LIVE: Judy Collins @ Caffe Lena 8/18/2019
When she walked out with her white flowing hair and still bright blue eyes, you could feel the room warm up. Many had similar hair color and she teased from the get-go that she’d must have gone to high school with most of us. She was warm, humble, forthright, and could still hold a note longer than it took for a stick of butter to melt in the snow…she was Judy. She was in awe of Caffe Lena and said, “It only took 60 years, but I’m so happy to be here.” You’d never guess she was 80 years young this past May.
I brought my 94-year-old mom to the show because she fell in love with Judy from the first time she heard her sing in the ’60s. Although my mom is a little older and a little grayer, so was Judy and she made no bones about it in her many references to the then and now. She talked about her family, her father’s voice and theatrical training, him bringing her up singing the Great America Songbook, her classical piano training and the first time she heard folk music on the radio, the moment she abandoned Chopin for the coffee house scene. And then she sang…
With her twelve-string around her neck Judy Collins took over the room at Caffe Lena and I could see it in my Mother’s face, there was that golden voice, that twinkle in her eyes, and everyone was feeling the love. The second song in was Both Sides Now, a sultrier version, backed up by her musical director on piano. She sang a few of her songs and then paid tribute to her friends, Bob Dylan, talking about how she sat on a marble staircase and listened in the distance for a few hours as he wrote Mr. Tambourine Man, and she sang it her way. She honored her dear friend, Leonard Cohen, with “Bird On A Wire”, and talked about her relationship with Steve Stills, again joking about the fact that they had remained friends so long because they married different people. She sang Hopelessly Helping, a song he says he wrote for her.
She sang her 2018 song “Dreamers” acapella about an immigrant named Maria that brought tears to my eyes, relevant and emotional, it forced people to their feet in praise of the message. And then another tribute on piano about her mother in a song she wrote called “In The Twilight”, that literally had the whole room in tears with it’s tender lyrics and homage to a woman of true substance, like Judy, and like my own Mom. There were many moments of sweet exchanges and laughs, songs and stories, all ending with me holding my Mom’s hand as she smiled knowing that she wasn’t too old to share new moments and grateful to Judy Collins for sharing some moments with all of us.
She ended with “Amazing Grace,” asking the audience to join in and sing it with her. At first, I thought it was a weak ending to a show so full of life, but then I realized it was a prayer of sorts, for the unity that we all need to be closer to in these trying times, and Judy Collins, forever the activist, knew that.