Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
3 February 2010
Just back from seeing Judy Collins. Sublime. Small theatre, great acoustics, front row, low stage, and absolute magic.
As well as the full songs she performed, she must have quoted from two dozen others while telling her stories. She has a gift of being able to sing ANYTHING, in any genre, absolutely perfectly, at the drop of a hat, which has clearly shaped her life and the stories are dotted with sudden bursts of four or five lines of everything from This Land Is Your Land to Some Enchanted Evening to Sloop John B to Scarlet Ribbons to Day-O (Banana Boat Song). If she mentions any song, or any singer, she sings a verse at full power. It all fits seamlessly. Sometimes she adds guitar, sometimes she just demonstrates a song she’s mentioned with voice only. I looked up old set lists and this part is extremely varied. Some nights her story about her Dad’s love of Irish music gets Danny Boy, but we got The Kerry Pipers (several verses) and a verse of Galway Bay.
One story was how her true introduction to folk was NOT Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie or The Weavers, but Jo Stafford, who did a folk album with Barbara Allen on it, which she heard on the radio. This story involved several quotes from Jo Stafford’s earlier hits as well as Weavers and Woody Guthrie examples. Tantalising was just one verse of Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), which I really wanted to hear right through. We got the whole of Barbara Allen.
Another piece described how reviews / publicity for Susan Boyle said that Boyle’s version of “I Dreamed A Dream” trounced the Judy Collins version. She pointed out that she’d never recorded it nor sung it … until she read the review. But now she had to. Then she sang it for us perfectly, without further comment.
The momentum of the show was carefully pitched. She had started with Chelsea Morning, and then we had the stories and extracts, punctuated by full songs. Standouts were Joni Mitchell’s That Song About the Midway and Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
She played twelve string, a Martin Judy Collins signature guitar naturally, and had a pianist backing her (and adding harmonies sometimes).
As the show reached its climax, with Diamonds and Rust (a duet with Joan Baez is on her new album and she mentions casually that they’ve been friends for fifty years), Somewhere Over the Rainbow (the story link was that’s why she was named Judy, back in 1939), then Norwegian Wood (from her Lennon & McCartney covers album), the pianist left the stage, and she moved to piano for three more intimate songs, including Suzanne. This was immediately a change of atmosphere.
The only encore was Send in The Clowns, her 1975 hit. No “Both Sides Now” nor “Amazing Grace.” I think everyone wanted Amazing Grace as her only number one hit, but she said she’d been ill for several days and this was the first day she was feeling better, so maybe a second encore was too much to expect at seventy. And to be honest, I never liked Amazing Grace that much. We were three yards away, and can confirm that her eyes are still the piercing blue Stephen Stills noted when he wrote Suite Judy Blue Eyes.