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stills, collins

Stephen Stills and Judy Collins 

The Judy Collins/Stephen Stills concert at the Uptown Theatre brought together two beloved performers from the ‘60s whose separate careers produced songs that defined their time.

Collins started out as a folkie who went on to such memorable recordings as “Both Sides Now,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Someday Soon” and “Chelsea Morning.”

Stills composed and played guitar for Buffalo Springfield, then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — bands took the stage for the iconic Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Altamont festivals. On a single night, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice for his work with those bands.

Their lives intersected in the ‘60s when they became lovers. After Collins spurned Stills, he wrote the classic songs, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Helplessly Hoping.”

He never did win Collins back, but now the two performers, both in their 70s, are touring and recording together. Most of the songs on their nearly two-hour show at the Uptown last week are on their joint album, “Stills & Collins.”

The Uptown show was a night of sweet nostalgia, with the audience dialed in to all the songs, ranging from the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care,” Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now and “Chelsea Morning” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

Collins, 79, remains a charismatic presence, her radiant white hair flowing onto an all-white outfit of glittery top, cape-like dress and skinny jeans.

Astonishingly, her voice, boosted by sophisticated amplification, hits many of the celestial notes that defined her early career. She is a convincing facsimile of her younger self.

Stills, 72, evokes his younger self with flashes of fancy guitar playing, reminding listeners why he has a firm hold on Rolling Stone’s “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” lists.

The voice? Barely serviceable, sometimes a barely intelligible rasp.

There are probably a thousand cover bands that can do a Stephen Stills song better than he can these days, but does that matter? It does not.

He is the living legend. He is the musical force that endures in our time. He is the man who emits so much soul that older guys want to weep.

How can former lovers come together in their senior years for a shared album and a national tour?

“The secret is we married other people,” Stills told the crowd. This allowed their former affection to endure.

Collins threw out a zinger, saying this tour was “couples therapy.”

For their encores, Stills and Collins performed songs that each wrote about the breakup with the other.

First, Collins’ “Houses,” with the lines: “All the bells are ringing, the weddings have begun/But I can only stand here, I cannot move to follow/I’m burning in the shadows and freezing in the sun.”

Then Stills and Collins sang an abbreviated version of his “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” with the verse: “Yes and for always/I am yours, you are mine/You are what you are/You make it hard.”

As “Judy Blue Eyes” reached it rhythmic conclusion, every white-headed fan in the audience was on their feet, hands raised or clapping, channeling the glory of it all.

A cover band could have sung it longer and louder, but not better.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.