Yes, a songbird, thrush, warbler, coloratura, balladeer … she self-described as a troubadour. But who knew that folk-rock legend Judy Collins is also supremely entertaining, a raconteur spieling salty, even ribald stories all while innocently strumming her guitar? Tonight in a delicious free concert at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, Collins lulled her audience like a lady folk singer — and then zinged them with naughty, funny punch lines.
The evening passed like a pipe dream, a journey that wafted on her elegant, still-vital voice. She knitted together her rich playlist with gentle transitions, swapping organically between story, song-snippet, joke, and full song. Regally occupying center stage in glamorous hippie garb — purple, that greatest of all hippie colors — she accompanied herself on guitar backed by her excellent pianist, Russell Walden. Then she replaced him at the keyboard, her slender hands tumbling forth supportive chords, her back archly held (the evening opened with her confiding that as a good little Denver girl, she had studied piano).
And this section of the generous, lengthy concert was so striking. The seated chanteuse (now), having hypnotized her audience (sprawled on picnic blanket and beach chair) with her own compositions interspersed with those by compatriot-composers Joni Mitchell (in a special ‘get well,’ “Chelsea Morning”), Stephen Stills, Leonard Cohen, Jimmy Webb, Joan Baez (and her boyfriend Bob), closed the evening with art songs and Irish dirges. A lilting tour through time, the sound of our lives, a true survivor who, despite that setback in Tucson, has endured with elegance and excellence.
Then in marched “Send in the Clowns.” We wept.
photo credit: collins at levitt, top shot, janet thomas, middle shot, sherry raynes barnett