I’ve just returned from seeing Judy Collins and Don McLean in concert at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, N.J. and what a memorable musical night it was. This is the sixth or seventh time I’ve seen Judy Collins in the last 10 years. Her concerts are always a pleasure and memorable and this one was one of her best. Appearing in her trademark black sequined top, black pants and boots it offset her beautiful, thick flowing white hair magnificently. She accompanied herself on folk guitar along with her longtime piano player and back up vocalist.
Judy opened with a bouncy tune about being friends and followed that with her signature song “Both Sides Now.” I’ve heard her sing it many times and this was one of the best. Judy is 76 now and her voice is still sharp and chrystal clear like a bell in the night and boy can she hit and hold those high falsetto notes so melodious. Judy took us on a trip down memory lane with her retrospective of her life starting in the fifties with her singing at Kiwanis picnics and making her way to New York and singing at Gertie’s Folk City where a 13 year old kid named Arlo opened for her. This was a reference to Arlo Guthrie of Alice’s Restaurant fame. She also remembered seeing this guy in odd clothes that seemed out of place for the sixties. It was Bob Dylan and she got the audience singing the Dylan song “Blowing in the Wind.”
Judy told about being invited to a party at Dylan’s manager’s house, Albert Grossman who also managed Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. She heard someone strumming a guitar and found it was Dylan working on a new song “Mr. Tamborine Man” which she then got the audience singing along to. Judy also did a few Steven Sondheim songs and said she was doing an album of his songs with other singers in duets. Judy talked about a fan who said she had seen her a total of 102 times since 2012 and they are now friends on Facebook. 😀 Judy ended her set with a haunting and beautiful rendition of the Leonard Cohen song “Suzanne,”
After a short break Don McLean came on. He had a terrific five piece back-up band consisting of three guitars, drums and keyboards all who were Nashville musicians. He played an acoustic guitar also. Don opened with the Guy Mitchell song’ “Singing the Blues” and the Buddy Holly tune “Everyday It’s Getting Closer.” Don displayed a wide range of styles from toe tapping songs like “Singin’ the blues” to the slow romantic Perry Como classic “And I love her so.” Don said he started out doing quiet songs and gradually progressed to more upbeat tunes. He did a new song from his latest forthcoming album called ’Botanical Garden” which was a real foot stomper. Don did a humorus cute song called “Neither Hide Nor Hair” about his Baby who said she was “going to the pawn Shop down the track and never came back.” When he went to the police they said they were looking for her too. 😀
Don did a really terrific rendition of Roy Orbison’s ”Crying” and segued into the moment everyone was waiting for “American Pie.” The audience let out a roar and many started dancing in the aisles. Don got everyone singing the chorus each time and the band did a fabulous instrumental to it in the middle. At the end Don asked if they wanted to hear more and the audience resounded with a “Yes” so he had them sing the chorus four more times and sing the first verse again. At the end the band walked off and Don came back solo and did the classic ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” It was so beautiful and the audience so quiet you could hear a pin drop. It was a perfect ending to a perfect show. Don is now 70 years old and still going strong like Judy. They are both perfect examples that music keeps you young. If you get a chance to see any of these great artists when they come near you by all means see them.