Stephen Stills and Judy Collins bring their chemistry to Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

GREAT BARRINGTON — It was a collaboration "about 47 years in the making," joked folk icon Judy Collins in an interview before her sold-out show on Monday night at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.

Collins was referring to her present tour with another legend, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills. The two have been touring in support of an album they recorded this past year, "Everybody Knows," due out on Sept. 22.

Monday's gig showcased the obvious chemistry between the two. Collins and Stills were romantically involved in the 1960s, just before Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash formed their iconic trio. The two separated before that point, but it led Stills to write "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," referencing that torrid love affair.

On Monday night, the two meshed very well after an early slow start. Stills' guitar was turned up a bit too much, drowning out Collins' instrument on an otherwise fine opener, "Handle Me With Care," a Traveling Wilburys cover.

Stills had things worked out by the fourth number, a blistering version of Buffalo Springfield's "Questions." Stills' voice was, at times, a little froggy, but his guitar work was brilliant, as it usually is.

In an interview a few weeks before the show, Collins mused that the show would be taking her out of her lyrical comfort zone.

"I don't know," she said, "how well I'll do on a song like 'Girl From North Country.' It's kind of undiscovered country. I don't think it'll be easy."

She made it look easy. Collins breezed through the Bob Dylan cover, and was joined by Stills on Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," which is one of the numbers on their new album.

Both performers were also very good storytellers. You had to be there to hear Stills' dead-on impression of Neil Young talking about one of his songs. Collins killed with a story about meeting one of Leonard Cohen's self-important girlfriends.

But back to the music. It was hard to decide who did their own songs better. Collins' versions of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," as well as Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" were both terrific.

But Stills rocked the stage with two more Buffalo Springfield songs: "Bluebird" and the great "What It Takes," featuring a signature guitar solo.

The encore highlighted that long-lost love relationship between the two old friends: Stills' "Houses," "Someday Soon," the Ian Tyson cover, and, of course, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." As good as these songs all were, it was at least as heartening to see two old friends having so much fun.

Opening act Bhi Bhiman, a St. Louis singer/songwriter, managed to curb the impatience of the audience with a nice, seven-song set that featured clever lyrics and strong guitar work.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-770-6977


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