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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three Nights of Music

Kris Kristofferson, Jackson Browne, and Keltricity. We enjoyed listening in person to all three on three magical nights in the past few days.

Kris, at Iroquois Amphitheater, Thursday night to a huge, (and please forgive me) with a largely old-timer crowd like myself.  Keltricity on Friday night to a small gathering in an intimate room of The Bards Town. And Jackson Browne Sunday night at the Kentucky Center.

Kris, who for at least half a century has been writing and performing intelligent and now iconic songs, at the same time sustaining an extensive acting career, appeared on stage alone with a guitar and harmonica.

The five musicians in Keltricity, in contrast, called on not only their voices, but guitar, violin, keyboard and accordion as well as other instruments. As the group’s name implies, Keltricity performs Celtic music. But much more as well, including a diverse sampling of other genres to which their voices and instruments are well suited. Lively contra dance music, slow waltzes, and even French Canadian tunes were part of their offerings.  

Jackson Browne, like Kris, apparently is billed as performing solo acoustic. However, for Jackson that means electric guitars, piano and at least two to five musicians as back up. Jackson joked the solo acoustic billing merely means he can do whatever he wants.  

By far the biggest production of the three musical nights, Jackson Browne at the Kentucky Center, at least as seen and heard from a balcony box, was polished and yet laid-back. And to my subjective ears, Jackson has the sweetest voice of the lot. Though the vocalists in Keltricity and also Sara Watkins, who opened for and sang with Browne, were beautiful in their own rights. Sara Watkins described in the program as “offer(ing) both sweetness and a certain swagger” deserves special mention for her vocals and fiddle-playing.

Kris, at least a decade older than any of the other singers, shows his age, but in a good way, the craggy face and lean frame still handsome.  Though I wonder whether his performance might be enhanced a bit by a solo acoustic performance as Jackson Browne defines it, with an occasional back-up musician or singer.  

Kris performs his repertoire of love and break-up songs, now with a wink and nod to his age. For example, following the lyrics, “I don’t care what’s right or wrong,” in “Help Me Make It Through the Night”, with a “Yes I do.” 

While Jackson may always have had a sweeter voice, Kris had the greater pull on the audience. The Kris crowd largely kept a hushed silence except for cheering and standing ovations. In contrast, the Jackson Browne crowd, almost to the point of heckling, continued to shout out requests and even questions about the no-photo rules of the Kentucky Center.  

Kris now sounds most convincing on “Why Me Lord?” as he intones the gospel-like lyrics asking how did he come to deserve all the blessings he has known. I suspect it was a lot of hard work combined with a prodigious dose of talent. True for all the musicians we recently had the pleasure of seeing and hearing in person.

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