David Kronemyer

Capsule Review – Stephen Stills and Judy Collins

September 1st, 2017 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

We went to see Stephen Stills and Judy Collins last night at the Saban Theatre. Yes it’s hard to believe, but there were these two folk-rock legends actually performing together. Stills is 72 and Collins is 78 (seemingly younger than many of the attendees), and now they’re on a multi-city tour, they must really like what they do, and it showed in their performance. They were accompanied by a pianist, bassist and drummer (although his rented kit had about 3x the number of drums he actually used, fortunately he had a light touch). The format was that they played several songs as a group, then each played some solo, then they played some more together. Some were electric, some acoustic. The first couple were kind of rough as they adjusted the mix. Stills was remarkably chatty, he always seems to be in a bad mood, so this was a nice change. Collins also told a few stories, while they were canned set pieces she nonetheless delivered them sincerely. Like the old friends they are, they had a lot of shared rapport.
A couple of things bugged me about the concert. First, Stills has no business playing a Stratocaster guitar. He should be playing large Gibson, Gretsch and Guild guitars, as he did for about half of the electric songs. The single-coil pickup Strat sound just doesn’t fit the material. Second, his guitar playing was way too loud in relationship to the rest of the band. Third, his solo songs were new and nondescript. This was surprising as he has such a vast repertoire from which to draw on. I offer this as a light-hearted critique, as overall I am a big fan of Stills and his work.
Collins sang “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell) and “Suzanne” (Leonard Cohen), two of her signature pieces. Later, she also sang Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” They also reprised a couple of old Buffalo Springfield songs – though Stills seemed sheepish about them, those are the ones I remember best. “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” from CSN, as an encore. For me the transcendent moment was when they sang Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” – literally sent shivers up and down my spine.
I didn’t have high expectations for the show, but it turned out a lot better than I anticipated. Both of them sounded great. Efforts like this need to be encouraged in principle, and I’m glad they had the interest and motivation to undertake it.