There's no one quite like Judy Collins. Singer, songwriter, actor, human rights activist and now a novelist, she has been in the public forum for more than three decades. And with good cause, since every activity she has undertaken has been done with characteristic class and substance.
Many of Collins' considerable talents were on full display in her concert at the Alex Theatre on Friday night. Her voice, one of the clarion sounds of the '60s and '70s, was as pure and crystalline as ever.
Her repertoire, as always, was rich and varied, moving easily across genres. She sang many of her memorable hits, including "Both Sides Now," "Send In the Clowns," "My Father" and "Like a Bird on a Wire." And she confirmed her continuing creativity with recent originals such as the atmospheric road song, "The Blizzard," the darkly disturbing "Lily of the Valley" and the uplifting "I Dream of Peace."
But Collins had something else to offer as well. Blessed with a serenity that touched everything she sang, her music generated an aura of warmth and tranquillity that reached out to an enthusiastic capacity audience--never more so than when she asked her listeners to join in a closing a cappella rendering of "Amazing Grace."
In an era of fear, anger and alienation, her performance was a reminder, without false sentimentality, of the powers of love, trust and healing.
* Judy Collins performs Tuesday at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Cal State Long Beach, 8 p.m. $25, $30. (310) 985-7000.