Kris Kristofferson’s Final Performance
If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s to take the opportunity to see your favorite music legends—country or otherwise—whenever you have the opportunity, because you may not have another. Along with the merciless amount of country greats that passed away in the last year, earlier this week it was announced that Kris Kristofferson has officially retired from preforming, recording, and acting.
At 84-years-old and having suffered health issues recently, it’s hard to blame the guy for wanting to hang it up. His service to art, film, music, and America as an Army Ranger and helicopter pilot is unparalleled and unprecedented, and it’s about time he decided to take it easy.
But it also means that we didn’t really get a proper farewell tour or final goodbye for ol’ Kristofferson. In his final years, Kris Kristofferson had taken to touring either as a solo act, or with members of Merle Haggard’s backing band The Strangers, and often included multiple Merle songs in the set to pay tribute to his side players and old friend. Little did we know those performances would be Kristofferson’s last.
And some of them were quite legendary. In late 2019, there was the moment Kris blew off receiving his Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the CMA in person to play a local show in Davenport, Iowa. Just a few days later when playing a show in Fargo, North Dakota, a local band threw a hail mary and invited Kris to come attend their concert after his, and lo and behold, Kristofferson showed up, and even took the stage to perform. Kristofferson never lost his devotion to his fans.
Perhaps when COVID-19 subsides, we’ll get one of those proper send offs to Kristofferson at the Bridgestone Arena where everyone including Sheryl Crow shows up to pay tribute (MUST have Sheryl Crow, after all), and maybe even Kristofferson will sing one final song or two. But if not, the final show he played will still be pretty special.
It turns out Kris Kristofferson’s final performance was aboard the 5th Annual Outlaw Country Cruise on January 30th, 2020, backed by The Strangers. Along with Kris playing many of his most memorable songs such as “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” he also played “Okie From Muskogee,” and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.” The show ended somewhat appropriately with the song “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends.”
You can see the full setlist and some amateur video below.
And Kristofferson was also paid tribute on the cruise, and was treated as the patron saint on the voyage. Lucinda Williams, Shooter Jennings, and Steve Earle played a tribute set to Kristofferson during the week, and then at the end, all kinds of people showed up on stage to perform “Why Me” with Kristofferson in the lead, including Dale Watson, Carlene Carter, Jim Lauderdale, Ray Wylie Hubbard, the ladies of Folk Uke, Waylon Payne, and others.
Not a bad way to go out, if this ends up being the last time we ever see Kris Kristofferson perform.
1. Shipwrecked in the Eighties
2. That’s The Way Love Goes
3. Darby’s Castle
4. Me and Bobby McGee
5. How Far to Jordan
6. Help Me Make It Through the Night
7. Okie From Muskogee
8. Casey’s Last Ride
9. A Place to Fall Apart
10. Feeling Mortal
11. From Here to Forever
12. Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)
13. Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)
14. Sing Me Back Home
15. The Pilgrim, Chapter 33
16. I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
17. Sunday Morning Coming Down
18. For the Good Times
19. Why Me
20. Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends
January 30, 2021 @ 12:05 pm
This is a really great post and the video footage is wonderful. Thanks.
January 30, 2021 @ 12:46 pm
We saw his last show at the Paramount in Seattle, backed by The Strangers it was incredible! I saw him play with Merle at the same venue in 2010 and though it was a great show he still forgot some lyrics and grabbed the wrong harmonica once. The last time he was on fire! He sounded better than he did on some of his records in my opinion. It was so good I was wondering if he was about to stage a new era of performance! So glad I saw him though, his music changed my life!
January 30, 2021 @ 1:15 pm
I was there, and like everyone else in the ship’s theater, I had no clue I was seeing Kristofferson’s last concert.
Wish I had arrived sooner and caught the full set.
January 30, 2021 @ 3:03 pm
I had tickets to see Willie and Merle in May of 2016 as a graduation gift, but unfortunately Merle passed away in April so I was never able to see him. However Kris filled in with Noel and Ben Haggard and then came out to sing a few with Willie. I hadn’t really delved into his music at that point and was basically just waiting for Willie to come out, but after getting into his music, he’s now one of my top 5. I’m grateful I was able to experience his music live and wish I could again because I would appreciate it more now. Hope he gets a proper farewell before it’s too late.
And obviously Sheryl Crow will be there Trig. I don’t think she’s missed one in 20 years
January 30, 2021 @ 3:16 pm
I looked into the Outlaw Country Cruise a couple years back with serious interest. Then I saw the prices for the thing. After cracking some advanced high level mathematical formulas and mapping out the various particulars on a spreadsheet, I came to the realization that its more than this guy and his misses wants to blow in 4 days. Ouch…to quote Jerry Reed “i’m tellin ya they have made a mistake, cause it adds up to more than this cowboy makes!”
Man for that amount of dough, we could go to Texas, stay in a real swanky 4 star, eat steak every night, hit a different honky-tonk every night, see all kinds of great music and save about 2 grand. Just sayin…I thought hillbilly music was for the common folks, apparently to afford the Outlaw Country Cruise, I shouldá got on Robin Hood and invested in some Game-Stop stock!
January 30, 2021 @ 3:17 pm
I Know everyone gets old, and this happens eventually but it still sucks watching someone you “knew” your entire life, have to step back and slow down. Thanks to the site for posts/treads like this
January 30, 2021 @ 3:33 pm
Man that’s a great setlist. Obviously I’ve never met Kris kristofferson and you really should assume the worst of most celebrities but he seems like a great guy. He was on the right side of things when he stood up for sinead O’Connor in a moment where that wasn’t the easy thing to do. But the greatest tribute to him is that setlist both what’s on it and also how many great songs aren’t (Jesus was a Capricorn, the law is for protection of the people, best of all possible worlds to name a few).
January 30, 2021 @ 4:44 pm
It isn’t an official tribute without Sheryl Crow.
January 31, 2021 @ 2:00 pm
PLEASE NO MORE Sheryl Crow!!
February 1, 2021 @ 7:44 am
Todd Snider also called that 17 years ago in the song East Nashville Skyline!
January 30, 2021 @ 7:19 pm
thanks for all the great music kris. enjoy your retirement and take care of yourself.
January 31, 2021 @ 6:27 am
What more could a country music fan want? Kris, singing his songs and Merle’s, with Scott Joss on fiddle. Beyond great.
January 31, 2021 @ 3:32 pm
When an artist who’s in his 80s and suffering from health issues comes around, you should take it as this will be your last chance to see him perform–whether or not there’s been an official announcement or it’s billed as a “Farewell Tour.”
Hank Did It This Way
February 1, 2021 @ 4:46 am
I know Kris is a legend and generally very talented, but I would never pay the man to hear him sing.
Scott S Gongaware
February 1, 2021 @ 7:19 am
It was special being on that cruise with him!!
Nancy Jo Kivler
February 1, 2021 @ 7:34 am
Kris, I have listened and watched you my entire life. I saw you a few years ago in Clearwater Florida at the Capital Theater. I know you were a little off that night which was not your fault, but you were and are still You, one of the Greatest Songwriters and Singers and Man I know and Always will be. Always wanted to meet you and shake your hand, but since I can’t, know that I Admire You and All you do. Stay Well, Enjoy Your Wonderful Family. Love Always Nancy ⚘⚘💜💜
February 4, 2021 @ 9:13 am
To see the ovation he gets from all those stars after Why Me, Lord, is moving.
March 14, 2022 @ 6:53 pm
There are a few people I rank up there near Bob Dylan but Kris Kristofferson is there. Of the 20 songs I knew how to play on the guitar and sing half of them were written by Kris Kristofferson. He’s always been a simple man with a great way of telling a story that makes you feel every word of it. I thank you for almost a lifetime of appreciation. Enjoy your time off