Kristofferson, circa 1981, was an institution. Renowned as a master Nashville singer/songwriter and high-visibility Hollywood actor (A Star is Born, Semi-Tough), his passion for performing onstage remained undiminished.
The proof lies in this smokin’ show at the Texas dance hall immortalized by the contemporary hit film Urban Cowboy. Recorded as he wound up a tour, an energetic and gregarious Kristofferson strode through 15 standards, pushed by an enthusiastic crowd. His five-piece band included three veteran Kristofferson sidemen – guitarists Stephen Bruton and Billy Swan along with keyboardist Donnie Fritts.
Bruton and Swan provided a master class in accompaniment. While they embellished Kristofferson’s vocals with rich (if economical) figures on “Casey’s Last Ride,” their licks hit harder on a rocking “Me and Bobby McGee.” Switching to mandolin, Bruton picked traditional lines on “Darby’s Castle” and sparkling figures on the upbeat “The Pilgrim.” He bends strings and enhances “Same Old Song,” animating “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” with sharp rhythm licks. Never once does anyone overplay.
On “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again),” Bruton slips in clever pedal steel-like licks, complemented by Fritts’ swirling keyboard. Fully in sync, Kristofferson and band delivered a memorable, entertaining show still worth hearing.
This article originally appeared in VG’s November 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.