Last Friday, we had the opportunity to see the lovely and ageless Judy Collins perform with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.
We waited with bated breath as the house lights dimmed, then a silver-haired beauty floated onto the stage wearing a stunning white satin dress and a complementary bejeweled white jacket. She was an amazing sight, just glowing!
While we were still taking in her dazzling outfit, she got right into the music, belting out “Both Sides Now,” her falsetto soaring among the rafters.
What an opening! Her voice is so powerful, pure, and strong; it is easy to forget that Judy Collins is in her mid-seventies. She still has a commanding stage presence, with plenty of passion and a sprightly joy while performing.
As the set list went on, Ms. Collins had us riveted with “Someday Soon” and Sondheim’s “Move On,” had us swaying with “Barbara Allen” and had us singing along with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I had never heard “Barbara Allen” before. It is a wonderfully haunting Scottish Ballad; you can read more about on the BBC’s website here.
After the brief intermission, Ms. Collins emerged in another stunning outfit of all black: top, leggings, boots, and another gorgeous bejeweled jacket. (She is wearing a similar outfit in the video above—a live performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) The second half was packed with poignant songs, including “Marieke” and “Send in the Clowns.”
Throughout the concert she told us so many stories; the evening reminded me a little of listening to A Prairie Home Companion, in the best possible way. She told us about how she got her big break in New York City and about her friendship with the late Joan Rivers. Ms. Collins has a great sense of humor herself, making us laugh several times during the concert.
The highlight of the night was when she moved from center stage to the piano and weaved little melodies and chatted with us about her life. She is a talented piano player! It was like we were at a little hole-in-the-wall jazz club. She managed to turn the huge music hall into a very intimate setting. You can see her piano skills in her performance at WNYC below.
At the piano, she told us about the time she came to Tucson in the early 1960s to play a show and discovered that she had tuberculosis. Ms. Collins spent a month here, convalescing at Tucson Medical Center. She wrote a song about her time here called “Arizona” and debuted it at the concert on Friday night. As Arizonans, it was delightful to hear a song about our home state, its scenic wilderness, and its healing effect.
Overall, the night was a very memorable one. It was an absolute joy to hear such a legend belt out so many classic songs.
You can see more videos on Judy Collins’ website, including a devastatingly beautiful performance of “In My Life” from 1966.
What’s your favorite Judy Collins song?