Bond channels Collins, and her songwriters

BY BOB KRASNER | Cabaret — a form of entertainment that sometimes seems to be mired in the past — is alive, well and pointed straight into the future in the form of trans-genre entertainer Justin Vivian Bond.

The artist’s voice is a unique instrument of beauty and honesty that captivates from the opening notes, taking the audience on an emotional ride through moments of transcendent beauty and witty repartee.

Justin Vivian Bond performing at Joe’s Pub on March 5. (Photos by Bob Krasner)

In a night dedicated to Judy Collins — a great influence on Bond — tunes from folk singers Tom Paxton (“Leaving London”) and Richard Farina (“Reno, Nevada”) mixed with swinging surprises by Stephen Sondheim (“The Girls of Summer”) and Duke Ellington and Carl Sigman (“All Too Soon”). Randy Newman and Jacques Brel were also represented, among others.

Titled “Under The Influence,” the show is presented as part of the Joe’s Pub Vanguard Award & Residency, which goes this year to singer-songwriter Collins. Mx. Bond, a fan of Collins since they were young, has found a different way to pay tribute to the legendary entertainer. (Bond uses the gender-neutral title “Mx.” and self-defines as “they.”)

“I used to see who wrote the songs that Judy Collins was singing. Then I’d go to the library and take out albums by them,” explained Bond from the stage. Through Collins’s guidance, V — as Bond is also known — discovered the songwriters whose works made up the night’s set list, but not necessarily songs that Collins had sung.

During a moment of repartee, Viv explains the missing fingernail. They weren’t giving the finger.

V tends to joke around between songs, but is never less than 100 percent serious when it comes to the song. The occasional murder ballad gave way to explanations of broken nails, missing show panties and words of wisdom based on the singer’s personal experience.

“I was lying in bed with my cats,” V recounted. “And I said to myself, I should get up and see what the world has to offer. But then, I thought, well, right now the world is offering me a bed.”

Bond’s performance reached a high point with Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan.” Finding the drama and humor in the song, and with the perfect accompaniment of their trio — Matt Ray on piano, Nath Ann Carrera on guitar and Claudia Chopek on violin — V elicited high praise from a notable member of the audience.

“That was phenomenal!” yelled Judy Collins.

“Under The Influence” continues from March 13 to 17 at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St. For more information, visit joespub.publictheater.org .

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