Judy Collins is a consummate storyteller whose gift of communication is fully realized in both the dramatic content of her story songs and the grace and purity of her delivery. The only difference between Tuesday’s smart uptown supper-club perf and her ’60s gigs at the Bitter End appears to be fashion sense. The enthusiasm was clear from the start, when she strummed a new Martin guitar and opened with her trademark rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”
With a light soprano voice that remains sweetly brittle, bright and pure, Collins sang richly textured songs with no wasted emotion. From the travelin’ rodeo buckaroo of Ian Tyson’s “Some Day Soon” to Collins’ own plaintive “Mountain Girl,” the repertoire reflected longing, loss and loneliness, roads taken and not taken and a serene thread of calm and reassurance. Her simply stated delivery of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” remains a defining moment that bridges the gap between folk and pop. Pianist Russell Walden provided immeasurable support.
Collins switched to the piano and became rather sentimental with her own folky ballads “The Blizzard” and “My Father.” Her control and phrasing is bold and deliberate, and consequently, one is easily seduced by the tales she tells.
For the occasion, Collins added an a capella rendering of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” that transfixed her listeners and invited all to join her in the old hymn “Amazing Grace.” Noting that Joan Baez introduced Grammy winners the Dixie Chicks at the awards ceremony, Collins quipped, “Perhaps the ’60s are on their way back.”