This is the third time I’ve gotten to see Ms Collins and each concert has been different.
The first was about four years ago when I saw her at the Rosemont Theatre with a full orchestra. The second time was last year at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, sharing the bill with Don McLean. Finally this past Saturday, I got to see her again at the beautifully renovated Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.
Her lead-in act was a talented singer songwriter Rachel Sage. Apparently they tour frequently together. She plays a vast majority of her own material predominantly on piano and a little guitar as well. Her style is best put as poetic-jazzy. She has a pleasant stage presence but it was lost on the decidedly older audience. (I’m sure the fact that she has numerous blue highlights in her hair may not have helped that either.) Her music tells stories and weren’t bad ... just unfamiliar. Actually, she did have her latest album, Blue Roses, released on Saturday as well. On it is a duet with Judy Collins covering Neil Young’s hit “Helpless”. By her own admission it’s her favorite song on the album ... but she didn’t perform it this night (IMO a big mistake). Judy praised her highly all night ... so perhaps with a little more mentoring she may become a future star.
Judy Collins is a modern folk legend. She played to a far from capacity house ... their loss. At 75 years young, Judy’s voice was in top form, reaching extended highs multiple times (she even joked about it by pretending to look at her watch during one of her prolonged held notes).
Accompanied by her musical director on piano, she opened with Chelsea Morning and proceeded to sing a variety of songs, including a medley of Country Roads / Leaving on a Jet Plane, a couple of Irish folk songs and a Leonard Cohen poem which she turned into one of her album cuts. Interspersed were numerous tales about her childhood and how her father influenced her career, her days in Colorado learning about folk music, the influence of Leonard Cohen and how she was influenced by traditional Irish compositions. Judy also told a story of how she borrowed a yet to be recorded song of John Phillips. When he later complimented her on it, she reminded him that it was actually his song ... he admitted not remembering that he had written it.
In addition, she paid tribute to her dear departed friend, Joan Rivers, with whom she said they were planning on performing together at the time of her passing.
The show closed with probably her most famous number, Both Sides Now. We were treated to a one song encore of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. She departed the stage to a standing ovation. I would strongly recommend seeing her performance if you get the chance.
More great shows coming to The Genesee Theatre:
December 6th - Rockin' The Holidays with Felix Cavaliere's Rascals
December 14th - An Evening of Holiday and Hits with Michael McDonald
(both of these shows promise the artists' best known hits ... along with some special holiday music)
December 19th - Sheila E
December 28th - The BoDeans with Taylor Hicks
January 18th - comedian Steven Wright (one of my all-time favorites ... gonna have to catch this show!)