Judy Collins

Judy Collins: The Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne

Veteran folkie Judy Collins - once the toast of New York’s Greenwich Village - has come a long way since the days when she used to hang out with a young Bob Dylan. More than half-a-century on she is one of the  Grande Dames of the music scene with a back catalogue of songs, a stack of memories and a collection of tales and recollections that are truly remarkable.

This concert in Wimborne - her fourth at the Tivoli Theatre - found her singing big hits and trademark songs like Chelsea Morning and  Both Sides Now, Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Times Goes and long-time staples like Turn, Turn, Turn and The Gypsy Rover.

 Some were given full guitar and piano accompaniment, others were delivered acapela to illustrate anecdotes. Now in her early seventies, Collins still has an astonishing voice. Unfortunately the vagaries of the English summer and a sky-high pollen count caused a few problems with her famously pure and pitch-perfect soprano.

Happily, though irksome for Collins, this proved but a minor irritation for the audience. Most songs survived untroubled by her obvious discomfort. Though it was notable that at the end of the show she extended a hand towards the mixing desk and offered thanks “to those who made me look and sound like Judy Collins this evening.”

In fact, apart from one or two husky waverings, her astounding vocals had sounded fine and she looked amazing - wearing high-heel boots and dressed all black with a splash of glitter and a magnificent mane of long white hair .

 Her stories were astonishing too. A little history lesson that traced her journey from an idyllic Colorado childhood during which she trained in classical piano to her life as a professional musician. She recalled the gigs that took her across the States from the jazz and blues of Chicago to the burgeoning East Cost folk scene in New York and beyond. How in 1961 her opening act was a 13-year-old Arlo Guthrie, her friendship with Leonard Cohen, her encounters with Dylan and her affair with Stephen Stills who wrote Suite Judy Blue Eyes specially for her.

There were tales about the White House too and Pete Seeger and how the Coen Brothers may have made a film based on the life of the great Dave Van Ronk but, in Judy Collins modestly informed first-hand opinion, they really  know very little about him at all. A great evening! And just in case you’re wondering why she keeps pitching up at the Tivoli. Well, first of all she says she loves the place but Collins also has distant Dorset connections. She recently discovered that an ancestor on her father’s side left the county for the New World in 1857.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022