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Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Date with Judy

From the Vault Dept.: She’s been a regular visitor to this area, but the first time I caught Judy Collins in concert was in 1984, and my review is below. (The next time would be in 1989, under entirely different circumstances.)


JUDY COLLINS HAS A SINGING VOICE which has a lovely innocence about it, and she is capable of making every song she sings seem a divine inspiration.
Judy Collins
During her concert at Proctor’s Theater Thursday night, she enchanted the audience with a mixture of song and story, that remarkable voice working its magic on a wide variety of material.

No longer the wide-eyed, melancholy folksinger, she came onstage wearing a slinky black dress with her hair cut in layers and lightly permed. She was backed by three excellent musicians: Shelton Berton was the leader, playing keyboards and supplying background vocals; Frank Vilardi on drums; and Zev Katz alternating between keyboard and electric bass.

Ms. Collins opened with the uptempo “It’s Gonna Be One of Those Nights,” then gave a slow, syncopated version of “Both Sides Now,” the Joni Mitchell ballad she parlayed into a hit over a decade ago.

The contrast between the two songs was Illustrative of an uncomfortable aspect of the evening: She can put a song across with the best of them, but where no chanteuse can touch Judy Collins is in making the sentimental song heartfelt and the simple sound profound. This is what made her such a successful folksinger, and it’s wasted on the glitzy pop tunes which have come creeping into the repertory in recent years.

A song like “Send in the Clowns,” which she sang to solo piano, works very well because of the combination of lyrical sophistication and melodic simplicity (or so it seems: Sondheim writes difficult-to-sing tunes which never sound too tough). She paid tribute to the late Steve Goodman with “City of New Orleans,” had fun with Ian Tyson’s “Someday Soon,” and, accompanying herself at the piano, sang her own pretty ballad, “My Father.”

She sang five songs from her new album, “Home Again.” Any fear that the glitz-pop invasion might be too much upon us was banished with her encores, “In My Life” and “Amazing Grace.”

For an opening act, Proctor’s brought in a young magician named Peter Samelson, who has the distinction of having performed atop the Great Wall of China. He did a routine which included many magician’s standards – linking rings, cut-and-restored rope and so on, culminating in a straight-jacket escape which was, of course, more contortion than magic.

But he did it all splendidly, with a dynamic stage presence, good interaction with audience volunteers and funny patter. It’s the presentation, not the trick itself, which is the mark of a successful magician, and Samelson has obviously mastered presentation.

– Albany Knickerbocker News, 27 October 1984

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