Wednesday, June 19, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

HomeArts & EntertainmentTANGLEWOOD REVIEW: Judy...

TANGLEWOOD REVIEW: Judy Collins with Richard Thompson, September 3

At 83, Judy Collins is at the very peak of her artistic powers. She speaks with the authority of one who has devoted 70 years of her life to artistic pursuits, who has lived large and bravely, who has loved and suffered great loss. And Thompson is known as one of the best guitarists in rock 'n' roll history.

Lenox — If Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now” had a destiny, that destiny was fulfilled Saturday, September 3 at Tanglewood. But, of course, that means it is fulfilled every time Judy Collins performs it. Joni Mitchell owns the copyright. Judy Collins owns the song, and she proved it Saturday night at the very start of her set.

This gorgeously arranged opening tune, performed with gentle grace and good taste by her young backup band, would have removed all doubts anyone might have had on Saturday about Judy’s ability to sing at her highest level. Joni sang her own song beautifully in the 70s; Judy sings it today in the ethereal manner of a wizened goddess who abuses her voice with neither tobacco nor alcohol.

At 83, Judy Collins is at the very peak of her artistic powers. She speaks with the authority of one who has devoted 70 years of her life to artistic pursuits, who has lived large and bravely, who has loved and suffered great loss.

Her singing is miraculous. We’ve been told that as we age, our singing voices get stiff and sluggish, and the upper range ain’t what it used to be.

“But that is not,” wrote Amanda Hess of the New York Times in 2019, “what has happened to Judy Collins.” Hess maintains that Collins’s voice sounds “as clear as a spring wending through a field of wildflowers.”

Anyone at Tanglewood on Saturday could have told you as much, including folks who heard Collins perform at Tanglewood in the summer of 2018. The quality of her voice then was astounding.

Most aging rock stars can be admired more for their spunk and tenacity than for the quality of their geriatric singing. Nick Lowe, who performed rock ‘n’ roll music at Tanglewood last June at the age of 73, has complained about “those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still do the same shtick they did when they were young, slim, and beautiful.” Admirably, Mr. Lowe has the good sense to tailor his shtick to meet the limitations of his 73-year-old body. It works out pretty well.

But Judy Collins does no such thing. She uses all of the sonorities and articulations her vocal apparatus makes available to her at the age of 83 to make beautiful music that she couldn’t have produced when she was younger. Even three years ago, her singing voice was one-percent less magical than it was on Saturday.

Richard Thompson performing Saturday, September 3 at Tanglewood. Photo by Hilary Scott

Fairport Convention. If you recognize the name of that band (the “British Buffalo Springfield”), then you probably know something about its co-founder, guitarist Richard Thompson. He was second on the bill Saturday. But to call him a warm-up act would be misleading. Because Thompson is a headline act no matter where he plays.

Thompson is known as one of the best guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll history. Rolling Stone magazine calls him a “dazzling stylist” and rates him number 69 on their list of the 100 greatest rock guitarists of all time. Notice they said “stylist.” They are correct. The dazzling nature of Thompson’s playing is not about gratuitous pyrotechnic display. It is about carefully crafted musical ideas executed with breathtaking precision.

If you ever go to Tanglewood to see Richard Thompson perform (he’ll be back), and you want to see how he gets all those amazing sounds out of his guitar, be sure to sit on the lawn. The video screens will give you close-up views of his hands, and you’ll find out how he holds a pick with his thumb and forefinger while plucking strings with his remaining three fingers. He plays wonderfully intricate stuff this way, much of it carrying a Celtic echo and none of it sounding anything like arena rock.

Judy Collins with Richard Thompson is a class act well worthy of Tanglewood’s Shed stage, and the audience on Saturday was savvy, knowledgeable, and courteous—a perfect match for these two performers. Watch for Collins and Thompson to return to Tanglewood.

spot_img

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Beetlejuice, the Musical’ plays at Proctors Theatre through June 23

Alex Timbers had directed his company to play it all at the top of their game, and they all deliver for him.

Celebrate Juneteenth with ‘Black Barbie’

The Netflix documentary directed by Lagueria Davis drops today.

Encore! Billy Collins

Billy Collins is surely the most popular American poet since Robert Frost. We are pleased to offer an encore column of his wonderful work.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.