For more than 20 years, Judy Collins has capitalized on a soft blend of folk music, pop and curios from the musical attic. Before an audience at Wolf Trap last night that included Sally Ride and the other space shuttle astronauts, Collins gave a marvelous performance inflected with a new intensity drawn from traditional idioms of pop and jazz.
On a rainy evening, she began her concert with "Clouds," but by the time she sang "Clouds are just illusions," the thunderstorm had blown over.
Though she sang several familiar favorites, the strongest parts of the concert came in adventurous new songs and in updated, jazzy versions of older tunes such as "Someday Soon." In superb vocal form, Collins brought fresh nuance to her songs simply by the rich timbre of her clear soprano. The audience sat in hushed awe as she sang moving versions of "My Father," and Stephen Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns." She was ably backed by a three-piece group led by pianist Shelton Becton.
With expressive maturity in her voice, Judy Collins has gone beyond the folk canon of her early days. Looking beautiful and assured on stage, she proved that she has become one of our leading song stylists.