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Review: Bryget Chrisfield   Photos: Jason Rosewarne

A vision in billowy, electric-blue layers and high-heeled, knee-high black boots, Judy Collins arrives on stage with her short, silvery hair brushed forward. “I’m thrilled to be here,” she admits, adjusting her shimmering silver guitar strap, before cheekily adding, “I’m thrilled to be almost anywhere!”

Judy Collins & Stu Mindeman – Pic Jason Rosewarne


Collins then dedicates opener Norwegian Wood to “King Charles III and his Queen, once his girlfriend”, which makes us chuckle. Pianist Stu Mindeman is so attentive, accompanying Collins with the utmost care throughout.

She’s 84 years young (“I just want you to know that 84 is the new 27!”) and 60-plus years of performance experience translates to her onstage ease. Collins’ father is the late “great entertainer and singer” (her words), Chuck Collins, about which she wrote Father (which gets an airing tonight).

Throughout this extremely pleasurable evening, we’re treated to fascinating banter and storytelling alongside a smattering of songs, including a vulnerable, imperfect rendition of Both Sides Now, which fluctuates in tempo: “I really don’t know life at aaaall…” – a sustained note, canary sweet, closes out this song also made famous by Joni Mitchell. Collins also presents some material from her latest record, 2022’s Spellbound, including When I Was A Girl In Colorado, which transports us to the mountains.

Collins often tunes her guitar, or plays piano, while bantering and casually namedrops Al Kooper (Blood Sweat & Tears). Occasionally consulting a book, Collins also shares an exchange between George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill that tickled her fancy, as well as the fun fact that early versions of Coca Cola contained actual cocaine.

Also on the agenda: her alcohol dependence (“I didn’t do many drugs because I was afraid they would interfere with my drinking”), tuberculosis diagnosis and “love affair” with Stephen Stills (who wrote a couple of songs about her such as Suite: Judy Blue Eyes). “This is for Stephen, because he finally admitted that he wrote it for me,” is how she introduces Helplessly Hoping.

We delight in Collins’ Bob Dylan tales. She met him in 1959 during his “homeless” phase – back when he went by Robert Zimmerman – and recalls him initially performing “badly chosen songs by Woody Guthrie”. She also eavesdropped on Dylan while he was writing Mr Tambourine Man, during which – when performed this evening – audience participation is strongly encouraged. Danny Boy and Amazing Grace morph into soul-uplifting singalongs as well.

“Well, maybe next year…” – following Collins’ poignant, wistful take on Send In The Clowns, we applaud wildly and rise to our feet.

She goes off on tangents, leaves some recollections half-finished, welcomes punters’ help while trying to remember surnames/lyrics and coughs mid-song a couple of times, but who cares? Thanks to her talent, regal demeanour and cheeky spirit, Collins is charming company to keep for one-and-a-half hours straight (no interval).

Consider Collins – who also has a book of poems in the works – officially added to our dream dinner party guest list.


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