Stephen Stills and Judy Collins
with Kenny White
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall • June 13, 2018
by Roi Tamkin
For the past year ’60s music icons Stephen Stills and Judy Collins have been touring as a duo to promote their new release, Everybody Knows. This is their second time around in Atlanta, but first time playing the concert hall of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Solo musician Kenny White of New York City kicked off the show with a sample of his comical musing sung with a jazzy keyboard accompaniment. He sprinkled in some glib anti-Trump remarks that played well to this audience of aging lovers of the late ’60s sound and temperament. His songs of dysfunctional relationships and getting lost in cyberspace were balanced by a sweet acoustic guitar piece about Peter Wolf, former singer of the J. Geils Band , and his closer, “The Other Side” about saying goodbye to a loved one close to death.
After a short break, Stephen Stills and Judy Collins walked onto the stage holding hands. Backed up with keyboards, drums, and bass the two headliners picked up their guitars and broke into “Handle With Care” covering the Traveling Wilburys hit.
The couple is celebrating 50 years of friendship with the release of Everybody Knows. Despite being lovers in the late ’60s, Stephen and Judy never toured together as a duo. The idea came to them when Crosby, Stills and Nash toured with Judy Collins back a number of years ago and Judy proposed the idea. They actually couldn’t remember exactly when the idea came to them. In fact, they even argued over how they first met with each telling a different story. Their on stage banter was like listening to your grandparents sit on the sofa and talk about the “old days” with each correcting the other’s recollection of that time.
Stephen noted that having played with so many talented artists over 50 years, he gets to play their songs, too. He started with a cover of that “crazy Canadian” Neil Young and followed with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
Judy gave a tribute to Leonard Cohen then sang his song “Everybody Knows” with Stephen. Stephen noted that Leonard had the foresight to pass away on Election Day in 2016. Judy covered Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now.” She also played new song that she said was recently written, but she didn’t give the title. Judy sang a cappella on an unabashedly anti-Trump song about the DACA dreamers coming to the country for a better life and living in fear of deportation. She’s still a rebel to the core.
The songs were political (“What’s Going On”) and the satire was biting. At 70 plus years, Judy’s voice remains strong and beautiful. Stephen is still an old radical, but age has not been kind to his voice. At times it was very difficult to understand his speech when he spoke about the songs he wrote for Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y. They closed with “Bluebird” and included a lengthy jam session with the bassist in the middle of the song. The encore was, of course, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes “, the song Stephen Stills wrote about Judy Collins when he saw her face on the cover of one of her many albums.
After 50 years of friendship, they finally revealed the secret to a perfect relationship – marriage to other people!
They duo played for 90 minutes then walked off arm in arm. I wondered if at this point it was to hold each other up. But they’ve been doing that since 1968.