LIVE REVIEW: Judy Collins in Lowell, MA (04.27.23)

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LIVE REVIEW: Judy Collins in Lowell, MA (04.27.23)

What more can you say about a legendary singer-songwriter whose career has spanned six decades? Some of the younger members of the crowd, like me, may have been introduced to Judy Collins through the Crosby, Stills, Nash song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” written by her former boyfriend Stephen Stills. Her stunning bright blue eyes stand out as much as her amazing voice. 83-year-old Judy Collins performed at Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, April 27 with a 35-piece orchestra. Her emotive, commanding voice filled the room and enthralled the crowd.

An orchestra always levels up a performance. I’ll see almost anyone if they’re backed by an orchestra. There’s something truly special about it sonically. Gives it that dreamy, ethereal and emotional edge. Collins opened the show with her original song “Spellbound” from the 2022 album of the same name. It’s her first album of entirely original material. Collins has released an impressive 36 studio albums, nine live albums, four holiday albums and 21 singles. She has two Platinum certified albums–Judith (1975) and Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins (1972) and four Gold certified albums. 11 singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Five hit the Top 40.

She performed for more than an hour, closing with her popular and stunning Stephen Sondheim cover “Send in the Clowns.” Her version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” completely transfixed the audience. Another stand-out was the melancholy “When I Was a Girl in Colorado.” Her powerful vocals transcend listeners into a new realm, a thoughtful, ethereal one, an often hopeful and appreciative one. It’s a unique, aural experience that everyone will treasure. With such a long career, Collins has plenty of stories to tell, especially about her friendship with Leonard Cohen. She shared how she convinced him to take the stage and sing the songs he wrote. She likes to tell jokes and even does Mae West impersonations. It was a delightful evening in Lowell.

Jazz singer-songwriter Madeleine Peyroux opened the show with an hour-long set featuring songs from her 20-year career. She’s funny and endearing. I’m not a huge fan of jazz but her voice bellows and soars and takes you on a journey. I particularly enjoyed her new song about race, “Lost American Soul” as well as the poem Liberte by Paul Eluard which she put to music. Truly lovely and moving.

Featured image by: Shervin Lainez

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