sense the faith in the music. First she sang with Will Clark and her son Ron Williams, “Sing Me Back Home.” She then went into “I Saw The Light” and “I’ll Fly Away” with her son Ron. This was one of the biggest highlights of the show. There was an aura between Leona and Ron that only a mother and son could create. Their warmth was felt throughout the whole theater and their genuineness struck home with every patron.

This was my second time I have seen Leona in concert, and this time I realized just why I am a fan. Leona not only sings pure country music, she sings clear country music.

Leona’s music is completely untainted by any modern trends. She keeps country music alive with each note. Her singing is sterling silver and music unadulterated. She proves that real, unfiltered, clear country music doesn’t need anything new.

Simply put, when the old garment is country music, there is not any need for new patches.

Check out my review of Leona Williams’ and Merle Haggard’s album, Heart to Heart, here.

Cher, Dressed to Kill: There Is no “If,” It’s When

I made a mistake last Tuesday. I’m a sucker for concerts, especially of legends. I also like to take my mom to concerts of artists that were from her young days. She can tell me when she used to watch them on the television from first-hand experience! This also serves as a good veil of deception when I just want to go to a concert.

So I got on Stubhub (a terrible, terrible website, don’t go there, you will be out money). I found 2 tickets, cheaply priced for Cher’s current Dressed to Kill Tour. I used to be a Cher fan, but I hadn’t listened to her for a while. I knew my mom and I would enjoy it together. And, did I mention that they were 3rd-row center?

Anyways, I had to have them. I had seen footage of many Cher shows and knew she put on a large production and I mean, come on, she’s Cher! So after finagling money out of this account and that credit card, the tickets were mine.

Saying the concert was spectacular is an understatement. I have always considered Cher the Goddess of Pop and she confirmed my accusations.

The concert began with her most recent dance hit, “Woman’s World.” She came down offphoto (3) a large pedestal adorned with a headdress colored in what I think would be peacock colors. As she descended, she proceeded to take off her outer covering, exposing what a flamboyant Egyptian queen would wear (again in my mind). She was the audience’s Cleopatra and we were willing to do anything under her rule. She then immediately went into Strong Enough.” This song took on a vibe of its own as her dancers came out with gladiator shields showing that this immaculate diva could take you down and that she had the army to do it (and that was minus the gay men).

One of my favorite sequences was when Cher returned back to her musical foundation. She recreated “I Got You Babe” with Sonny projected on a screen directly behind her. They sang the song together as if it were 1965 once again. It was a time to reminisce for even those that weren’t alive during that generation. It was a musical time warp.

photo (2)From there, Cher went into her 3 number 1’s from the early 1970’s, “Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves,” “Dark Lady,” and “Half Breed.” The stage turned into a traveling Circus troupe with three main rings and dancers to fill them all. Cher, dressed in what only an ostentatious gypsy could pull off, proceeded into her first two songs declaring how all the men would come around and lay their money down (despite calling them tramps during the day) and how that ho of a dark lady stole her man. She then disappeared behind the center ring’s curtain. Seconds later, after what seemed to be a semi Native American pow wow performed by her dancers, she reappeared in one of her signature looks, an Indian headdress with a matching crop top, a flowing loincloth, and that jet black, hip-length, black hair.

She then went into a homage to her most recent movie Burlesque. I am sure this photo (4)was to please her younger fans. She did an awe-inspiring rendition of “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me.” This was the vocal highlight of the show. As one who has sung and taken lessons, this song is just plain hard. Cher has also been quoted as saying she has never been accepted into the singing group or acting group amidst her qualifications. This song shows that she is a vocal powerhouse; better yet, a vocal mansion.

Then came what  I call the “down low” stage of the concert. She stripped it down for three
of her more acoustic songs “Walking in Memphis,” “Just Like Jesse James,” and “Heart of Stone.” Her vocals were perfection.

photo (6)

Then came what I think any moderate Cher fan was looking forward to. It was time for the leotard. You know that one that barely covers the “bathing suit” areas? You know that one with the thigh-high boots and 100’s of strategically placed rhinestones? Yeah, that one. She proceeded into “I Found Someone” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Everybody in the arena was groveling at her feet and every woman was trying to figure out why they couldn’t pull that outfit off at their age (including the youngsters).

Lastly, she performed her number one smash “Believe.” It was indeed amazing, although I felt it was her encore that solidified her as the goddess she truly is. As the lights went low and the audience yelling, a platform floated from the back of the arena and landed center stage. Once it landed, Cher emerged from the starry darkness. She had on a flowing dress and upon her head was what only a Diva Pop Goddess crown would look like (I didn’t know until then what one looked like). She was then lifted over the whole audience while singing “I Hope You Find It” from her latest album Closer to The Truth.

This was an especially emotional and moving time of the concert. Cher had said this

From Cherworld.com/ Phoenix show

From Cherworld.com/ Phoenix show

was definitely her last tour (with a wink, wink), but I think she may be serious. While she was singing the song, I felt like Cher was expressing contentment. She is accepted by people more important than the Oscar and Grammy elitist. She is accepted by thousands of fans that have adored her for 5 decades. She has finally done what we all hope to do, find it.

In the end, I walked away from the concert completely stunned. How a 67-year-old lady can perform and sing to that degree is astounding. She puts new performers to shame. For the longest time, one of my favorite Cher songs was “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Well, there was no question after the show. It was not “if she could turn back time,” it was when. The concert was about Cher, as a vocal, acting, and pop culture phenomenon without an expiration date.

photo (7)After reflection, I realized the concert sent a different message as well. She proved happiness is immortal, that acceptance is fleeting, and contentment was priceless. Only a performer of her caliber could prove this, and she is the only one that exists.

So, as a seasoned concert fanatic, I feel she best summed it up in her first “Farewell Tour.” She said  to all her younger contemporaries “follow this, you bitches.”

But let’s be honest…they can’t even find her footprint.