Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers Sept. 14, 2008
By Glen Creason
It was a great relief to visit the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday afternoon for a concert that made peace with being a beleaguered baby boomer in a sea of the same on hand. Having to endure unending TV commercials on balky bodily functions and receiving countless numbers of e-spam promising the buttressing of the crumbling middle-aged edifice it was indeed refreshing to see three of our own standing up on their hind legs and making it all seem like great fun. First, the grand lady singing beautifully with passion and intelligence then the old bros. making the hall shake with laughter, using a shtick they honed fifty years ago. The message was simple: we may look grayer, fatter, balder, and less like the folks on movie screens but we can still cut the mustard.
There could be no greater inspiration than the wonderful Judy Collins who has done a lot of living, survived the worst kinds of tragedies, recorded countless classic albums and performed steadily since the early sixties. And yet she still makes each song fresh and full of meaning. Her set was mostly the real gems of her repertoire including “Clouds,” “Someday Soon,” “Chelsea Morning,” a silken “Suzanne” and her personal song possession “Send in the Clowns” that saw the packed hall stunned into reverential silence for the memorable few sweet measures of time. She also put a sheen on “When I’m 64,” “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood” from the deep Lennnon and McCartney treasure chest and sang straight from the heart “Born to the Breed” about her late son. This lady is no beginner and choosing songwriters like Harry Chapin, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Steven Sondheim et al was done with great care and superb taste. In between the music, her polished and witty exposition was as enjoyable as hearing the master demonstrate just how to sing a song. Still, the true high point of the show was the unveiling of a brand new Jimmy Webb song “Paul Gauguin in the South Seas” that reverberated with memorable lines and deep meaning for those of us traveling in that particular part of paradise.
The Smothers Brothers finished the fine show and if there was any doubt as to the amount of life left in your heroes of the sixties the “boys” showed that they can still bring the laughs with gusto. Theirs is supposed to be musical performance and both really are pretty accomplished musicians but these brothers are masters of the old vaudeville humor once mastered by Abbot and Costello or Burns and Allen. Dick is the straight man and Tommy the wise fool who makes his points despite his meanderings in word thickets. Treatises on “truth,” “dogs,” “Spanish,” and “the less-ons and morons” were all clever and fresh by any day’s standards. The double grand-finale was given by Tommy as “the Yo-Yo Man” which never fails to incite glee and the appropriate send-up of “the Impossible Dream” that could be interpreted as political or about golf.