Judy Collins, with special guest Blanid, performing her Spellbound Tour at The Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 1st October 2023.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Judy Collins is an undoubted legend in folk music circles and her songs and stories are the history of the music, and on Sunday at the Town Hall in Birmingham she showed exactly why at the age of 84 years, she has no intention of slowing down.

But delighting the crowd was a rising Irish singer songwriter whose folk inspired songs and powerful vocals have earned her critical acclaim. Blanid, with her fiery red hair took to the stage on her own to deliver a beautiful and moving acoustic version of Mollie Malone which immediately had the crowd on side.

Mixing an organic folk infused aura, she delivered some of her own self penned music and with her sumptuous vocals; she was spellbinding, haunting and beautiful. She told the enraptured crowd stories that relate to her songs and Dead Man Dancing was really well received. Of course her latest single, Tourist, was given an airing which just served to show that she tells stories through her songs and her ability to connect emotionally with the crowd, showed her love for folk music.

Judy Collins made a grand entrance with her pianist and guitarist to the Town Hall stage as she introduced herself as ‘the American Idol of 1956’ and then said “Here’s a song I bet you remember… I hope that I do” before she set loose her ethereal voice on opener, a cover of Pete Seeger’s Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

And she immediately had the crowd in the palm of her hand. She entertained them with a handful of songs from her most recent and totally original album, Spellbound, but she also included classics made famous over her six decade career.

Norwegian Wood was dedicated to King Charles and Queen Camilla as she went on to talk about her father who had a radio show and absolutely loved the song. Her set included her original song Spellbound from her 2022 album of the same name which the crowd were already familiar with and as she spoke to everyone in the crowd as if they were the only person in the room, the crowd were simply enthralled.

Her endearing stories included her telling the crowd about a friend who does not want to stop smoking. His doctor told him that every puff he takes gives added life to Keith Richards, and the crowd appreciated her humour.

Throughout her contemporary folk standards remained her calling card such as Helplessly Hoping. Her version of Jimmy Webb’s Highway Man was a real delight. A stand out moment was the melancholy When I Was A Girl In Colorado before Hell On Wheels and Arizona saw her emotive, commanding voice filling the Town Hall captivating the crowd.

Both Sides Now has become iconic since the sixties and was a welcomed and expected song and got the biggest applause. Judy discovered Joni Mitchell and recorded her song in 1968 and the rest is history.

Collins is undoubtedly a legend and after singing along with her on the fabulous Amazing Grace, she was given a well earned standing ovation. Coupled with her stories about her friend Leonard Cohen, it was her voice that mesmerised. She was funny and endearing with a voice that bellowed, soared and took this crowd on a journey. Her powerful vocals had transcended this crowd into a new realm, a thoughtful, ethereal one which belies her 84 years.