It seems incongruous that Judy Collins has made the Café Carlyle, once home to the suave Bobby Short, her home away from home. But the folk/pop singer brings such a warm, homey atmosphere to the swanky environs that she seems to fit right in.
Currently playing her fifth annual engagement, the 71-year-old singer, still in possession of her magnificently flowing tresses and gorgeous, crystalline voice, delivers a wonderfully satisfying evening of eclectic material ranging from familiar staples like “Send in the Clowns” and “Chelsea Morning” to songs by such contemporaries as Bob Dylan (“Mr. Tambourine Man”), Joan Baez (“Diamonds and Rust”), Leonard Cohen (“Suzanne”) and the Beatles (“Norwegian Wood”). Even though she delivers a generous, nearly two-hour show, such favorites as “Both Sides Now” are missing from the set list.
Accompanying herself on guitar and performing with her longtime musical director Russell Walden on piano and, for the first time, Yoed Nir on cello, the singer crafts an enthralling musical spell. A particular highlight was her rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” delivered with haunting sincerity.
She also reveals a wicked sense of humor, tossing off comic asides about such things as the Grammy Awards and her upcoming memoir, which she proposes to call Judy Blue Eyes: Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and the Music That Changed a Generation.
Surveying the tony room filled with its obviously well-heeled patrons, she cracked, “So much like the Bitter End, only different.”
The opening night crowd was treated to a surprise appearance by a special guest, Irish singer Glen Hansard of the groups The Frames and The Swell Season. Singing both a solo number and a duet with Collins, his admiration for the influential veteran singer was clearly palpable.
Café Carlyle, 35 E. 76th St. 212-744-1600. www.thecarlyle.com.
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