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