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This is what happens when Kiefer Sutherland sings country music

By Brent Hill 

May 11, 2016

Next month Kiefer Sutherland will release a country album called Down in a Hole. As of last week I didn’t even knowthe 49-year-old British-born, Canadian-raised actor could sing. I’m still not convinced he can. One thing, however, is certain: Kiefer’s fans are intrigued, as evidenced by the crowd at Charlotte’s Visulite Theater.

Why shouldn’t they be? It’s Jack Bauer singing country music. Curiosity alone would draw crowds. And it did. But strip away Kiefer’s celebrity status and you’re simply left with a man trying reinvent himself. Not an easy task, but an admirable one. Perhaps, that’s what makes his venture into music so appealing. That’s what makes him seem more human– more like the us.

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The truth: It wasn’t the best concert I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the worst either. It was exactly what everyone needed that night: mediocre music from a man who we believed could snap our necks for not applauding. 

Most writers will tell you to avoid the use of cliches at all costs. I say embrace them (sparingly). There’s a time and a place for them. That time and place is in the majority of Kiefer’s songs. Most of which he penned himself.

Understandably, Kiefer probably feels guarded about his private life, therefore his lyrics and stories behind the songs are bereft of any real tangible details. You know this guy has stories, stories that the average person can’t even fathom. I mean, he once drunkenly tackled a Christmas tree in a swanky, European hotel lobby. Now, that’s fodder for a song.

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Photo by Daniel Coston

He chose, however, to feed his fanbase flaccid banalities like, “There comes a time in everybody’s life when they lose their innocence … blah blah …. comes from heartbreak … blah blah …  everything works out in the end … blah blah.”

The Visulite crowd– a little older than usual– lapped up his platitudes through their cracked iPhone screens.

We need cliches to make sense of the world. They unite us under their vaguery. They give us common ground to stand on. They bring us all together and give us a glimmer of hope. There is comfort in the gooey center of cliches and that’s okay.

Kiefer Sutherland is not a bad singer. There’s a gruffness to his voice that naturally lends itself to old school country music. His voice has a smoker’s jagged edge to it. Sometimes it blends in nicely with the twang of his guitar. Other times, well… he sounds like Jack Bauer singing karaoke. The whole experience of listening to him sing is a little disconcerting.  

I can appreciate the fact that he puts himself out there like that. In interviews, he’s compared playing concerts to his work as a stage actor. The comparison makes sense. I imagine it’s a rush for him to stand on a small stage face-to-face with fans who have never heard him sing. Particularly, because he’s touring prior to the release of his album. Maybe that is part of his strategy. I like to think Kiefer always has a strategy.

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Photo by Daniel Coston

Prior to the start of the show I listened to a drunken forty-something in a suit (yes, a suit at the Visulite) listing Kiefer’s entire filmography to a disinterested thirty-something woman.

“Yep,” the drunk guy said, “Stand by Me was actually his first movie. A lot of people think it was Lost Boys. It wasn’t.”

“Oh,” the woman said.

“I’ve always been a big fan,” the guy continued. “I even watched that last show of his that bombed, Touched. I didn’t think it was that bad.”

“Uh-huh,” the woman said.

“But my favorite Kiefer movie is Flatliners. Did you ever see that one?”

“No,” the woman said.

Then the lights dimmed and Kiefer took the stage, and everyone pulled out their phones to take pictures.

“It’s a good one,” the guy whispered.  

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