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So continues the tour

Forever and always with Stills & Collins

Steve Stills and Judy Collins will appear Tuesday in Olympia. Photo courtesy of

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Would you be comfortable hanging out with your exes? What if one of those relationships was, to put it mildly, tempestuous? Imagine you and your ex were musicians. Could you tour the country with that person, singing songs that remind you of both the best of times and the worst of times? Well, that's the hurdle Judy Collins and Stephen Stills have overcome successfully in recent years and on their current, nationwide tour.

Grab the first, self-titled Crosby, Stills & Nash album off the shelf, and you'll find songs called "Helplessly Hoping" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." The latter was played for the first time publicly at Woodstock. Both were written by Stephen Stills; both were meant to communicate his longing for Judy Collins with the world and, yes, her. The refrain from "Suite" has been familiar to radio listeners since 1969: "I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are." Rolling Stone dubbed it the 418th-best pop/rock song of all time, and it deserves that at least. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to seal the deal. Collins began seeing actor Stacy Keach, then sharing the New York Shakespeare Festival stage with her in a production of Peer Gynt, and left Stills shortly thereafter. Recalling these events to Jim Farber of the Guardian in 2017, Collins says she told Stills, "Oh, Stephen, it's such a beautiful song. But it's not winning me back."

Ah, but wait, the plot thickens. CSN's 1972 double album, Manassas, includes a song called "So Begins the Task," which Stills wrote about the difficulty of getting over Collins -- and Collins then covered it just a few months later. Still think you could make that tour work?

With all of this drama in play, it's no surprise the duo's Olympia date has been sold out for weeks (though the box office keeps a wait list in case of cancellations). Lucky attendees, however, will discover the most emotional aspect of this show remains the songs themselves, powered by the still-agile voices of two living pop icons. The two have even written new music and recorded a whole album together last fall, Everybody Knows. "When people hear us together," Collins told the Guardian, "they're reminded not only of our story but of their own. People return to their youthful love affairs."

"You are free and I am crying," sang Stills in '69. "This does not mean I don't love you. I do. That's forever -- yes, and for always."

STEPHEN STILLS & JUDY COLLINS, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $72-$130, 360.753.8586

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