Breakthrough DVD (Oh Boy) Rating: NN Rating: NN
A Nashville outsider from the moment he swapped his broom for a guitar, Kris Kristofferson has never been shy about mixing politics with music. In fact, the Rhodes Scholar spent much of the 80s writing and recording fist-shaking anthems decrying social injustice in Nicaragua, South Africa and El Salvador when not playing the role of the rakishly handsome troublemaker in "important" small-budget films, the kind that test well at Sundance.
And to this day he still insists on performing songs like Shipwrecked In The Eighties, What About Me? and They Killed Him (from 1986's Repossessed), as well as The Eagle And The Bear and Sandinsta (from 1990's Third World Warrior), despite woefully dated references supporting Nicaraguan rebels and er... freeing Nelson Mandela.
He clearly believes the material is relevant, which is why Oh Boy has just reissued both the Repossessed and Third World Warrior discs and the shoddily assembled Breakthrough concert DVD as a companion.
There's no accompanying information about when or where Breakthrough's live footage was shot - the track listing doesn't even sync with the actual performance - but the stagewear and haircuts favoured by Kristofferson's Borderlords backing band suggest sometime during the late 80s. Then again, it could very well have been done at any one of his shows over the past two decades.
Throughout, a characteristically scruffy-looking Kristofferson passionately sings with righteous indignation about fighting and dying for freedom in faraway places. On the upside, his notorious patience-testing rants have mercifully been edited out. However, they're replaced with graphic file footage of bloody hand-to-hand combat, executions and limbless children over which Kristofferson solemnly recites the verses of William Blake and W.B. Yeats.
It's interesting that while Kristofferson appears willing to risk alienating his core country audience by excluding virtually all of his best-loved songs (save Me And Bobby McGee and Sunday Morning Coming Down), he's clearly not prepared to face the possible backlash of speaking out against a sitting president.
And for someone so concerned with the preservation of personal freedoms, Kristofferson continues to remain strangely silent about the ongoing threat to civil liberties in his own country since 9/11.
Even in the voice-over epilogue, Kristofferson - who proudly details his own military history and that of his father and both grandfathers at the beginning of the documentary - has nothing substantial to say about his government's ongoing war on terror or the crucial upcoming presidential election.
Instead, he says only, "You can't count on politicians for the truth and you can't count on the media for the truth."
He left out that you can't count on out-of-touch celebrity musicians for the truth either.
Kris Kristofferson joins Blue Rodeo and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings at the Molson Amphitheatre tonight (Thursday, August 26).