By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART — Time passes and people get older. Kris Kristofferson knows this. He sounds like he’s made friends with the idea, at least enough to make art out of it.
One song into his set at Elkhart’s Lerner Theatre, the country star pointed out that he’s 77 years old. As such, he’s been writing and/or performing for 66 years, and his solo acoustic gig Saturday was a career-spanner.
Fingerpicking an acoustic guitar and with occasional harmonica, Kristofferson played a show that featured both the first song he ever wrote, at age 11: “I Hate Your Ugly Face” (Excerpt: “Now most heartbroken singers wish their sweethearts happiness/I just hope you’re miserable, you sorry looking mess”) and the title track from his latest album, the aptly named “Feeling Mortal.”
Technical glitches early in the show were noted self-deprecatingly by Kristofferson; the shaky start didn’t seem to bother anyone else. That said, the post-intermission set had a stronger, more assured feel.
Kristofferson’s wit was an added spark at The Lerner Saturday. One quip was an aside to “Best of All Possible Worlds,” which contains the line, “And Lord there’s still so many lonely girls/in this best of all possible worlds.”
“I wrote that song a long time ago,” Kristofferson explained.
The concert was home to Kristofferson-penned tunes that were hits for other artists, including “Me and Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin) and “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Willie Nelson and Sammi Smith). It featured lyrical tributes to heroes (Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King Jr.) And longtime fans were treated to choice cuts from early Kristofferson LPs. These included “Nobody Wins” and the title tune from “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” as well as “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”) and the bittersweet “Jody and the Kid” from “The Silver Tongued Devil and I.”
Among the veteran fanbase Saturday was Mike Zanich of Cassopolis, Mich.
“From the Day 1, I liked him, and I like his music,” Zanich said. “I like the way he sings, and he’s a good songwriter.”
In the lobby before the show, Margo Unzicker of Goshen described herself as a longtime Kristofferson listener — “over and over and over when the kids were little,” she said.
Jim Coleman of Hartford, Mich., was seated close to the front of the stage in a Johnny Cash shirt.
“I’ve always enjoyed (Kristofferson’s) songwriting — ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ and ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down,’” he said pre-show. “And when he joined The Highwaymen with Willie, Johnny and Waylon, I just appreciated him that much more.”
Based on the song “Feeling Mortal,” Kristofferson appreciates life itself. The opening lyrics reference an old man in a mirror and shaky self esteem. But the song is also the story of a man who, though he’ll be “leaving” sooner or later, is “a winner either way/for the laughter and the loving that I’m living with today.”
“God Almighty here I am, am I where I ought to be?” Kristofferson sang onstage at The Lerner. “I’ve begun to soon descend, like the sun into the sea.
“And I thank my lucky stars
From here to eternity
For the artist that you are
And the man you made of me.”