Times Staff Writer

Kris Kristofferson, star of the controversial ABC television series “Amerika,” brought 14,000 screaming Moscow rock fans to their feet Thursday, when he joined an up-from-the underground Soviet band in a hopped-up version of “We Shall Overcome” during a concert at an ice hockey rink here.

The Moscow band Time Machine, lead by 34-year-old local rock idol Andre Makarevich, has been together for 18 years and has built a large following through the underground circulation of previously private tape recordings. But in one of the dizzying turnabouts that have become routine in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, the group is now on an officially sponsored national concert tour.

“Amerika,” which attempts to depict the possible consequences of a Soviet takeover of the United States, has been heavily criticized here. However, Kristofferson, a political liberal who came to Moscow to attend a conference on the elimination of nuclear weapons, defended his role in the series during a postconcert interview. “It was better,” he said, “to have someone (in the series’ starring role) who then is willing to go over to Russia with an open mind to improve communications.”


Prior to joining Time Machine in the popular anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement, the American singer told a reporter, “We have to go on beyond the old stereotypes of the Russians as the enemy in order to save the planet.” He later added that he was “surprised by the pace of change” in the Soviet Union, which he termed “a closed society that’s trying real hard to get open. Hell, they’ve invited me to come over here and play and I’m going to come back with my band and stir them up.”

Kristofferson joked that he wasn’t eager to follow the Moscow group, whose leader he likened to “an early Bob Dylan.”

Makarevich, who writes most of the group’s songs, said his lyrics, “raise many questions, leaving it to the audience to search for answers.” One of the songs he sang Thursday was about a fish in a bowl, who, though he sees everything through the glass, nonetheless goes on thinking he’s free.

Makarevich credited Gorbachev with having brought about major changes in the Soviet music scene, including the group’s first opportunity to make legal recordings. The state record industry is now bringing out the third of the group’s albums. Its first legal recording sold 1 million copies here.

“That’s platinum,” Kristofferson noted with approval.

Speaking of the changes in the last two years, Makarevich said, “I hope that it is real. I see the changes in every part of our lives--on the TV, on radio and in the cinemas.” He singled out as an example of openness the currently popular film “Repentance,” which is playing throughout Moscow and features a scathing critique of the Stalin era.

One of the young Russians at Thursday’s concert said she knew Kristofferson not from his songs, but from his role in the film “Convoy,” which also is popular here.