The radiant septuagenarian Judy Collins returned to Dublin on Monday night. This was her first gig here since last years intimate Whelan’s set. This however was the far more formal setting of the National Concert Hall, a venue which does her vocal skills great justice. Competently supported by her label mate Kenny White, she gave a great performance which, by design, charted her illustrious career and musical influences.
Any track important in her life, from the early music hall era onwards, not covered in full song, was given an equally spellbinding acapella few bars and/or chorus. Coming on with -Chelsea Morning’ she set a clear theme to the evening of hits written by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and many others (including herself). Her voice did falter early on, but this is excusable as it was the last night of a full UK and Ireland tour, and it did improve beyond recognition after the first two songs. Ably backed by the industrious piano of Russell Walden, overall she looked and sounded fantastic (if a little bit plastic for her 70 years!)
The acapella of -Blooming Heather’ highlighted how reserved the crowd were in their muted sing along – but did full justice to her own great voice. For -Send in the Clowns’ she put down her 12-string guitar and gave a resounding performance of her most famous song. Perhaps surprisingly though, it was a new song, -Weight Of The World’, which was the defining moment of the evening and really captivated and enthralled the entire audience.
Collins did a lot of talking between songs and whilst it wasn’t as enchanting as other great folkies (for example the now deceased Liam Clancy to name one) she was nonetheless interesting. At one point she told us how she did not write songs early on in her career as: ‘I figured between Pete Seeger and Mozart there was plenty of music already out there’. She went on to say that she only started writing songs ‘when I met Leonard Cohen’: Cue her own -Since You’ve Asked’ which did not sit out of place with the plethora of classics either side. A warm and humorous introduction to the song written about her, -Judy Blue Eyes’, gave an insight into the closeness with which she still holds old friends, in this case Stephen Stills. Whilst Collins brings little new to a song her amazing voice did full justice to Joan Baez’s -Diamonds and Rust’ and Joni Mitchell’s -Both Sides Now’. The climax of the evening was -Amazing Grace’, which again highlighted just how good this woman’s voice is, and, as the pinnacle of a near two hour set, ensured the crowd left happy and full satiated.